January 20: Himalaya Airlines, a joint venture company of Nepal and China, has conducted a test flight to Lhasa, its first high-altitude destination, on January 19, 2021.
The test flight operation was held is in line with the company’s commercial plan to introduce scheduled flights to Lhasa during summer of 2021.
The test flight H9 961 departed from Tribhuvan International Airport at 07:17 hours (local time) and landed at Lhasa’s Gonggar International Airport (LXA) at 10:46 hours (local time). The return flight H9 962, from Lhasa, was scheduled to depart at 15:00 hours (local time) on the same day and is expected to land in Kathmandu at 14:00 hours (local time).
Captain Hao Di, vice president-operations of the company, led the test flight crew including senior-level captains who would carry out three different approaches at Lhasa airport for the validation flight.
The airlines inducted a brand new narrow-body A319-115 aircraft registered as H9-AJK on March 2, 2020, especially for high altitude operations. Configured with 120 economy-class and 8 business-class seats, the aircraft has modifications for high altitude operations and capabilities to operate through the trans-Himalayan routes with aerodromes elevation to maximum 14,500 ft.
Zhou Enyong, president of Himalaya Airlines, informed that the airline's team worked meticulously on this high altitude operation to Lhasa since 2020.
“Today’s test flight take-off has reinforced commitment to our key guiding principles of safety, team spirit and winning spirit. I congratulate our team for the successful operation of validation flight, and we are grateful to receive the support of civil aviation authorities of both the countries which has enabled us to carry out this mission effortlessly,” he added.
Likewise, Vijay Shrestha, vice president-administration, remarked that it is indeed a pride for Himalaya to be the first and the only foreign airline to land at Lhasa’s Gonggar International Airport.
“Complying with CAAN requirements for high altitude operations, with this test flight Himalaya shall ensure the operational viability on this sector. We feel privileged to get the opportunity to strengthen the cross-border relationship, and we are confident, post-pandemic, this sector will significantly boost the tourist movement between Nepal and Tibet,” he stated.
The test flight is planned for the verification of RNP-AR approaches besides the conventional approaches at Lhasa Gonggar International Airport which has an elevation of 3570 m equivalent to 11711 ft.