By Steve Hopkins
Tourist flights are not common at this time of the year due to the weather conditions
A helicopter with six people on board has gone missing in Nepal on a sightseeing trip of Mount Everest.
The aircraft, carrying five foreign tourists, was due to return to the capital, Kathmandu, on Tuesday morning.
The aircraft, operated by the private company Manang Air based in Kathmandu, dropped off radar at 10.12am local time after departing from the mountainous Solukhumbu district in eastern Nepal, officials told the Himalayan Times.
The helicopter was piloted by senior captain Chet Gurung, the outlet reported, citing sources from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.
A search effort is now underway involving another helicopter in the sky and police and soldiers on the ground, as much of the area is only accessible on foot with no roads.
Manang Air helicopter 9N-AMV (AS 50) which departed from Surke (Solukhumbu) to Kathmandu at 10:05 local time is out of contact.
Total persons on board: 6
(5 passengers + 1 captain).
Altitude Air helicopter departed from Kathmandu for search and rescue.
— Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (@hello_CAANepal) July 11, 2023
Airport official Sagar Kadel said weather conditions had caused changes to be made to the helicopter’s flight route, the Evening Standard reported. It noted that it is common for flights to be delayed and routes changed during the monsoon season amid heavy rains.
The tourist and mountaineering season ended in May, and tourist flights are not common at this time of the year due to the weather conditions.
Initial media reports indicated that all foreign nationals on board were Mexican.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal said an Altitude Air helicopter has been dispatched from Kathmandu to search for the missing aircraft.
The incident comes months after a Yeti Airlines twin-engine ATR 72 aircraft carrying 68 passengers and four crew members crashed on 15 January, killing 71 people on board in the country’s deadliest aviation disaster in three decades.