If you suffer from a fear of flying look away now. Or perhaps that should be fear of landing? Because many passengers would probably prefer to stay in the air when they see their plane approach one of these terrifying runways.
At Lukla Airport in Nepal, pilots have to navigate a runway that ends in a terrifying 9,200ft drop, while at Barra Airport in Scotland they have to wait until the tide is out.
Meanwhile, planes fly so close to Maho Beach in St Maarten that you can almost tell the time on the captain’s wrist watch.
And at Paro Airport in Bhutan you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views over the Paro river and the Himalayas – if you can overlook the sharp peaks of up to 18,000ft and severe turbulence…
Princess Juliana, St Maarten
Fingers crossed you have an experienced pilot with a lot of skill if you’re landing at one of these airports — they’re super scary to fly in and out of! Although those who love roller coasters may actually enjoy the ride…
The approach to Princess Juliana International Airport at St Maarten in the Caribbean is particularly thrilling. Planes coming in for a landing seem to barely skim over the heads of sunbathers on Maho Beach. And the runway isn’t exactly long enough to give pilots of large aircraft any room for error!
Gustaf III, St. Barts
The scenery is spectacular, but the flight into St Barts’ Gustaf III Airport in the Caribbean is hair-raising! It features a sudden drop after a low approach over this hilltop road — no doubt scaring the local motorists. If your pilot overshoots the short runway, you’ll end up crashing onto the beach at the other end!
Gibraltar 3 of 17
How freaky is this airport set up? Gibraltar is located near the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. But the airport’s runway has a busy road cutting right across it. When a plane comes in for landing, the cars are blocked by railway-type crossing gates.
Scenic but scary! Planes can only land at Scotland’s Barra Airport when the tide is out. Even so, the landing can involve a bit of a splash. And you’ve got to wonder how safe a runway that consists entirely of a sandy beach actually is.
Kai Tak, Hong Kong
It closed in 1998. But years later Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport is still notorious for being one of the most difficult and dangerous airports pilots ever had to fly into. They literally had to navigate between high-rise buildings after making a last minute sharp and low turn to line up with the runway. Scary stuff!
Congonhas, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo has a huge number of high-rises. And its airport is a mere 5 miles from the city center. According to one pilot, that makes it “a challenge in terms of safety to just get the plane in there. Then you throw on noise restrictions and these terribly awkward arrival and departure routes that are needed to minimize your noise-print and it becomes quite challenging for pilots.”
Maketane Air Strip, Lesotho
The Matekane Air Strip in Lesotho runway ends right at the edge of a cliff — so you literally take off into a gully. It’s also surrounded by mountains. There’s danger all around!
Sea Ice Runway, Antarctica
The Sea Ice Runway in Antarctica is made entirely of ice and snow. It’s not paved at all! Which means there are a couple of potential problems:
•Heavy planes can crack the ice and sink into it
•Soft snow can cause aircraft to get stuck
Catalina Airport is nicknamed the “Airport in the Sky” because it’s located high up on Catalina Island. The top of a hill was actually leveled off during its construction!
According to Airfarewatchdog.com, the airport is “known to have downdrafts and turbulence on approach. Its runway drops off on both sides and is so raised in the middle that pilots on one end can’t see the other. Heavy rains often litter it with pieces of asphalt, potholes, and soft spots.” Scary!
Juancho E Yrausquin, Saba Island
The Juancho E Yrausquin Airport is basically a short little runway set right at the cliff’s edge of the hilly Caribbean Saba Island. If you add blustery gales to that, you’ve got one super scary landing!
Want to ski at Courchevel in the French Alps? First you’ll need to brave landing at it’s unique and precarious airport. The runway comes complete with a significant hill slap dab in the middle, which means “You take off downhill and you land going uphill.” Pilots need to be specially certified before being allowed to fly in or out of this challenging airport.
Climbing Mt Everest doesn’t seem so scary after all. Would-be climbers first have to face another obstacle — Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, Nepal. Named after Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the airport’s short runway is bounded by mountainous terrain at the north end and a steep drop into the valley at the south end. Its elevation is 9,383 feet! Accidents occur more frequently than anyone would like…
Sitka Rocky Gutierrez, Alaska
Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport sits on a tiny island in Sitka Sound, Alaska. So it’s surrounded by water — and vulnerable to big flocks of birds, strong winds, and boulders… which tend to wash up onto the runway in stormy weather! That’s not the type of bumpy landing anyone wants to endure!
Its runway has been extended with a section that is supported by huge concrete pillars. But the position of Madeira Airport’s runway right in between the island’s mountains and the Mediterranean Sea makes for a hair-raising landing! Severe turbulence and bad weather frequently make for even bumpier ride!
Wellington, New Zealand
Landing at Wellington Airport can be a truly terrifying experience, due to a number of factors:
•Scary strong crosswinds
•Severe turbulence and sudden drops
•A hilly approach for pilots to navigate through
•A super short runway — bounded by water on both ends