Short landings, mountain access, and much more make the following airports some of the most dangerous in the world. In normal conditions, airports should feature a long landing site, so that the airplane can land safely and secure. But in some cases, there is just no conditions for a large and long landing spot. Brave pilots land on these airports on a daily basis. And if you want to travel the world and feel the adrenaline pumping through your veins, you might consider these places. If you are not brave enough, just close your eyes, hold tight and wait for the plane to land. These airports are as challenging, as they are amazing and strange. Incredible landings, incredible takeoffs in extreme conditions and strong wind make these airports a challenge for every pilot. Let’s take a look.
Tenzing-Hillary Airport (LUA) also known as Lukla Airport (LUA) – Nepal
If you want to climb Mount Everest, you just have to land on Lukla Airport. This airport serves as the starting point for people climbing to the base camp of Mount Everest. And if the adrenaline and hype of climbing mount Everest is not enough, landing on an airport with a runway of just 527 meters sure will do the trick. There have been more than 10 accidents on the airpot, prompting the History Channel to rate the Lukla Airport as “The most Dangerous in the world”. The short runway is just part of the story, as the gradient of just 11.7% makes it even more dangerous.
The airport was renamed to Tenzing-Hillary Airport in a way to honor Sherpa Tenzing Norway and Sir Edmund Hillary. These two were the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest and invested lots of effort and money into construction of the airport.
Santos Dumont Airport (SDU) in Rio de Janeiro – Brazil
In July 2007, Santos Dumont Airport was the home to the worst air disaster in Brazilian history. More than 200 people lost their lives because of a plane crash. SDA is the second major airport in Rio de Janeiro, and one of the busiest airports in the world. However, it is also one of the most dangerous, and one look at the surround is enough to understand why. The airport is located on an island, surrounded by water from all sides, and the short runway makes it extremely challenging for pilots to land planes there.
The airport has slot restriction, allowing maximum of 19 operations per hour. Santos is one of the five airports in Brazil with such restrictions.
Passenger arrival terminals were upgraded in 2013, but the renovation did not focus on the short runway.
Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport (JSI), also known as Skiathos Airport (JSI) – Greece
Skiathos is one of the most popular islands in Greece, housing hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. The island is accessible by plane and boat, and when you look the Skiathos Airport, you’ll understand why many people elect to come to the island by boat.
The island of Skiathos has uneven terrain, making it challenging for the local government to build an airport. However, locals managed to do that by reclaiming land from the sea between Skiathos, and another smaller island called Lazareta. As a result, the two islands were joined into one larger island, and the government managed to build the airport. However, the airport’s runway is extremely short and narrow, despite the ability to accommodate Boeing 757-200.
To get a better picture, the runway is just 1,628 meters long, and commercial aircrafts must operate at low weight. Many of the flights do not carry enough fuel for direct flights to far countries in Europe, so they make an intermediate fuel stop. Europe airlines have recognized the problem, and they even ask their pilots to undergo additional training before they can use the airport. All landings are performed only by the captain. And we have yet to mention the downslope on runway 20, making it even more challenging for pilots to land a plane.
Courchevel Airport (CVF) – France
High terrain, altitude, extremely short and slopping runway make this airports in the French Alps one of the most dangerous and challenging for landing. The runway is just 525 meters long, and because of the high elevation and deep valleys, pilots have problems navigating to the airport. Similar as the Skiathos airport, Courchevel Airport also requires pilots to undergo special training before landing a plane there. There is a special certification for pilots that have passed the training.
To make matters worse, there is no go-ground procedure. There have been many accidents, and French government is doing everything it can to reduce the number of accidents.
Congonhas Airport – Sao Paulo
This airport might have a large runway, but the problem with the airport is the location. There are three airports in Sao Paulo, but Congonhas is in the middle of everything. Located just five miles from downtown Sao Paulo, the airport presents lots of navigation challenges for pilots.
The last crash at the airport happened in 2007, but between 1940s and 1960s, there were more than 10 crashes, all due to the fact that the airport is hard to navigate to.
Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) also known as St. Maarten Airport (SXM) – Caribbean
When people at the beach are taking pictures with the aircraft landing on the runway, you know you have a problem. This famous airport is widely considered one of the most dangerous in the world because it is extremely close to the beach. Because of the close proximity to the beach, the airport is difficult to approach to. As an added bonus, the short runway is located on water, causing problems for pilots in terms of altitude perception. And for departures, the high terrain can be extremely troublesome.
Tourists and planespotters love to gaze up at the aircrafts when they descend, as they are just 50 feet above them.
Gibraltar International Airport (GIB)
Every time a plane lands or departs from the main road, traffic has to be stopped. Why? Because the runway intersects with an avenue. The airport is located in the British part of Gibraltar, and it is one of the most widely used landing spots for people traveling to Spain from Britain, as it is very close to many of the popular tourist destinations.
Some of the reasons why Gibraltar international is considered dangerous is bad turbulence appearing towards the end of the flight. The unique weather, mainly wind and sea/rock combination make it terrifying for passengers when they land. And to top it all, the runway is very short, so the pilot usually has to slam on the breaks just so he makes sure the aircraft doesn’t end up in the water at the end of the runway.