World’s Most Dangerous Airports

By Sumanth Bharadwaj | April 10, 2020

Air travel is one of the safest modes of transport but there are few airports which can send a chill down the spine of a passenger. You as a passenger would have experienced turbulent weather and absolutely no visibility but these airports are even scarier. These are some of the most dangerous airports to fly in and out. Take a look!

9. Toncontin Airport, Honduras

This airport located at Tegucigalpa, Honduras is an extreme airport due to its proximity to mountainous terrain. The approach is considered one the toughest because of its winding approach pattern and a short runway. However, in 2009 the airport authority demolished a part of the hillside allowing more room for the aircraft’s approach. To land, the aircraft has to bank 45 degrees and lose altitude quickly to safely touch down. It’s proximity to high altitude terrain places Toncontin Airport among some of the most challenging airports for pilots.

Toncontín International Airport before the removal of the hillside ©Flickr

8. Gibraltar Airport, British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar

Gibraltar airport was built in a place surrounded by a bustling city, busy port, and massive limestone rock. The 1680 meters runway is not that difficult to land at, but the main street of Gibraltar (Winston Churchill Avenue) cuts across the runway. The street has to be closed down every time a plane departs or lands.  The runway also has water on both ends thereby forcing pilots to land at an appropriate touchdown zone otherwise risk overshooting the runway.

The Winston Churchill Avenue cutting across the runway at Gibraltar Airport ©Flickr

7. Courchevel Airport, France

That runway has an 18.5 per cent downward gradient! It is also the shortest runway in the world, about 524 meters. This airport located in a popular French town of Courchevel is one of the most difficult airports to land or take-off. The slope is built for the aircraft to gain speed to take-off otherwise ending down the valley. There is no second chance for landing here. There is no published missed approach or a go-around procedure. The airport also doesn’t have lights or any instrument aid to help pilots land in bad weather.

The downward slope of the runway clearly visible at Courchevel Airport ©Flickr

6. Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

This airport is widely known for its proximity to the beach. The approach path of this airport is over the sea leading up to the beach just before touching down. The aircraft flies at an extremely low altitude almost appearing just a foot above the heads of the beachgoers at Maho beach. It is known for its gusty winds on approach. Princess Juliana International Airport also has a short runway of 2179 meters. This airport is frequented by large jets such as Boeing 747 and Airbus A330 usually requiring more than 2179 meters to land. Pilots take extreme care to land at the correct touchdown zone on the runway keeping in mind its short length.

An aircraft landing at Princess Juliana International Airport ©Wikipedia

5. Congonhas Airport, Brazil

Congonhas Airport located at Sao Paulo, Brazil known for its dangerous approach path and close proximity to the city skyline. The approach path appears as if the aircraft is scraping the tops of high rise buildings.  The airport is also troubled by slippery runways which led to many accidents. After public outcry, rainwater drainage systems were improved and maximum allowable landing weight was reduced. The runway length too couldn’t be extended due to the city’s rapid growth which completely surrounds the airport.

4. Madeira Airport, Portugal

This airport is considered one of the most perilous in the world. The airport is constructed at the edge of a sea on the base of a sloping hill. Widely known for its extreme crosswinds up to 45 knots making it the riskiest place to land. Pilots undergo special training to land here. The now extended runway (2172 meters) is supported by 180 columns in the ocean. To land on runway 05, the pilot needs to make a visual approach due to the unavailability of ILS (Instrument Landing System) because of its proximity to terrain. Just before making the final 150 degrees turn into the final approach, the pilot flies extremely close to the cliff with gusty winds creating an extra psychological load in the head.

Madeira Airport ©Flickr

3. Leh Airport, India

This airport located in the north Indian union territory of Ladakh is one of the most dangerous in the world. Located at 10,000 feet high from mean sea level, the airport is surrounded by high mountains namely Himalayas. Aircraft depart or arrive only in the mornings because of extreme winds in the afternoon and the operations on the runway being unidirectional. Specially trained pilots here also fly visual approaches as instrument aids are unavailable. The visual approach path is to follow a river between the mountain ridges leading up to the airport.  It is very common for GPWS warnings (Ground Proximity Warning System) to go off in the cockpit unless switched off, during the approach here. High altitude airports bring in low-density air effectively creating less pressurised air to the engines. It is very common for aircraft here to approach with high speeds because thin air generates less lift.

An aerial view of the Leh Airport ©Wikipedia

2. Paro International Airport, Bhutan

Paro airport located in Thimpu is the only international airport in Bhutan. The airport which is surrounded by 18000-foot mountain peaks is one of the most difficult approaches in the world. Only 17 pilots are trained to fly in and out of here. The pilots making the approach won’t have the runway in sight until they make a last-minute 45 degrees turn just about 100 feet high from the ground. This last manoeuvre just clears the tops of houses within a few hundred feet. One red clifftop house is the focal point for pilots to make the turn to line up with the runway. This approach requires pilots to make tight turns and careful maneuvring between the ridges placing Paro airport among the most dangerous airports in the world.

Paro Airport surrounded by mountains ©Flickr

1. Lukla Airport, Nepal

Positioned in the Himalayans at 9315 feet high, Lukla airport is named after the first two climbers who scaled the Mt. Everest. This airport mainly serves for trekkers who visit to scale the highest peak in the world. The airport is placed between high terrain and extreme weather conditions. Only the bravest pilots would be able to fly here. The 1600-foot runway is unidirectional with a mountain on one side and a 2000-foot plunge into the valley on the other side. The runway also has a gradient of 12 degrees. Once committed to land, pilots have no other option but to land. The airport does not have a go-around procedure. Lukla Airport is the world’s most dangerous airport to fly to.

Lukla Airport runway with one side of it ending up into a valley ©Flickr

This content was provided to MentourPilot by provider, Travel Radar Media. Travel Radar offers high quality content in partnership with Mentour


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