Why There Are No Commercial Planes That Fly Over Tibet

It’s estimated that there are around 9,728 commercial planes flying in the air at any given time, and if you include military, cargo, and private planes, that number could be as high as 17,500. In fact, if you look at an online flight tracker, you’ll be able to see exactly where every commercial plane is in the sky right now. However, you'll notice there's one spot that has absolutely zero planes. That place is Tibet, where not only are there no planes, but you can regularly see planes actively flying out of their way to avoid it. Commercial aircraft generally travel at between 31,000 and 38,000 feet above sea level, but in emergency scenarios that can change. In the event of cabin depressurization or engine failure, the protocol for commercial flights is to descend to just 10,000 feet. There’s just one problem: Dubbed “the roof of the world,” the Tibetan Plateau has an average terrain elevation of 14,370 feet, which means that any passing plane with a cabin-based emergency couldn’t descend to a safe height without……well…..risking meeting a very mountainous end. The area features 7 large mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, which is home to the tallest mountain in the world. Reaching a height of 29,032 feet, Mount Everest is almost as tall as a plane flying at full altitude, let alone one in an emergency situation. Not only is Tibet avoided because of it’s high mountains, but it’s also prone to some pretty intense turbulence. Strong wind currents that are forced through and over the mountain peaks of Tibet create severe disruptions in air pressure, which could easily spell disaster for airplanes. There’s also the temperature that adds to the reasons airliners don’t fly over Tibet. In winter, the temperature remains below freezing all day long, with average temperatures of -4ºF. However, it can plummet to -40ºF in some instances. Standard jet fuel used by U.S. air fleets has a freezing point that’s between -40ºF and -53ºF, which could present a serious problem for a flight crossing Tibet. So, all of these reasons combined is why you will not commercial jetliners flying over Tibet.