Air travel may leave you excited or frustrated based on the situations you are in. But, if you want to travel long distance, flying on an aircraft is the best and fastest way to reach your destination. And, airports are incredible places. Yes, not all of them. They are miracles of engineering. However, there are some crazy and weird airports around the world that do exist. Landing or taking off from the flat sketches of runway is that easy, but when it comes to runway on mountains or on a narrow valley particularly need skills. I’ve rounded up about 10 airports in the world that actually requires expert skills to land at.
Lukla Airport in Nepal
The Lukla Airport in Nepal is the gateway to Mount Everest. The runway is just 527 meters that demands courage and precision to land any aircraft here. The airport is located in Lukla valley in between mountains that makes it so difficult to land, even on normal days, as weather drastically changes from time to time.
There are no lights and little electric power, so landing in anything other than perfect conditions becomes even riskier. There are also no air traffic controllers on site, so pilots are on their own to touch down in sometimes large aircraft.
Courchevel International Airport in France
The airport is considered dangerous, as it features a difficult approach, an upslope runway and ski runs in the adjacent area. It serves Courchevel, a ski resort on the Fresh Alps. The airfield has a very short runway of only 537 metres, and the runway has a downward gradient of 18.6% that makes taking off even more tough.
There is no go-around procedure for landings at Courchevel, due to the surrounding mountainous terrain. The runway has no instrument approach procedure or lighting aids, thus making landing in fog and low clouds unsafe and almost impossible.
Toncontin Airport, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Landing on airports in mountains are extremely difficult to the variant terrain and usually short approaches. Toncontin Airport is no exception.
The approach to the airport is considered to be one of the most difficult in the world to all aircraft, especially in inclement weather conditions.
Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten
Princess Juliana Airport is is the main airport on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, located on the Dutch side of the island in the country of Sint Maarten. The airport is perhaps best known for very low-altitude flyover landing approaches due to one end of its runway being extremely close to the shore and Maho Beach.
This placement often results in large and loud gusts of wind and sand to those enjoying the crystal blue water. For the pilots, hitting visitors is the least of their worries. Princess Juliana was initially built for smaller planes, but the booming tourist industry has brought A340s and 747s into the regular traffic rotation.
Paro Airport in Bhutan, Himalayan Mountains
The Paro Airport in Bhutan is considerably ranked as one of the most dangerous airports in the world. The airstrip was initially built for helicopter and small aircraft operations, but large planes have started their operations later. Only eight pilots were certified to land at the airport.
Flights to and from Paro are allowed under visual meteorological conditions only and are restricted to daylight hours from sunrise to sunset. It is one of four airports in Bhutan. The runway is surrounded by 5,500-meter peaks with a runway only 1981 meters long.
Gibraltar International Airport is considered as one of the dangerous airports in the world that not because of hard to land at, but it has an incredible design feature.
The main street in the area, Winston Churchill Avenue, intersects the runway and has to be closed every time a plane lands or departs. 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.
McMurdo Air Station, Antarctica
The McMurdo Station is a United States Antarctic research center on the south tip of Ross Island. This runway isn’t particularly short, but it is made of slick ice which can cause planes to run askew if the landing isn’t perfect.
Temperatures here are below freezing on average the entire year. In 1970, there as a bad crash of a C-121 that still sits off to the side buried in snow. Many months out of the year, it is dark continuously, and due to the lack of lights, pilots are trained to land using night vision goggles.
The landing strips of the Madeira Airport sit between cliffs and the shores of the ocean. The short runway made it a tricky landing for even the most experienced of pilots.
So the expansion of the runway was required and engineers build the runway by erecting 180 columns to hold it. The runway was designed to withstand serious shock loading during landings.
MCAS Futenma, Okinawa
This airport is situated in a US Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa, Japan. The Navy and the Marine Corps rank it as the most dangerous airport in the world where F/A-18 Hornets and V-22 Osprey continuously land.
The area is strategically important to the US military, which is part of the reason it maintains operation. Part of the reason this airport is so dangerous is because high-density housing sits in an area that should be cleared for emergency situations.
Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Similar to Antartica, the airports in cold Greenland are constantly covered in ice. At only 1,800 meters and canvassed in slick ice, this runway is the most difficult in the world. The weather is constantly stormy creating intense turbulence and low visibility on approach.
Shear winds effect planes which, coupled with the icy runway, can direct them off course. The nearby active volcano also commonly erupts sending ash into the clouds which can stall and destroy engines.