We often hear the statistics: you’re more likely to die from, say, cardiovascular disease, of a bee sting or in a tornado than in a plane crash. It’s true that air travel is generally quite safe but the statistics will probably be less assuring if you’re flying via one of the world’s most dangerous airports. Buckle up!
16. Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
The greatest potential danger at Gibraltar International Airport is the fact that one of the British territory’s main roads crosses the runway. Popular Mechanics notes that every time a plane takes off or comes in to land, the road has to be closed.
15. Damascus International Airport, Syria
Most international airlines have stopped flying to Damascus due to the civil war raging in the country. Those commercial flights that are still scheduled have to compete with fighter jets and deal with the risk of surface-to-air missiles, according to Popular Mechanics.
14. Barra Airport, Scotland
When planes come in to land at the only airport in the world that has scheduled flights on a runway that is also the beach, they land at an elevation of 2 m above sea level. That is, according to Popular Mechanics, when the tide is out.
For night flights, reflective strips and vehicle lights provide illumination.
13. Agatti Aerodrome, India
Architecture and Design mentions the short runway at Agatti Aerodrome as a major risk factor. Just to add to the danger, there’s only a narrow strip of land on either side and at the end of the runway on this island airport.
12. Madeira Airport, Madeira
The airport serving the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira used to have a notoriously short runway and the authorities solved the problem by building an award-winning structure to extend its length.
However, according to Popular Mechanics, the extension is built partly over water and on a windy or rainy day the plane can still go over the side.
11. Gustaf III Airport, St. Barthelemy
Interesting Engineering says that planes coming in to land at Gustaf III Airport use the hill slope to slow down. The runway, which is perpendicular to the beach, is short and departing aircraft have to gain altitude quickly to fly over the heads of sunbathers rather than land in the sea.
10. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba
At only about 396 m, Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport has one of the shortest runways in the world, so only smaller planes can land here. Popular Mechanics says that the Caribbean island airport has mountain slopes on one side, the water on the other and, past the runway, sheer cliffs dropping into the sea.
9. Wellington International Airport, New Zealand
According to Architecture and Design
, the runway at Wellington is short and at the end there is a drop straight into the ocean.
Pilots also have to contend with strong winds here.
8. Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Approaching the only international airport in southern Greenland is a nightmare for pilots, since they have to deal with wind shear and severe turbulence. Making matters worse, according to Popular Mechanics, is the nearby Eyjafjallajökull volcano which, when it erupts, can destroy the aircraft’s engines
7. Pegasus Field, Antarctica
Few things are as non-reassuring as the sight of a wrecked plane as you come in to land. It’s even worse when you know that the airport is actually named after that plane.
Pegasus Field is another of the ice runways serving McMurdo Station and according to Popular Mechanics, at a certain time of year pilots have to wear night vision goggles even during daytime.
6. Ice Runway, Antarctica
Ice Runway is one of the runways serving McMurdo Station and, as the name suggests, is made of ice. It has handled a Boeing 757 but, as Interesting Engineering says, the wheels of the aircraft can submerge into the ice when the plane comes to a stop.
5. Courchevel Altiport, France
If you’re planning on skiing at Courchevel, you may want to consider a different way of travelling there than flying in. The airport features a short runway, nearby ski slopes, mountainous terrain, bad weather and, according to Interesting Engineering, no instrumentation to help guide pilots in foggy conditions.
4. Paro Airport, Bhutan
Popular Mechanics says that only 25 pilots are qualified to land at Bhutan’s only international airport. The airport, already at a high altitude, is surrounded by even higher peaks and the severe weather means that planes can only land during daylight hours and in what pilots call ‘visual meteorological conditions’.
3. Qamdo Bamda Airport, Tibet
According to Interesting Engineering, Qamdo Bamda Airport is one of the highest in the world, which means that the thin air causes havoc with planes’ engines. The airport also has the world’s longest commercial runway, so that feeling of dizziness when you finally get to disembark is probably not only due to lack of oxygen.
2. Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal
Also known as Lukla Airport, Tenzing-Hillary Airport is the one you land at before you start climbing to Mount Everest Base Camp.
Interesting Engineering says that the runway is very short and that the airport is surrounded by mountains. At one end of the runway there is a steep drop and as if the airport isn’t scary enough already, there are no landing aids available.
1. Toncontin International Airport, Honduras
A regular on lists of the world’s most dangerous airports, Toncontin is definitely not for inexperienced pilots or fainthearted passengers, since it combines mountainous terrain with a short runway, winds and densely populated areas close to the airport.
According to Popular Mechanics, pilots have to make a 45-degree bank just to reach the runway.