Airlines That Operate “Heavies” for Commercial Flights to Kathmandu

Heavy. /ˈhɛvi/ (noun) Aircraft capable of takeoff weights of 300,000 pounds or more, whether or not they are operating at this weight during a particular phase of flight. [Federal Aviation Administration: Notice N JO 7110.525]

One of many beautiful experiences during planespotting is that you closely get to experience the wake when a large plane lands. An unusual turbulent wind blows out of nowhere 5-10 seconds after the plane passes over you. This “wake” is especially pronounced when it is a heavy aircraft such as a 747 or an A330. Airbus A380 has its own category higher than heavy, and is called “Super”. While the wake turbulence has many different components, a major component is wing tip vortex. It is kind of a horizontal tornado, that forms as the high pressure air below the wing moves around the wingtip to the low pressure area above the wing.

Wing tip vortices are generated from the tips of the wings as they generate lift. These vortices can send aircrafts that are following behind on an irreversible roll.

This wake is an extremely turbulent air that might cause the planes in the turbulence to go on an induced roll, so planes flying behind heavies that produce strong wake are required to have a minimum separation distance. For example, small aircrafts flying behind an A380 are required to be at least 8 nautical miles behind, while a 777 flying behind a 747 is required to be at least 6 miles behind. [Federal Aviation Administration. Pilot and Air Traffic Controller Guide to Wake Turbulence. Retrieved December 24, 2016, from FAA,]

While we may not get to experience the wake from an A380 or a 747 here in Kathmandu, there are some heavies that give off pretty good wake as they land:

1. Cathay Dragon (Hong Kong)

Regular Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Photo: Alec Wilson, via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

2. Oman Air (Muscat)

  • Normal Scheduled Flights: Boeing 737NG
  • Unscheduled Flights: Airbus A330-300 (last known A330 flight to Kathmandu: January 19, 2016)

Photo: Mark Harkin, via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

3. Air Asia X (Kuala Lumpur)

Regular Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Photo: Roderick Eime, via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

4. Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi)

  • Normal Scheduled Flights: Airbus A320
  • Unscheduled Flights: Airbus A330-200/300

Etihad Airways’ A332 on final for RWY02 (TIA, Kathmandu)

Photo: (All Rights Reserved)

5. Qatar Airways (Doha)

Normal Scheduled Flights: Airbus A330-300 and Airbus A320

Qatar Airways’ A330 taking off from TIA, Kathmandu

Photo: VNKTSpotter (All Rights Reserved – Used with permission)


6. Turkish Airlines (Istanbul)

Aircraft: Airbus A330-200/300

Turkish Airlines’ A333 taking off from Kathmandu

Photo: (All Rights Reserved)

7. Korean Air (Seoul)

Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER

Photo: BriYYZ, via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

8. Thai Airways (Bangkok)

Aircraft: Boeing 777-200/(-200ER)

Thai Airways’ Boeing 777-200ER about to land at TIA

Photo: (All Rights Reserved)

9. Nepal Airlines

Aircraft: Boeing 757-200

Nepal Airlines’ 757 (9N-ACA Karnali) Shot at Delhi – Indira Gandhi International (Palam) – DEL/VIDP, India

Photo: © By Vishal Jolapara (All Rights Reserved – Used with permission)

Although, technically, not classified as a heavy aircraft, a Boeing 757 is considered a large aircraft. FAA issued the notice N JO 7110.525 specifically to reclassify 757 as a large aircraft. This was done following several occurrences in which smaller aircrafts that were closely behind a 757 lost control and some even crashed. This issuance of notice required air traffic controllers to implement a special wake up turbulence separation criteria for the 757 as if the 757 was a heavy aircraft.

Still don’t believe the 757 is that big? Just go to Koteshwor when the 757 lands and you will get to experience its enormity and the wake.

10. And well—a 747 or an A350 if you get lucky!

Boeing 747 in Kathmandu, Nepal

Atlas Air 747F on final for RWY02 at Kathmandu

Photo: (All Rights Reserved)

Airbus A350 on short final for RWY02 Kathmandu

Photo: (All Rights Reserved)


Have we missed any airline? Have something to add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

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