Flying can be scary even in perfect conditions. But plenty of airports around the world don’t have that luxury — especially when it comes to mountainous regions and small islands. Fuelled by a lack of travel and too much Flight Simulator, I recently fell down a rabbit hole of watching dangerous airport landings on YouTube. Please enjoy.
Lukla Airport, Nepal
Lukla, also known as the Tenzing Hillary Airport is popular because of its proximity to Mount Everest.
It also happens to be a perfect storm of terrible landing conditions, making it one of the most dangerous airports in the world. In addition to having a cliff on one side the runway a mountain on the other, pilots also have to contend with low air pressure, wind shear and the airport itself not having electricity sometimes.
The runway is also extremely short at just 1,729 feet and there’s really no where to go if you miss the approach.
Courchevel Altiport, France
Courchevel Altiport in France has a similar runway length to Nepal at just 1,788 feet. It has an 18,6% gradient to help planes stop quicker. And since it’s the the Alps pilots also have to deal with snow, fog and storms.
The wildest part about this is watching the plane fly right above people as the casually ski. It’s shudder-inducing.
Gustaf III Airport, St. Barths
From the mountains to the sea. This airport at St Barth’s requires pilots to fly barely above a busy road to land on its 2,100 feet runway. If a plane can’t stop in time it ends up in the ocean. Oh and the beach attached to it is public.
Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
Gibralter Airport is dangerous mostly due to its proximity to the city-centre. It’s right in the middle of it. Not only that, it intersects with one of the busiest streets in the territory. Yes, cars and pedestrians pass through the runway. Every time a plane the lands the street needs to be closed.
Barra Airport, Scotland
The runway for Barra Airport is literally just a beach. As such, arrivals and departures need to be scheduled around the tide, which is awesome.
This landing is particularly gorgeous: