Categories: Travel

16 Most Terrifying Airports To Land On

You'll be holding the armrest so tight during take-off and landing.

  • You would think twice about landing on these airports to get to your target destination
  • These airports are only accessible by specially trained pilots
  • The Dutch Caribbean island of Saba has the shortest commercial airport runway with a total length of 400 meters.

Flying by airplane can be considered as the fastest and most convenient way to travel and get to different destinations. In some countries, the airports offer long runways and the overall airport experience can be considered world-class as well. In other places, however, the airports can be so dangerous, it makes you think twice about visiting that certain place.

What makes an airport so dangerous is the short landing strip, making almost no room for miscalculations. Landing a plane on such narrow runways can be very challenging that only specially trained and skilled pilots can access the area. In no particular order, here are 16 of the world’s most dangerous airports.

#1. Lukla Airport, Nepal

If Mount Everest is in your bucket list, then landing on Lukla Airport is inevitable. The short airport runway is not the only challenge of flying to Lukla but also the fact that the airport is nestled between mountains. What’s scarier is that there are times the airport has no traffic controllers and lights, which means pilots need to land without a guide.

#2. Toncontin Airport, Honduras

According to Interesting Engineering, in preparation for descent, planes need to make a “quick 45-degree back turn” to be able to get to the high-altitude runway. Then, the plane needs to drop altitude rapidly, also making sure “not to scrape the terrain directly underneath.”

#3. Svalbard Airport, Norway

Svalbard is considered the northernmost airport in the world. It doesn’t have sufficient runway lights, which is why it only caters to daytime flights. Arriving via this airport, located in the remote Arctic Circle, is your opportunity to witness polar bears in the wild. However, because Svalbard is “not in line with the standards of an international airport,” it no longer accepts international flights.

#4. Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

Imagine you’re sunbathing on the beach and a big airplane just flew so close above your head as it lands on the runway. That’s what usually happens as airplanes land on St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport. Big commercial planes for St. Maarten require 8,000 feet of runway for a safe landing. However, this airport only has 7,100 feet of runway. Feeling nervous after that scary landing? Chill! Fruity drinks are waiting for you once you arrive.

#5. Madeira Airport, Portugal

Short runway, notorious Atlantic winds and no instrument landing system make this airport one of Europe’s most dangerous.

#6. Courchevel Airport, France

This airport located in the French Alps has a runway length of 1,760 feet. It’s also steep with a gradient slope of 18.5 percent. Also, it lacks lighting and approach system, and there’s the fact that the runway ends on a rock-face drop.

#7. Paro Airport, Bhutan

Only 8 pilots are qualified to make that safe landing at Paro airport. As if that’s not dangerous enough, the airport sits at 2225 meters above sea level with an unforgiving terrain. Weather can get very extreme, which makes flying to this area risky. Because of that, flights are only allowed at daytime.

#8. Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland

Here’s what you have to go through to get to Greenland: short ice-covered runways, harsh cold temperatures, heavy snow and ash clouds from active volcanoes resulting in low visibility and severe winds. Can you handle it?

#9. Gibraltar Airport, Gibraltar

Gibraltar Airport cuts through the busy main street of the city, which means that vehicles should stop every take off and landing times. The good news is – there’s never been a serious accident.

#10. Bert Mooney Airport, Butte Montana

Your trip to this airport is one of America’s most terrifying airport landings. The lack of a control tower and the fact that pilots need to deal with various obstructions during landing make this airport as one of the world’s most dangerous.

#11. Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, Colorado
Photo: Aubree Dallas

Aspen is a popular ski spot but anyone who’s interested in the sport has to endure the harrowing landing experience first. Aspen’s airport runway is surrounded by mountains and has a steep approach. Strong winds also make landing difficult in this airport. For these reasons, pilots flying to this destination need special training.

#12. Telluride Regional Airport, Colorado

It’s safe to say Colorado has among the most treacherous airports in the U.S. The airport in Telluride is located 9,000 feet above sea level. On both ends of a single runway are huge cliffs and along with strong winds, landing becomes difficult, even for seasoned pilots.

#13. Saba Airport, Dutch Caribbean

The Dutch Caribbean island is home to the world’s shortest commercial airport runway – the Saba Airport. Measuring a total length of 400 meters, you would find it hard to believe that this airport still receives commercial flights. But some people wouldn’t mind all that and think that it’s worth a shot, knowing that there are plenty of breathtaking activities and wonderful opportunities waiting at the remote Caribbean island.

#14. Gisborne Airport, New Zealand

Gisborne Airport doesn’t have steep slopes or is not located on high altitudes. Still, it ranks as one of the world’s most dangerous airports because a railway crosses over the runway. Landings should be coordinated by the national rail service.

#15. MCAS Futenma, Okinawa Japan

MCAS or U.S. Marine Corps Air Station in Okinawa, Japan is situated in the middle of a bustling city, residential and commercial areas. Residents are close to what is supposed to be “clear zone.”

#16. Congonhas Airport, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Forget about short runways. This Brazilian airport is dangerous because of its slippery runways, which result from a bad drainage system. Because of this, a great number of fatal crashes due to the slippery strip have been recorded. Safety concerns do not stop there. Congonhas airport is surrounded by a heavily populated area.

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