Flying around enjoying the magical world from the clouds is a delightful experience to savour for all travellers. However, as every potboiler is incomplete without its twists and turn; every flying experience is unfinished without the ‘landing’ part. Some landings are beautiful, in fact, they are travellers’ first glimpse of a new destination. However, there are some airports in the world, where landing or take-off is not for the faint-hearted or people with Aerophobia.
Ever been on a flight and not having goose bumps while landing! Well, you are not alone as this is the story of each one of us. We have compiled a list of airports where the death-defying approaches or landing will forever change the notion of flying in your head. In comparison, flight turbulence will be a child’s play, thereafter. Overcome these airports and you will forever conquer your fear of flying!
Most Dangerous Airports in the world
1. Princess Juliana Airport, Sint Maarten, Caribbean
Why it’s scary – The landing strip is so short that planes must approach the island at an extremely low height (30 to 60 feet).
Lazing around, relaxing on the beach, is a great way to unwind unless, you are showered with sand or strong jet blast; isn’t it? There is no other place in the world, where planes get as close to the beach (and people!) than the airport runway of the Princess Juliana International Airport on the island of Sint Maarten. Pictures of large aircrafts flying 10-20 metres over the heads of tourists can seem fake, but they aren’t. A thin, two-lane highway actually separates the beach from the runway. There are even warnings about avoiding powerful jet blasts. So if you are lounging on the beach or flying above, just pray the that the plane lands on the runway without hitting the ground.
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2. Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar, British Overseas Territory
Why it’s scary: The main landing strip of the airport passes through the main street of the city. Vehicles are made to stop every time an aircraft lands or takes off.
Unlike most dangerous airports which have some combination of environmental features to contend with, Gibraltar International Airport has a different obstacle that makes it dangerous – Main Street. This dangerous airport is a thrill because the airport runway intersects with a major highway of Gibraltar. Every time a plane lands or takes off, the busy road bisecting the runway must be closed. There is no chance of human errors or negligence at Gibraltar Airport. Failure to close traffic on the Main Street can result in a catastrophic air disaster.
3. Mcmurdo Station Airport, Antarctica
Why it’s scary: The landing on the icy runway is very slippery! Also, the weight of the planes needs to be balanced while landing, to avoid breaking the ice underneath!
McMurdo Station is a United States Antarctic research base which is heavily dependent on Lockheed C-130 Hercules cargo planes for essential supplies. However, take-offs and landings at the coldest spot on the planet, where there are no paved runways, are death-defying challenges even for the battled hardened pilots of US Air Force. Everything under the plane is a long stretch of white snow and ice. The weight of each plane headed towards this runway in Antarctica must be checked beforehand, so that the plane doesn’t cause cracks in the ice or doesn’t get stuck in snow. There is no scope of miscalculations, strong wind gust, or bad weather for the pilots.
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4. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba Island, Caribbean
Why it’s scary: This is world’s shortest commercial airport runway! And it’s flanked by hills on one side and sea on the other! A miss can lead to the plane slamming into the hills or diving into the sea.
Idyllic and secluded, the Saba Island has voted as the best island in the Caribbean by several travel magazines for honeymoon lovers. But, before you rush to book a post wedding tour to Saba, please make sure, both you and your partner can also handle the nervy take-off or landing at one of the world’s scariest airports. The Saba International Airport has the world’s shortest commercial airport runway (a total length of merely 1300 feet) available to pilots for take-offs and landings.
5. Madeira International Airport, Portugal
Why it’s scary: Strong winds and slippery narrow runways are the major concern here, as the plane may slip into the ocean while landing or take-off.
This unusually short runway is surrounded by rocky hills on one side and a sheer drop into the ocean on the other. Strong windy conditions further make it one of the most difficult airports to land in Europe. Madeira Airport’s runway was extended after an accident in 1977, when 131 people were killed after the plane slipped off the runway. The runway was again extended again in 2003 by 655 feet. Most of the runway is built on a platform, partly over the ocean, supported by 180 concrete columns.
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6. Courchevel Airport, France
Why it’s scary: Only specially trained pilots are allowed to land at this airport, as it’s nestled 1,722 feet up in the Alps and has a short, uphill runway on a steep mountain!
Before you enjoy the thrill of skiing down a steep mountain in the French Alps, you will get to experience the adrenaline rush of landing at this airport. Courchevel is of the most famous ski resorts in Europe, but its airport is also infamous as one of the most dangerous airports to land. The flat part of the runway is visible at the top of the mountain only when the planes are parked. The short runway has a slanting gradient, no instrument landing approaches, and no go-around procedure due to the proximity of mountains. Watch the James Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, and you will get an idea of what we’re talking about!
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7. Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Lukla, Khumbu, Nepal
Why it’s scary: If you go too far to the left you will crash into the mountains! If you go too far to the right, you have a 1000 feet drop to oblivion!
The Mount Everest continues to draw adventurers, mountain climbers, and trekkers to Nepal. However, to reach the mighty mountain, travellers have to pray for good luck, as they fly from Kathmandu, Nepal to Lukla in the Khumbu region. The airport operates at an altitude of 8,000 feet, and has no modern air traffic control, not even lights, and very little electricity. During peak season, there is a rush to ferry as much passengers by local airplanes, leading to increase in the risk factors. Take-off and landing at Lukla will even force stanch atheists to say prayers for their safety and luck.
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