Like Flying? Here Are Some of The World’s Most Dangerous Airports

Airports play a useful role: to move people and goods from one place to another. Unfortunately, many locations around the world don’t have the best conditions for an airport.

Engineers spend countless hours to create landing strips in locations where airports were not thought possible. The marvels of modern engineering have permitted us to build airports where they really shouldn’t be. The unique locations of these landing strips and airports cause problems when conditions are less than perfect.

These airports often present difficulties due to their geographic location or because of their design, because of these issues, maneuvering planes can be problematic for many of the pilots who fly to these locations. Because of the challenges of taking off and landing, these are considered to be the most dangerous airports in the world.

1. Princess Juliana International Airport

A sign posted at Princess Juliana International Airport warning

tourists of jet blasts.

Princess Juliana International Airport, also refered to as Sint Maarten International Airport, services the Dutch side of the island of Saint Martin (Sint Maarten in Dutch.) This airport is considered dangerous because of its touristy beach location in regards to the low-flying planes. Jet blasts from planes have been known to knock beach-goers into the water as the runway starts just off the beach.

The design of this airport makes Sint Maarten a favorite locale for plane spotters as it is one of the few places left in the world where people can be in such close contact to a plane landing or taking off. However, due to the popularity of plane spotting here, additional fencing was added to the end of the runway to protect tourists who purposefully cling to the fences to be blown into the water by landing aircraft.

2. Congonhas Airport

Slippery when wet! (Congonhas Airport)

Congonhas Airport (sometimes referred to as Sao Paulo Airport) serves the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Because of the design of the runway, rainwater proves to be dangerous at this airport. The slippery runways at Congonhas Airport have been the cause of several accidents. To reduce the effects of rainwater, new runways have been put in. There are grooves in the new runways to collect excess water.

The safety concerns at this airport do not end there. Because the area surrounding the airport is highly populated, the airport reduced the number of incoming flights. Another safety precaution put in place was to reduce the maximum weight for aircraft.

The Congonhas Airport is one of three airports that serves Sao Paulo (and is the 2nd busiest in all of Brazil.) With the new precautions in place, there is a demand for yet another airport to serve the city.

3. Barra Airport

The hard sand beach on the island of Barra makes for the perfect runway

Barra Airport (sometimes called Barra Eoligarry Airport) is located at Traigh Mhòr, a beach on the Scottish island of Barra. This is the only airport in the world that uses a sandy beach as a runway.

This beach has three runways, each marked with wooden poles (very sophisticated technology.) Regardless, of having three runways, only one is used at any given time. The working runway is chosen based on which direction the wind is blowing. An interesting fact about this “airport” is that during high tide, all three runways are entirely underwater (and unusable.)

While this airport typically isn’t used at night, sometimes emergency flights come in and out during the evening. To allow safe passage for these planes, the lights of vehicles are used to mark out the runway.

4. Gibraltar Airport

All traffic on Winston Churchill Avenue must stop when planes are

taking off and landing at Gibraltar Airport.

The Gibraltar Airport, also called North Front Airport, is considered the most dangerous airport in Europe. Situated only 500 meters from the Gibraltar city center, the runway for this airport cuts right through the city. One of the scarier aspects of this airport is that a busy street, Winston Churchill Avenue, intersects the runway. Because of this, when a plane lands or takes off, the road has to be closed.

Gibraltar Airport was originally an emergency airfield for the British Navy. Today, the airport is used to haul cargo to the area and to bring in tourists.

5. Gustaf III Airport

Gustaf III Airport

Gustaf III Airport goes by several names: St. Jean Airport, St. Jean, Saint Barthélemy Airport, and even Aérodrome de St Jean. Located in the village of St. Jean on the island of Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts), this airport is considered to be the third most dangerous airport in the world.

The airstrip is at the foot of a slope and ends right on the beach. Planes taking off and fly directly overhead beach-goers. Incoming flights coming from the opposite direction have a steep descent due to the hilltop. The danger presented at this airport is because of the tricky maneuvering pilots must perform when landing.

6. Tenzing-Hillary Airport

Tenzing-Hillary Airport

Tenzing-Hillary Airport originally known as Lukla Airport later renamed to honor the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest: Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary. This airport, located in Lukla, Nepal, serves those wishing to climb Mount Everest as well as those wanting to explore the Everest region.
Dangers at this airport include high winds (affecting maneuverability) and cloud cover (affecting visibility), but these aren’t the scariest aspects of this airport. Like Gustaf III Airport, one end of the runway is preceded by high terrain, however, instead of a gorgeous sandy beach on the other end, there is a 2000 foot drop! The high winds, cloud cover, steep terrain, and the considerable drop make this the most dangerous airport in the world.

There have been several accidents at this airport, including the most recent which occurred on October 12, 2010. In this accident, a Dornier Do 228 aircraft operated by Sita Air lost control while landing and crashed into the wall-end of the runway. Remarkably, everyone survived!

7. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport serves the tiny island of Saba located in the Netherlands Antilles. This airport is unique as both ends of the extremely short runway end with a cliff. Because of the short runway ending with a cliff on either side, any mistakes in taking off or landing can have a disastrous outcome. As this airport is officially closed, those wishing to land at this airport must obtain a waiver to land.

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Source: Melanie Palen

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