There are thousands of airport around the world and while many are located on a flat terrain with long runways, there are several that aren’t so predictable. Take a look at some of the most dangerous airports in the world and what makes them so difficult to maneuver:
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport
Location: Saba Island, Caribbean
This airport is situated on a small island in the Caribbean and sports the shortest commercial runway in the world – 1,300 feet (which isn’t much longer than the runways on aircraft carriers). The runway is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs and should an airplane be unable to land or takeoff in the amount of length given, it could end up in the ocean.
Location: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Toncontin Airport in Honduras is known as one of the most difficult airports for pilots to land. Surrounded by mountains, the short runway can’t be approached head-on, but instead, must be approached with sharp turns and quick descents. In addition, pilots must face gusts of wind and the added danger of landing in the mountains.
Gustaf III Airport
Location: Saint Barthelemy, Caribbean
At Gustaf III Airport, pilots not only have a short runway (2,100 feet) to work with, but they also frequently experience wind gusts. The runway itself is situated on a slope and has the ocean on one end and a hill on the other that pilots must avoid. In addition, planes landing at the airport are forced fly right over a major roadway just seconds before they touch down.
The Ice Runway in Antarctica is the premier runway for the U.S. Antarctic Program during the summertime. Each season, it’s built out of sea ice, making plane landings a bit more difficult than runways built out of concrete. Because of this, the planes that land on it must be of a certain weight to make sure they don’t cause any damage. The runway is used from the beginning of summer until early December, when the ice starts to break up.
Princess Juliana International Airport
Location: St. Maarten, Caribbean
As you may have noticed, Caribbean airports tend to be quite dangerous to visit. In St. Maarten, planes must fly over a portion of the beach, cross over a fence, and pass over a major road before touching down on the runway. The airport is serviced mainly by small and medium-sized planes, but jumbo jets can sometimes manage to land here (and fly so low, that they can blow cars off the road).
Location: Bhutan, Himalayan Mountains
Only a handful of pilots are qualified to land at this airport in the Himalayan Mountains. Located 1.5 miles above sea level and nestled in between steep mountain peaks, the runway is just 6,500 feet long, which makes landing at a higher altitude more difficult. In addition, pilots must make a steep descent and weave in between dozens of houses that are built into the mountainsides.
Location: French Alps
Nestled in the snowy French Alps, France’s Courchevel Airport has a runway of just 1,722 feet and sits at a gradient of 18.5%. In addition to maneuvering around the mountains, pilots must touch down at inclined angles in order to slow down. The area also experiences snowy and foggy conditions on a regular basis, making taking off and landing even harder.
Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil
This is one airport that is slippery when wet. Because of the design of Sao Paulo Congonhas, rainwater can make the runway surface very slippery and has been the cause of several accidents. Because it’s located close to the city center of Sao Paulo, the airport’s runway is short and planes must maneuver around tall buildings during take-offs and landings.
Barra International Airport
Location: Barra, Scotland
Instead of traditional concrete runways, this airport uses the beach. There are three runways at Barra, and all are under the sea when the tide comes in, which means plane take-off and landing times must coincide with the tide. What’s more, the beach is regularly used by locals during airport off-hours.
Location: Lukla, Nepal
Situated at 1.76 miles above sea level, the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal is the closest airport to the base camp of Mount Everest. This airport is considered dangerous because it is subject to high winds, low clouds, and rain on a regular basis. In addition, a steep incline sits at the north end of the runway and a drop-off sits at the south end, making it nearly impossible for a plane to abort a landing and go around for a second try.