10. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport
Getting to this amazingly beautiful Caribbean island can be a bit distressing, thanks to a mere 1300-foot-long runway—only slightly longer than most aircraft carrier runways. The incredibly short runway is surrounded by tall cliffs, and it comes dangerously close to a steep slope which leads directly to the ocean. For these reasons, it is one of the most dangerous airports in the world. An incorrect assessment of the pilot during the takeoff may take the airplane straight into the abyss.
9. Qamdo Bamda Airport
Qamdo Bamda Airport is the world’s highest airport, perched more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Even more impressive than the airport’s altitude, however, is the nearly 3.5-mile-long runway. Apparently long runways are crucial to making safe landings at higher altitudes. At sea level, where the approach speed is about 150mph, it may take five thousand feet of runway to stop. But at more than fourteen thousand feet above sea level, the same approach speed will require around twice as runway to bring a plane to a halt.
8. Gustaf III Airport
The small airport of Gustaf III, on the Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy, provides pilots and passengers alike with some fairly grave dangers. The corridor in which the runway has been built is incredibly narrow, and planes come frighteningly close to hitting the slopes of the adjacent upland area, or plummeting into the ocean, every time they land. The good thing is that—in this instance at least—no one was even slightly injured.
7. Ice Runway
The dangers of Ice Runway have more to do with the extreme weather conditions that the pilot has to deal with, rather than the design or position of the airport itself. The Ice Runway is one of three major airstrips used to haul supplies and researchers to Antarctica’s McMurdo Station. As its name implies, there’s no tarmac in sight—just long stretches of meticulously groomed ice and snow. The real challenge is making sure that the weight of the aircraft and cargo doesn’t bust the ice or get the plane stuck in soft snow.
6. Courchevel Airport
The city of Courchevel in the French Alps is one of the most famous ski resorts in Europe, but it seems like the city owes much of its fame to its airport, which is located inside the mountains. Courchevel Airport is not only famous for its incredible height and bizarre location, but also for the fact that it has had a leading role in a James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, which depicted Mr. Bond landing a plane successfully in the extremely dangerous airport.
5. Barra International Airport
This is quite possibly the only airport in the world that also serves as a beach. Takeoffs and landings at Barra Airport occur on the same sand that people can stroll along during airport off-hours. And that’s just the beginning: during high tide in the evening, the illumination from the lights of all the cars passing by assist the pilot with his landing. Believe it or not, Barra is still an officially recognized international airport by the Air Traffic Organization, and it seems like any kind of logical or critical suggestion would be deemed irrelevant by the authorities.
4. Toncontin International Airport
In Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, we can fly into one of the most dangerous and notorious airports in the world. The airport opened back in 1934, an era when planes were less powerful and didn’t require such lengthy runways. Toncontin’s runway is just over seven thousand feet long, and it’s situated in a valley surrounded by mountains. What’s even harder to believe—and by far the most hazardous aspect of this airport—is that there’s only one way in and one way out for the planes, which increases the risk dramatically.
3. Tenzing-Hillary Airport
Lukla Airport, as it was called originally, was later renamed Tenzing-Hillary Airport to honor the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Located in Lukla, Nepal, the airport serves thousands of climbers hoping to “conquer” Mount Everest, as well as trekkers wishing to explore the Everest region.Dangers at this airport include high winds and extreme cloud cover—but these are by no means the scariest aspects. One end of the runway is preceded by a two-thousand-foot drop.
2. Madeira Airport
The two main runways at Madeira Airport were just 5,250 feet long when the airport was first opened. After a horrifying crash in 1977, in which an incoming Boeing 727 smashed through a stone bridge and ended up on the beach. In the early 2000s, the runway was further lengthened by extending it across the beach. Against their better instincts, pilots must first aim the aircraft directly at a looming mountain peak, and then quickly bank to the right in order to avoid crashing into the mountain, in order to put themselves on course for the runway.
1. Gibraltar Airport
Gibraltar airport is not only one of the most dangerous airports in the world, but one of the busier ones as well (especially compared to the other risky airports included in this list). No matter how unbelievable this might sound, the corridor of this airport actually passes through the main street of the city. Vehicles are made to stop every time an aircraft lands or takes off. It’s amazing that there has never been a major accident—and we can only hope it stays that way.