Only the most experienced pilots can handle the treacherous runways found at several airports worldwide, which traverse mountains, sand, and even ice. The Most Dangerous Airports In The World 2021, the Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong,
famous for its approach that required planes to skim over apartment buildings to land on a runway that protruded into the bay, closed in 1998 to make way for a larger, much easier-to-maneuver airport. However, many other airports are still in service today and are notorious for tricky landings and tragic mishaps.
The Most Dangerous Airports In The World 2021
11. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa
Despite suggestions to close or relocate this perilous airfield, which former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously called “the most dangerous base in the world,” MCAS Futenma remains operational and does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
What is it about this airport that makes it so dangerous? According to the current-affairs magazine The Diplomat, it’s located in the middle of a dense urban city “with dwellings, parks, schools, and businesses pushing right up to the gate.”
In fact, it violates the Department of the Navy’s safety requirements for military airfields. Despite intentions to relocate the base, it was never completed.
10. Paro Airport, Bhutan
Only a few hundred pilots are certified to land at Bhutan’s only international airport, nestled in the Himalayas.
Because there is no radar, pilots must fly in manual mode at certain speeds and altitudes and only during daytime hours when visibility is good. As they execute a 45-degree turn between mountains and a rapid descent onto the 6,500-foot runway, they must also keep an eye out for electric wires and home roofs. Pilots claim that they only see the runway a few moments before landing.
9. Barra International Airport, Scotland
This airport in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland is unique in that it is the only one in the world where scheduled flights land on sand instead of concrete or tarmac.
Some tourists fly to Barra for the gorgeous, one-of-a-kind experience, but the runways in Traigh Mhr bay are buried at high tide, so you can only land at specific times of the day.
Flight schedules can sometimes be disrupted by bad weather; pilots are sometimes forced to fly 140 miles back to Glasgow rather than landing in gale-force winds and rain.
8. Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten
Low-flying aircraft zip overhead before landing less than 200 feet away, attracting thrill-seekers to Maho Beach in St. Maarten. The airport has received numerous awards over the years, including Caribbean Airport of the Year in 2016. However, it has not been without its share of mishaps. While flying in severe rain in 2017, a WestJet flight came dangerously near to landing, descending to only 40 feet above the ocean before aborting the landing operation.
Tourists on the ground, on the other hand, maybe in greater danger than flying passengers. In 2017, a woman died of head injuries after being slammed into a wall by a jet blast while standing near the runway’s off-limits fence.
7. Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, Portugal
Pilots flying into this airport on stilts – don’t worry, they’re solid concrete pillars — have to contend with erratic Atlantic winds and may be forced to undertake a risky landing maneuver. Planes must fly around the airport, make a 150-degree right-hand turn, and then land on one of the airport’s runways without using instruments. Then, they can utilize the other runway, which is easier to control when conditions are better.
When a TAP Air Portugal plane overshot the runway and smashed onto the shore below in 1977, the Madeira airport proved lethal in the face of severe winds and heavy rain, killing 131 of the 164 passengers on board. Before the runway was extended to 9,124 feet on a platform over the water – it had previously been only 5,250 feet long.
The International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering later honoured the project design with the Outstanding Structure Award in 2004.
6. Courchevel Altiport, France
Courchevel Altiport resembles a ski slope more than a runway, and it does service a ski resort in the French Alps, so you’ll see tourists skiing down the slopes nearby. The runway is barely 1,762 feet long and is exclusively used by light planes and helicopters. It’s also the first mountain airfield to have an upslope runway, with the landing strip starting at the cliff’s edge.
Only certified pilots are permitted to execute the treacherous approach to the runway or the terrifying take-off from the cliff’s edge. There are no lights or equipment to guide planes through inclement weather, and pilots cannot use the “go around” protocol, which requires a plane to land once it has approached.
5. Lukla Airport, Nepal
Tenzing–Hillary Airport, or Lukla Airport, is used by trekkers attempting the arduous Mount Everest climb. It has been dubbed “the world’s most dangerous airport.” The 1,729-foot runway in Lukla finishes on a Himalayan mountain ledge at an extraordinarily high altitude, with a 2,000-foot drop into the valley below. This runway can only be utilized by helicopters and small fixed-wing propeller planes because the go-around procedure is unavailable.
According to Forbes, only properly trained pilots can fly here, have at least one year of experience in Nepal, have performed 10 flights into Lukla with a certified instructor, and completed 100 short-takeoff-and-landing flights. Yeti Airlines Flight 103 crashed on approach into the mountain below in 2008 after the pilot lost visibility in heavy fog, killing all 16 passengers and two of the three crew members.
4. Matekane Air Strip, Lesotho
At the Matekane Air Strip in Lesotho, planes plummet off the edge of a 2,000-foot precipice before taking to the air. This nerve-wracking runway stretches 1,312 feet off the side of a mountain. Although it was reportedly closed to local and international flights in 2009, sources suggest it is occasionally used by private planes.
“The rule in the highlands is that it is better to take off downwind and downhill than into wind and uphill,” says bush pilot Tom Claytor to Travel + Leisure. “In Lesotho, the hills will usually out-climb you.”
3. Wellington Airport, New Zealand
This airport has been dubbed one of the world’s nicest terminals, but it’s also one of the most dangerous locations to land. Passengers and pilots alike can be rattled by wind shear and turbulence, and the one-lane, 6,800-foot runway that appears to start and end in the water can be challenging to navigate.
The New Zealand Airline Pilots Association has advocated for a longer runway, claiming Wellington does not meet “international safety recommendations that represent best international aviation safety practice,” despite airport officials claiming it has an excellent safety record and strict procedures in place. Later, a runway extension was proposed, but it has yet to be built.
2. Congonhas International Airport, Brazil
With slick runways and a risky location in the heart of densely populated So Paulo, Brazil’s busiest and most dangerous airports. When the airport was opened in 1936, there were only a few structures in the surrounding region. The metropolis now boasts a population of around 22 million people.
In 2007, a TAM Airlines commercial airplane skidded off the runway. It narrowly escaped flying into a crowded roadway, slamming into a warehouse and exploding in a blaze, killing all 187 passengers and 12 on the ground. The airport has tightened its limitations after the tragedy, despite losing its international status.
1. Toncontin Airport, Honduras
This airport in Honduras’ capital, which is surrounded by mountains and residential areas, has a horrible history of tragic plane crashes. Before landing on Toncontin’s 6,112-foot runway, pilots must navigate the hilly terrain and complete a 45-degree turn. The location also uses outdated navigational technology, which adds to the risk.
In 1989, a Boeing commercial airliner crashed into a mountainside, killing 131 passengers and burning the majority of the remains beyond identification. A more recent event in 2008 resulted in Honduras’ president barring foreign flights and requiring larger planes to use an airbase while the runway was being lengthened, resulting in five fatalities.