23 Terrifying Runways That Will Stoke Your Fear Of Flying

Flying can be a white-knuckle affair for even the heartiest of travellers. But it turns out what you should really fear are airports; almost 60 per cent of all aircraft incidents happens at the airports, during taxiing, take-off, approach or landing. Here are runway horrorshows from around the globe that may make you rethink your next trip.

Barra Airport, in the Hebrides off the West Coast of Scotland. Yes, it is a beach for take-off and landing. At least it's only for daytime flights.

Photo: calflier001

Water, water, Chubu Centrair International Airport, water, water. (Tokoname, Japan.)

Photo: Kyodo News/AP

Approaching the Congonhas Airport in the middle of Sao Paulo, Brazil is highly challenging for pilots.

Photo: Joao Carlos Medau

Another risky beach airport: the Copalis State Airport's (Grays Harbor County, Washington) runway is located between the Copalis River delta and a barrier of rocks.

Photo: Alex Derr

The mountain runway at Courchevel Airport (France) is just 545m long. As if that's not scary enough, it's also got a gradient of 18.5% and a vertical drop at the end.

Photo: Peter Robinett

Gibraltar Airport is located between a bustling city and a crashtastic mountain. Moreover, its 1800m long (short) runway intersects the Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar's busiest road, which has to be closed every time a plane lands or departs.

Photo: kimhollingshead

This is the Gustaf III Airport aka Saint Barthélemy Airport on the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy. The short airstrip starts with a slope and ends on the beach.

Photo: John M

Kai Tak International Airport, famous and hated for its heart-stopping approach low over Hong Kong, ended its 73-year reign of terror in 1998.

Photo: Vincent Yu/AP

Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan. Approaching this feels like your pilot is about to land on water.

Photo: mrhayata

Between mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, on the island cliffs, waits the frightening Madeira Airport (Portugal).

Photo: Thilo Hilberer

Look at the horrifying Matekane Air Strip in Lesotho (Africa). 400m, and then nothing.

Photo: Tom Claytor

Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland. Severe turbulences and winds from the surrounding fjords make this airport a hard task for pilots. Only daytime take-offs and landings allowed, thankfully.

Photo: Jim Stewart

Paro International Airport, the home of the Royal Bhutan Airlines, is located at an altitude of 2236m and surrounded by over 5000m-high-peaks of the Himalayas. Night or foggy landings are strictly prohibited.

Photo: Gelay Jamtsho

Pegasus White Ice Runway, Antarctica, the southernmost of three airfields serving McMurdo Station. Believe it or not, aircraft take off and land here all year long.

Photo: Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo/U.S. Air Force

Because of the short (2300m) runway at Princess Juliana International Airport (St. Maarten), large planes fly right over the tourists' head on Maho Beach. It's a spectacular sight — from the ground./h3>

Photo: Takashi

A densely populated neighbourhood, a cramped runway, active volcanoes, and frequent fog make Quito's high-altitude airport a threat for only a little longer; Ecuador's main airport is going to be moved to an agricultural setting 12 miles (20km) northeast of the city.

Photo: Dolores Ochoa/AP

Svalbard Airport in Longyearbyen on the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard in the Barents Sea was built upon a layer of permafrost in 1975. Continuous repaving makes it a hard landing place, literally and figuratively.

Photo: rune Petter Ness/AP

The Tenzing-Hillary Airport (Lukla, Nepal) is located 2860m above sea level, and its runway is only a few hundred meters long.

Photo: Alex Smith

Toncontín International Airport has an extremely short runway — and a mountainous surrounding — in Honduras.

Photo: Enrique Galeano Morales

Toronto Islands Airport (Ontairo, Canada) is another pinpoint landing site. And there's a nude beach close to the runway, which I'm sure isn't the least bit distracting.

Photo: John Steadman

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba. This Caribbean landing site is surrounded by high hills, and both ends of the runway drop into the sea.

Photo: Patrick Hawks

Wellington, New Zealand: short runway, hilly landscape, strong crosswinds, turbulent landings.

Photo: Phillip Capper

Williams Field, Antarctica, has two snow runways limited to ski-equipped aircraft during the summer season. aeroplanes land on 8m of compacted snow, lying on top of 80m of ice, floating over 550m of water. Must be a blood-chilling experience.

Photo: U.S. Air Force

Top image: Target for Tonight-Toronto, O'Keefe's ad (Mayfair, March 1944) via Jamie

Do we miss something is the list above? Post your favourite below!


Comments

    Kansai International Airport is also sinking apparently. They actually took that into consideration and designed the buildings to be able to rise but it's sinking too fast. That was before the second one was added at the side.

    Last edited 23/02/13 1:19 pm

      > Island sinking
      > Don't worry the buildings can rise?

      [You'll just be landing in a few feet of water, I hope that's cool] ??

    you forgot the airports in Tarawa, Kiribati and Nauru

    They neglect to mention with Wellington (NZ) you have shallow, rocky water at both ends of the runway. Its also built on reclaimed land (from earthquakes).

    Wellington Represent! As I say, flying into Wellington airport is like an extreme sport :P And if for some reason your plane fails to take off, it's a short dip into the harbour :D

    Gibraltar Airport. And some people complain about having to wait at a train level crossing.

      Essendon airport, Melbourne has a plane crossing. So annoying when you get stuck there.

        It doesn't look like it to me....

        http://goo.gl/maps/iSFRe

          It's not the runway, it's a taxi way. Still painfully show though.

        No, it doesn't. At least not that I can remember.
        I used to live 10 minutes away from that place.

        EDIT: You know what, you might be right: http://www.essendonairport.com.au/3/about-us/history/default.aspx

        Though I think the crossing might just be more for a taxiway while the one at Gibraltar is for the runway itself.

        Last edited 25/02/13 2:34 pm

          It most certainly does. I get stuck on it on the way to work often. Bloody biz jets. It's near the roundabout on Wirraway Rd.

          You're right, it is only a taxi way, but equally as annoying.

    Surely Paro should rate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHgxJKyw4GQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    What about Christmas Island? Not only is it on a peak, but the large number of bird life, the horrible cloud, and the fact you're hundreds of NM from the mainland.
    Or Murray Island in the Torres Strait (drop offs either side of runway... And the locals used to be cannibals), or Port Moresby (the approach between mountains in poor weather is fun, but mainly the danger starts once you depart the airport!).
    Port Keats in the NT ... If you've ever been there you know why it's dangerous!

    I'll be at St. Maarten at the end of the year to experience the plane landings. Regarding Gibraltar Airport, nobody over there heard of an underpass?

      Probably too late by the time the airport and road traffic starts to build up (and they are both crucial links). However by the time the new bypass gets completed, it might free up the traffic for this.

    Tenzing-Hillary Airport also features a rather large mountain at the end of its runway. So you got to nail it first try, or … well …

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