Himalaya Airlines Operates First High Altitude Test Flight

Himalaya Airlines has completed its first high altitude test flight on Tuesday, January 19th. The flight was operated as H9 961 from Kathmandu to Lhasa by the airline’s Airbus A319 and performed three different approaches. It also marked the first time a foreign carrier has landed at Lhasa Gonggar International Airport.

Himalaya Airlines A320
Himalaya Airlines operated its first high altitude test flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa on Tuesday. Photo: Ujwal977 via Wikimedia Commons

Two hours and over 2,200 meters difference

The plane left Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal at 07:17 and landed at Lhasa Gonggar International Airport in Tibet at 10:46 local time. With a time difference of two hours, that equates to a flight time of just under one and a half hours.

Time was not the only thing that shifted, however. Kathmandu is located 1,338 meters (4,390 feet) above sea level, while the capital of Tibet sits at 3,570 meters (11,712 feet). The return flight, H9 962, left Lhasa at 15:00 on the same day and landed back down in Kathmandu at 14:00 for a flight time of one hour.

The airline stated that the test flight was in line with its plans to commence scheduled revenue services to Lhasa for the summer season.

“Himalaya team has been meticulously working on this high altitude operation to Lhasa since last year. Today’s test flight take-off has reinforced commitment to our key guiding principles of safety, team spirit and winning spirit,” Mr Zhou Enyong, President of Himalaya Airlines, said in a statement seen by Simple Flying.

Mr Enyong also congratulated the team on successfully operating the validation flight and thanked the civil aviation authorities on both sides for making it possible to carry out the mission effortlessly.

Lhasa Airport
Lhasa Gongar International Airport in Tibet sits at 3,570 meters above sea level. Photo: Prasad Kolkhute via Wikimedia Commons

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A319 taken over from Tibet Airlines

The A319 chosen for the flight is registered as 9N-AJK. It arrived with Himalaya Airlines in March last year. Made in Airbus’ facilities in Tianjin, China, it was officially delivered to Tibet Airlines in 2019, but never entered service.

It is configured with 120 economy and eight business class seats. What’s more, it is specially modified for high altitude operations. Therefore, it can operate trans Himalayan routes and land at airports with an elevation of up to 4,400 meters.

Himalaya Airlines Operates First High Altitude Test Flight
Himalaya Airlines was founded as a Nepal-China joint venture in 2014. Photo: Martin Fester via Wikimedia Commons

Certification for RNP-AR

The test flight was meant for the certification of RNP-AR approaches at Lhasa Airport. RNP stands for Required Navigation Performance, which allows an aircraft to fly a specific path between two 3D points in space, whereas AR means “authorization required.” As such, Captain Hao Di, also the airline’s Vice President of Operations, led the test flight crew on three different approaches to Lhasa.

Privately owned Himalaya Airlines is based out of Kathmandu, Nepal. It was founded in 2014 as a Nepal-China joint venture and has a fleet of three Airbus A320 and the one A319. It operates services to Dhaka in Bangladesh, Beijing and Chongqing in China, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Doha in Qatar, Dammam in Saudi Arabia, and Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

Have you ever flown into Lhasa or with Himalaya Airlines? Tell us about it in the comments.