World's Scariest Airport Approaches

World's scariest airports. World's scariest runways. World's scariest airport approaches. Pilot's list of top ten scariest airport approaches. Worst runways in the world. World's most difficult runways.

Most of us have seen hair raising pictures of aircraft coming into land at ill located airports around the world. Anyone living in a city with an urban based airport is also more than used to low flying aircraft coming in to land just a few feet above the city streets.These are the everday sights of modern living, but there are other areas where flying aircraft can bring about some heart stopping moments, many of them at the airports themselves.

Even in this day and age some of the world's airports are ill equipped to deal with the large traffic flow or do not have runway facilities good enough to handle the large and powerful modern aircraft using them.

Below are ten of the world's most feared airport approaches or runways that have been voted the worst in the world, by the people who know them the best, the very pilots that have to land on them. 


  Image courtesy of Arpingstone, wikimedia commons.

 A flight coming into land at London Heathrow Airport.


                                                   PILOTS MOST SCARIEST AIRPORT APPROACH LIST:

                                                                 1) Tenzing / Hilary Airport, Lukla, Nepal.

                                                                 2) Toncontin Airport, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

                                                                 3) Princess Juliana Airport, Saint Maartin.

                                                                 4) Gustav III Airport, St Barthelemy.

                                                                 5) North Front Airport, Gibraltar.

                                                                 6) Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong ( Now closed )

                                                                 7) Corcheval Airport, Corcheval, France.

                                                                 8) Eagle Vale Airport, Colorado, USA.

                                                                 9) Funchal Airport, Madeira.

                                                               10) San Diego Airport, California, USA.


Image courtesy of Hughes Mitton, wikimedia commons.


Situated in the French Alps, the small airport at Corcheval is a busy airport during the Winter months owing to the volume of tourists visiting the ski slopes there.

The airport runway is not flat as most runways are, but has an upslope with an 18.5% gradient. The runway is also very short at just 525m ( 1722 ft) and is situated in an area of a 2008m (6,588 ft) elevation, which is surrounded by ski slopes.

The airport has been voted the 7th scariest airport in the world by pilots as it resembles a ski  piste rather than an international airport runway. 


  Image courtesy of Andrew Griffith, wikimedia commons.


Gibraltar is famous for it's iconic rock, and for having the fifth most dangerous airport in the world.

There are several things that bring the runway here into disrepute, the first is the weather, which causes pockets of air to cause turbulence as they get whipped up and buffeted against the massive rock.

The second thing is the approach. Because of the difficulties the UK and Spain have had over the years regarding ownership of the rock, Spanish Air control will not let flights to Gibraltar pass over it's airspace, meaning pilots have to go out to sea and make a full turn whilst banking to one side in order to gain a straight approach onto the runway. 

The third problem is with the runway it's self. The runway, which has been built on a former race course, is part of the main roadway into Gibraltar town centre, meaning the road has to close to vehicular traffic whilst flights take off and land, but foot passengers are still able to continue walking across, meaning there are many times when flights are due in or out and people are actually walking across the busy runway.  


  image courtesy of Jeremy Broomfiled, wikimedia commons.


Well this is the one to avoid folks, being voted worst airport approach in the world by pilots, the tiny airport at Lukla in Nepal is abysmal.

The runway is completely surrounded by mountains and has a short runway just 9,000 ft long with a gradient of 12 degrees which ends with a 2,000 foot drop at the end of it into a valley below. It is situated at a very high altitude which causes turbulence and means that flights can not make the approach slowly.The weather is also known to be erratic with low cloud and mist cover.

The airport was built in 1964 by Sherpas who built it entirely by hand on the instructions of mountaineer Edmund Hilary.

Until a few years ago the runway was not even surfaced,and was kept flat by way of people being employed to walk on it in order to trample down the top soil.

Pilots can only make one approach, as there is no overshoot available and no turn around space due to the surrounding mountainous terrain.

Because of this only small planes and helicopters can land there, and only then if the pilot has been sufficiently trained to be cleared and passed experienced enough to land there. 


  Image courtesy of Enrique Galeano Morales, wikimedia commons.


The Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa has the smallest runway of any commercial airport in the world at only 2,163m ( 7,096 ft) and is situated at an altitude of 1,004 m ( 3,294 ft).

It is surrounded by mountains on all sides as well as having a 65 foot drop at the end of the runway that has a busy freeway below it.

The airport allows no margin for error with it having no overshoot because of the freeway below or turning space because of the mountainous terrain.The runway does have guide marks painted onto it for pilots to land between, but if these marks are missed, well it's curtains I'm afraid, as it has been for many poor souls who have flown into the airport since it's opening in 1934. 



The airport at Saint Maartin in the Caribbean is probably the most photographed airport approach in the world. 

The airport is approached by planes making their way onto the island by flying over Maho beach,in some cases just a mere 50 feet above the heads of sunbathing tourists. 

The beach has now been turned into a Mecca for plane spotters as well as the past time known locally as ' riding the fence'. 

Tourists hold onto the airports wire fencing as a jumbo jet is taking off, being blown up and into the air by the thrust of air from the aircraft's jet propelled engines. 

As scary as the approach is for pilots and as dangerous as the game of riding the fence is for the tourists, as yet no one has been hurt on Saint Maartin, but, there is always a first time, resulting in both airport officials and pilots desperately looking for ways to improve the airport there.   

                       SOURCE : World's most extreme airports, U.K Channel 5, October 2010.


                                Image courtesy of Arpingstone, wikimedia commons.

 Another big one makes it's way above the houses of West London on it's way to Heathrow Airport

                         More airport / aircraft articles from the same author. 



                                                       © D.B.Bellamy.October, 2010.


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