While planes are still one of the safest means of travel, there are some scariest airports in the World that are just more challenging for the pilot to land on.
In terms of traveling long distances, flying on an airplane is one of the fastest, safest, and easiest ways to get to your destination. Unfortunately, not every runway has long, flat stretches.
This means that pilots have to be particularly skilled to land on a runway carved on a mountain or one that appears in a narrow valley. Having that in mind, here are 12 of the scariest or most difficult airports in the world to land at.
1. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba Island.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, otherwise known as Saba Airport, is one of the world’s scariest airports. Located on the Dutch Caribbean island of Saba, it lies about 27 miles (45 kilometres) south of St. Maarten.
With a runway of only 400 m (1300 ft) in total length, this makes it the world’s shortest commercial airport runway. This tiny runway length means only the very best pilots have what it takes to safely land and take off from it.
But its short runway is not the only hazard approaching pilots need to be aware of. The airport is surrounded by jagged terrain and a sharp left bank immediately before landing.
Although the airport is closed to jet traffic, regional airline propeller aircraft are able to land there under waivers from The Netherlands Antilles’ Civil Aviation Authority.
2. Barra International Airport, Scotland
Barra Airport has gained notoriety as one of the most dangerous airports in the world because its runway is a beach.
Situated on the sandy bay of Traigh Mhòr, the airport is just five feet above sea level.
High tide can disturb flight schedules, and sometimes cars in the parking lot have to turn their lights on to help pilots during landing.
3. Wellington International Airport, New Zealand
Located in c, Wellington International Airport is yet another of the world’s most difficult airports to land at.
It is the third busiest airport in the country, after Auckland and Christchurch. Featuring a 6,350 feet (1935 meters) long runway, both ends appear to start and end in water.
Approaching it is also very tricky for pilots, as the airport is located in a mountainous area of the country which is famed for its gusty winds, which make manoeuvring for landings even more tricky.
Even after landing, passengers can be swept off their feet by the strong gusts. Despite this, there have been very few safety incidents.
Other than that, in the past, the airport had been recognized as having one of the best terminals in the world.
Despite this, it is constantly ranked among the scariest places to land anywhere in the world.
4. Lukla Airport, Nepal
The Lukla Airport, technically Tenzing–Hillary Airport, in Nepal serves as the main airport for those visiting Mt. Everest.
Part of what makes this airport so difficult to land on is the way it is nestled in between mountains, and the incredibly short length of the runway.
In fact, the airport is quite small. The airport sometimes loses electric power, cutting off communication with the controllers. This makes landings risky even in perfect conditions.
The airport is positioned 9,325 feet (2.84 km) high and is built on the side of a mountain. The runway is one direction only and is just 1,600 feet (488 m) long, with serious slopes and angles.
At one end of the runway is a mountain wall and the other end is a dramatic 2,000-foot (600 mt) plunge into the valley.
5. Courchevel Airport, France
While the airport at Lukla has a dangerously short runway of only 527 m (1,729 ft), the one at Courchevel Airport is even shorter at 525 m (1722 feet).
This airport – which serves the exclusive ski resort of Courchevel in the French Alps, drops off in a cliff as well, so pilots need to make sure they gain enough speed for takeoff if they don’t want to fall off the cliff’s edge.
The runway also has a downward gradient of 18.6%, which further complicates takeoff and landing. Moreover, on approach or during takeoff, pilots have to manoeuvre their aircraft between the Alps without instrument procedures; the only clear guideline is a no go-round due to the surrounding mountains.
The airport has one of the shortest runways of any airport in the world, at 1,722 feet (525 meters).
Not only this, but the paved runway has a downward slope of 18.5% which makes taking off even more difficult.
To add to the already difficult landing, the runway is built right into the Alps, where pilots have to fly through a narrow valley even to prepare for descent.
Only specially-certified pilots are allowed to land here. The airport is not equipped with lights or instrumentation aids, so in bad weather landing is impossible.
6. Gisborne Airport, New Zealand
Gisborne Airport is also considered to be one of the world’s most difficult airports. Located on the outskirts of Gisborne, this airport actually has a railway intersecting its runway.
It has three grass runways and one main runway, landings require accurate coordination with approaching trains to avoid any unfortunate incident.
For this reason, it is common for either planes or trains to be delayed to allow the other to safely pass.
7. Princess Juliana Airport, Saint Maarten
Like some other runways in the Caribbean Sea, Princess Juliana Airport, located in Saint Maarten, is perhaps the most famous on the list for its low landings over the ocean. This is partly because of the public beach situated just before the runway.
Planes must approach over the water at an extremely low altitude. This often results in large and loud gusts of wind and sand engulfing those enjoying the crystal blue water down below. For the pilots, however, bothering visitors is not the only worry.
The runway is only around 1.36 miles(2.2 km) long, which is very short considering many of the large aircraft that land here generally require more than 2,500 meters to ensure a safe landing.
Princess Juliana was initially built for smaller planes, but the booming tourist industry has brought A340s and 747s into the regular traffic rotation.
In 2017 a New Zealand woman died from injuries sustained by jet blast from a departing aircraft.
8. Paro International Airport, Bhutan
Tucked away in the Himalayas, Paro Airport is famous for being one of the world’s most difficult to land at. In fact, only a handful of pilots are qualified to do so.
Located in Bhutan, the airport lies about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) above sea level. The tiny airport is nestled in a deep valley and surrounded by sharp peaks of up to 18,000 feet (5,500 meters) tall.
Its runway is 6,500 feet (1,980 m) long and only allows for arrivals and departures during the daytime.
The most difficult part is that pilots cannot see the runway at all until the last minute as they must manoeuvre between mountains at a 45-degree angle before finally dropping quickly onto the runway.
At one point during the approach, planes must come extremely close to mountain top homes, and one red cliffside home even serves as a key marker for pilots.
9. Gibraltar International Airport, British Overseas Territory.
Gibraltar International Airport is probably the most unusual airport in southern Europe. While the runway isn’t particularly hard to land at, an interesting design feature makes it potentially dangerous.
The city’s main street, Winston Churchill Avenue, intersects with the runway and has to be closed when a plane needs to land or depart.
There is a stoplight on the road telling cars to stop, but there have been a number of close calls in the airport’s history.
The short runway also ends abruptly at the sea on both ends, forcing pilots to stop very quickly immediately after landing.
10. McMurdo Air Station, Antarctica
Not many people travel to Antarctica, which means that the airport infrastructure there is significantly lacking.
This runway isn’t particularly short, but it is built on “white ice” (compacted snow), which can make for a difficult landing, even in good weather conditions. The weight of the airplane is also a major factor as it might crack the very runway.
In 1970, a C-121 slid off the runway and sits off to its side, buried in snow.
During the winter, the area is dark 24 hours a day. The airport has no lights on the runway, and during the non-infrequent whiteouts, pilots must land blind, using night vision equipment.
11. Madeira International Airport, Portugal
Madeira International Airport Cristiano Ronaldo, formerly known as Funchal Airport, on the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean is considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to its spectacular construction.
It is one of the few in the world where engineers built a platform in order to expand the runway.
The original runway was only 1,600 m (5,249 ft) long but was extended to 2,781 m (9,124 ft) after a fatal plane crash in 1977, where 164 people died when a Boeing 727 fell off the end of the runway onto the beach below.
The runway is held up by more than 180 columns, which have to withstand the shock of landings.
Only a limited amount of pilots are qualified to land at this airport. Pilots must navigate their approach by spotting landmarks and cannot land by instrument alone.
To make it more difficult, there are strong winds, high mountains on one side and the ocean on the other.
12. Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Narsarsuaq Airport is located in Tunulliarfik Fjord on the country’s southern tip. The airport was built in 1941 by the USA Ministry of Defense.
Similar to Antarctica, the extreme airports in Greenland are often covered in ice. At only 5,900 feet (1,800 meters) in length, and canvassed in smooth ice, this runway is difficult for pilots.
The weather is also often stormy, creating intense turbulence and low visibility on approach making it very uncomfortable for both flight crew and passengers.
Wind shears affect planes which, coupled with the icy runway, can direct them off their course.
There is an active volcano that occasionally erupts, sending ash into the clouds which can stall and destroy engines.
Source: Interesting engineer.com
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