If you’re a frequent flyer, then most airports and runways probably start to look the same after a while. However, not all runways are made equal and there are some that test the nerve of even the most experienced pilots! Whether due to geographical location or design, here are some of the most awkward and dangerous airports to land at:
#1 Princess Juliana International Airport, St Maarten
You may not know its name but you’ve probably seen all the YouTube videos of planes landing at this crazy Caribbean airport. This airport services the Dutch side of this island and is renowned for its extremely close proximity to tourist beaches. The runway sits right next to the beach and the blasts from the jet engines is enough to send people flying into the water! It’s become a bit of an iconic spot for plane spotters as this is one of only a few remaining places in the world where you can be so close to planes taking off and landing.
#2 Gibraltar International
If you need to fly here then brace yourself as this airport is considered the most dangerous in Europe. The runway is so close to the city center that when taking off or landing is scheduled, the main avenue has to be closed. The runway actually cuts right through the main shopping and business street but we should imagine that this is probably more dangerous for those on the ground than in the air!
#3 Congonhas Airport, Sao Paulo
This Brazilian airport has a major problem with rainwater. Several accidents have occurred here to the issue of slippery runways! The airport, thankfully, has had new runways installed with specially designed grooves to catch and disperse rainwater. The area in the immediate vicinity of the airport is heavily populated so the number of flights and weight of aircraft has been reduced due to safety concerns.
#4 Lukla Airport, Nepal
Thankfully, this airport is not one of the main tourist routes but it does serve as the airport for those traveling to Mount Everest. The hair-raising nature of a landing here is that the runway is nestled between mountains and is extremely short. As you can imagine, the weather conditions here can be erratic and with no lighting and minimal electrical power, trying to land here is going to test the limits of the most advanced pilots. Oh, and there’s no air traffic control assistance either so pilots are on their own!
#5 La Guardia, New York
The issues faced by pilots landing at this busy airport include having to cope with flights from two nearby airports – JFK and Newark. The skies are incredibly busy over New York City. La Guardia is only 8 miles from downtown Manhattan too so any problems in the sky and there’s a heavily populated area right under the flight path! The runways here were extended out over the water so it’s a beautiful view but tricky navigating such crowded airspace.
#6 Paro Airport, Bhutan
This airport often wins the dubious honor of being one of the most dangerous in the world. There are only 8 pilots, in the world, who are qualified to land planes here! The runway is shockingly short, at only 1981m long and the descent is surrounded by the towering mountain peaks of the Himalayas. Larger aircraft need to approach quite fast and this is what makes it an incredibly nail-biting experience for all involved and flights can only take place during daylight hours as to try this at night would be suicide!
#7 Madeira International Airport
Due to its geographical location, this airport had to have some clever engineering solutions to make landing planes here possible. Stuck between cliffs and the ocean, the only answer to a need for expansion was to build out over the water on specially designed runway bridges. The runway needed expanding as it was very short, resulting in a deadly incident which took place in 1977. If this doesn’t sound hairy enough, the platforms have been designed to withstand the immense shock loading when planes land and as such they sit on 180 columns which hold the platform runway in place!