KATHMANDU - A NEPALESE pilot who performed the highest helicopter mountain rescue in history is missing after he crashed near Mount Everest early Sunday, a colleague told AFP.

Sabin Basnyat and an engineer were attempting to rescue two climbers from Mount Amadablam, a 6,812-metre peak near Everest, when their helicopter crashed. Witnesses reported seeing it burst into flames before smashing into the mountainside.

'We can confirm that one of our rescue helicopters has crashed in the Everest region. We have sent a helicopter to the scene,' said Fishtail Air executive Manoj Gurung.

Earlier this year, Basnyat made history when he piloted the world's highest ever rescue mission, airlifting three sick Spanish climbers from Mount Annapurna.

The rescue, performed almost 7,000 metres above sea level on one of the world's tallest and most dangerous mountains, pushed high-altitude helicopter flight to its limits.

Nepal is home to eight of the 14 highest mountains in the world and is a major draw for top climbers. Dozens of people have to be rescued every year after becoming injured or succumbing to altitude sickness.