Airlines openly guarantee their passengers not only a wholesome flying experience, but also a safe arrival of the cargo they’re entrusted with. However, certain landing fields make those kinds of assurances a bit of a challenge. This occurs when airports are built in places where they aren’t supposed to be built, or when a runway is not constructed properly.
Be it the geographic setting or the architectural blueprint, there are airports that have become distinct among all the rest because of the aviation perils they pose. Here are ten of those that have gained such notoriety.
1. Tenzing-Hillary AirportOriginally named the Lukla Airport, it is located on a 9,100-feet high plateau, which is situated at the foot of the Himalayas Mountains on Lukla, Nepal. It is famed as the access of climbers wanting to go up Mount Everest. What makes this small airport an extreme landing site consists of multiple factors: the high elevation, the uncontrollable winds, the enveloping clouds, the high mountain terrain at the front end, and the steep 2000-foot cliff edge at the end of a 1,500-foot runway.
On a History channel program, the airport was rated as the most extreme in the world due to the previously mentioned characteristics. Because of its runway size and the risks involved, the airport is only available to cater to small planes and helicopters that are able to take off or land at the shortest duration at daytime.
Several accidents have already taken place at the airport, mostly attributed to maneuvering difficulties and shifting visibility problems. A recent disaster transpired on October 12, 2010, when a Sita Air Dornier Do 228 with the registration code 9N-AHB, lost control over its brakes and hit the wall-end of the landing strip. Though the nose of the aircraft was damaged because of the impact, fortunately, no passenger and crew aboard it sustained injuries.
2. Princess Juliana International AirportThis busy port in the Caribbean area is located along Philipsburg in the island of Saint Martin. The venue makes it also known as the Saint Maarten International Airport. What makes the airport dangerous is its proximity to the beach, which is being frequented by throngs of tourists and locals. The short runway of the port begins right after the public beach and the road.
If you want to watch a flying plane up close and take splendid photos, then visit the beach near Princess Juliana International and witness planes land and takeoff in terrifying proximity to you. The airport warns the beach goers to stay away, so they won’t get knocked off by a plane’s jet blast, which can cause bodily harm and even death in some cases. However, some people seem to believe otherwise, as they purposefully cling to the port’s fence in order to be blown away into the water by a departing or an arriving aircraft.
3. Kansai International AirportThis airport is situated on a 3-kilometer island connected by a bridge to the bays of Osaka, Japan. The construction of the port is considered as a grand engineering feat due to the fact that the entire island was built by highly-skilled men for the sole purpose of building a land strip in it.
However, no matter how impressive the architectural work seems, Kansai still counts as one of the most dangerous airports that exists today. The threats surrounding its location, such as climate changes and an unstable sea bed, are posed to make it on the tough list. Meteorological experts have even warned the probability that if a rapid rise in temperature occurs, the airport may become submerged in the water in the next 50 years.
4. Barra AirportThe only beach airport in the world, this airdome is exceptionally dangerous. There, one can witness the planes hit the sand along the wide shallow bays of the island of Barra. It has three runways that can get underwater at high tide. Thus, flight schedules are often adjusted according to tidal conditions.
Like the Princess Juliana International, the beach at Barra airport is also widely accessible to the public. However, the visitors are kept off whenever the airport has active operations, which can be checked by anyone through a flying windsock.
5. Ice RunwayLocated in Ross Island in Antarctica, Ice Runway is one of the three airports in the continent that will help you get to the McMurdo Station. Its wide runway consists of long stretches of ice. Despite the landing strip being unpaved, it can accommodate large aircrafts because there are no human settlements around the station’s periphery. However, as its name conjures, an aircraft may find itself sunk in the snow-covered runway. When early December arrives and the ice begins to melt, the airport ceases operations and directs planes and helicopters to the other two stations.
6. Catalina AirportSituated in Avalon, California, this general aviation airdome is dubbed as the “Airport in the Sky.” Such moniker is attributed to the 1,602-feet above-sea-level elevation and the cliffs surrounding its lone runway, which are situated right at the focal and highest point of the Catalina Island. The airstrip is raised at the middle section, which makes the pilots unable to see where the landing ends on close approach. After the rainy season, the runway will be filled with potholes, asphalt, and soft spots. Turbulence, steep terrain, and abnormal visual reference will not make the airport a safe takeoff and landing station especially to low-skilled pilots.
7. Madeira International AirportThis airport lies in Madeira, Portugal and caters both domestic and international flights within the Mediterranean vicinity. Prior to its double-sized extension in 2000, its short and narrow runway had been witness to fatal crashes, including the 1977 Boeing 727-200 accident, which killed 131 people by the beach near the station.
8. Gibraltar AirportBoasting of long and paved runways, the Gibraltar Airport is only 15 feet above sea level, and has no particular issue on surrounding weather conditions. Though such attributes may not seem to present any risks, even the most discerning pilot–when not cautious–may be misguided, for right in its 6,000-feet runway lies a main road. This makes the airfield open to public transportation vehicles and foot traffic.
So what happens when a plane is about to land or take off? Barriers are set in place in order to keep the runway free, while some airport crew are tasked to steer the runway clear of the smallest debris which, if left untaken care of, might cause damage to the aircraft and impede the flight. This makes Gibraltar the most dangerous airport in the whole of Europe.
9. Juancho E. Yrausquin AirportLocated in the Caribbean’s island of Saba, this airport is a maneuvering challenge to pilots because the station is surrounded by cliffs, and a section of the runway is a steep slope that leads right to the ocean. In addition, the landing is a mere 400-meter long strip, so any incorrect assessment by the pilot may cause fatal crashes.
10. Courchevel AirportIts 525-meter runway, steep landscape, and need for specially-certified pilots who are able to fly through the abysmal valleys of France make this airport a bloodcurdling landing station. It rose to fame when it got featured in a James Bond movie. Because of the narrowness of the runway, only small aircrafts and helicopters with highly-trained pilots can take flight on the area.
It’s fully justified why these airports are distinguished for the hair-raising flight experience they give to people aboard an approaching or a departing aircraft. So if you happen to fly to or from any of them, do make sure to buckle up!