Air travel can be a source of anxiety for many people, but the destination is not always the most stressful aspect of the journey. Some airports pose unique challenges that require only experienced or specially trained pilots to fly in and out of. If you’re looking for a thrill ride, here are the ten most dangerous airports in the world that you should be cautious about visiting.
1. Courchevel Airport – France (established 1962)
Risk factors: runway location
This airport is located in the middle of the French Alps and serves the Courchevel ski resort. The runway is only 537 meters long, has a gradient of 18.7%, and is situated at an altitude of 2,000 meters above sea level. There is no lighting, making it even more difficult to land during inclement weather conditions. Only pilots with special training permits can fly in and out of this airport due to its challenging location between snow-capped mountains.
2. Gustaf III Airport – Saint Barthélemy (established 1942)
Risk factors: proximity to the coast
This busy airport has a unique feature where planes pass only 25 meters above a beach to land. The plane flies so close to the ground that the local government has warned tourists to stay at a safe distance during takeoff and landing. Over the years, there have been four fatal accidents at this airport.
3. Malé International Airport – Maldives (established 1960)
Risk factors: runway length
The Maldives airport’s main challenge is its location relative to the island. The runway is relatively short and occupies the entire length of the island on which it is situated. Any error by the pilot could cause the plane to end up in the water.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo Airport – Madeira, Portugal (established 1973)
Risk factors: runway built over the sea
The Madeira island runway was extended over the sea, making it a feat of engineering. However, this also presents a risk, as strong winds on the island, combined with the short runway, make takeoff and landing maneuvers very complex. Pilots require special training to operate in these conditions.
5. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport – Saba, Caribbean Islands (established 1963)
Risk factors: shortest runway in the world
This airport boasts the shortest runway in the world, measuring just 400 meters long. The airport’s location on the edge of a cliff and the short runway make it incredibly difficult to land or take off.
6. Paro International Airport – Bhutan (established 1968)
Risk factors: proximity to mountains and weather conditions
This airport is surrounded by the Himalayas and is only operational from sunrise to sunset. Fewer than 24 pilots are authorized to operate at this airport due to the weather conditions and short runway. Pilots must navigate around utility poles and houses when landing, and the runway is visible only moments before touchdown.
7. Tenzing-Hillary Airport – Nepal (established 1964)
Risk factors: high altitude
This small airport is popular with those starting their ascent to Mount Everest. The airport’s location is surrounded by mountains, and the altitude makes it difficult for airplane engines to receive the necessary oxygen during takeoff acceleration. Flights can be delayed or canceled due to fog, winds, and poor visibility.
8. Gisborne Airport – New Zealand (established 1960)
Risk factors: runway intersects with a railroad
The main runway of this airport crosses railroad tracks, making takeoffs and landings a carefully coordinated process.
9. Telluride Regional Airport – Colorado, USA (established 1980)
Risk factors: high altitude
The Telluride Regional Airport is located in a box canyon at an altitude of over 2,000 meters, with a narrow and short runway that makes it challenging for pilots to land safely. In addition, the airport is surrounded by steep mountains, which makes it difficult to maneuver the aircraft during takeoff and landing.
10. Toncontin International Airport – Honduras (established 1934)
Risk factors: a dangerous approach
Toncontin International Airport is located in the middle of the city of Tegucigalpa, surrounded by mountains, which makes it challenging for pilots to approach and land safely. In fact, the airport has been considered one of the most dangerous in the world due to its short runway, steep approach, and the requirement for pilots to perform a sharp turn just before landing. The airport has been the site of several accidents, including a fatal crash in 1989.
In conclusion, these airports represent some of the most challenging and dangerous landing sites in the world. While they are necessary for transportation and travel, they require experienced and specially trained pilots to operate safely. For passengers, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with these airports and to take extra precautions when flying to or from these destinations.