25 Very Dangerous Airports Around the World
Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport, Skiathos
The airport that was built in this landscape is far from being the most attractive on this list. Sure, there are some small hills to enjoy, but they are more than slightly overridden by the proximity to pedestrians to which the planes take off. It’s possible to take some amazing photos of the underside of the aircraft, but is it really worth the hazards of running behind it?
Courchevel International Airport
Given how popular Courchevel is as a ski resort for Europeans, it makes sense that there be an airport nearby. Seeing that the Courchevel Airport has a runway that is only 1,700 feet and an 18.5% downward gradient, it’s extremely difficult for planes to take off. This also means that planes only have one chance to land their vehicles properly. To add to the challenge of the situation, there are no lights on the runway with which to guide landing airplanes, so it practically becomes a game of chance.
Agatti Airport, India
It is highly preferable that small remote islands like Agatti feature an airport as traveling via boat can get mighty tedious and lengthy. Still, the design on this one leaves much to be desired. The runway itself is only 3,950 feet long and 98 feet wide, so there is next to no room for error. There is also minimal land that surrounds the runway itself, leaving only the most skilled pilots with the ability to land their passengers onsite safely. This strange airport gets very little use because of how nerve-wracking the landing experience is.
Tenzing-Hillary (Lukla) Airport, Nepal
Anyone planning to climb Mount Everest first deserves a warm round of applause, that is until they find out which airport they will be flying into. Tenzing-Hillary is not only dangerous since the runway is nestled between mountains and a village, but also because the quality of the airport technology is incredibly shoddy. The place is quite prone to power cuts, thereby eliminating all communication between the pilot and the airport itself. As if climbing the highest point on earth wasn’t tough enough, you also have to fear for your life getting there.
Congonhas Airport (Sao Paulo), Brazil
Though the facilities at this airport are of top quality, it is the city of Sao Paulo itself that leads to the real danger that is this airport. The thing is, Sao Paulo is filled with skyscrapers, particularly right around the airport itself, and so it is a real possibility to reenact a certain day in 2001 by hitting one or several. Add that to an exceptionally short runway, and you’ve got yourself a real mess of a landing strip. It certainly takes a brave pilot to attempt a takeoff and landing from this airport, and yet thousands do it every year.
Svalbard Airport, Norway
Svalbard, Norway, is a stunning place to visit. The beautiful mountains just beg to be skied on and the snow is just begging for snow angels. But the staff of Svalbard Airport feels differently. See, the facilities needed to be built on permafrost so that they do not melt, an incredible feat in it of itself. In fact, the entire airport is built on ice, practically making it an architectural marvel. As a result, pilots are strictly forbidden to take off or land on the airstrip at night unless there is an absolute emergency. This makes the islands nearly impossible to access during the winter.
Gisborne Airport, New Zealand
Wellington International has its own set of problems, but it is Gisborne Airport that takes the cake in terms of the most disastrous airports in the land of the Kiwis. As shocking as it may seem, there is an actual railroad track that runs through the runway. It is not unheard of that runways intersect with streets, but this is a new low. There is, as a result, a complex bureaucratical agreement wherein the airport and railway system work together to ensure that no train is ever passing when a plane is trying to land.
Tioman Airport, Malaysia
This Malaysian airport has a couple of pilot nightmares. First of all, it boasts a terrific 90-degree turn that needs to be made halfway into landing to ensure that the plane does not crash into the mountain. This is a difficult move for the most experienced of pilots, but the chartering professionals who constitute most of the traffic in this tiny airport struggle in the most extreme of manners. The airport itself does not have any commercial airlines operating out of it, and only one operator schedules the charter flights in question.
Barra Airport, Scotland
Barra Airport is like no other on the planet. Located in the far north of Scotland, it comes with a slew of disadvantages for the unlucky pilots that get stuck maneuvring planes around the airstrip. Pilots often have to consider unusual factors such as rising tides and lousy weather conditions when landing the plane, something that is not the most common in their profession. For example, during high tide, the planes cannot land. Besides, the runways themselves are quite sandy, which makes the aircraft more difficult to control.
Gustaf III Airport, St. Bart’s
Also known by its less common name, St. Jean Airport, Gustaff III is a nightmare of a land for any pilot. The runway holds its origin at the beach, which means flying dangerously close to the beachgoers’ heads, much like in St. Maarten. Small signs do, however, warn them not to sunbathe at the edge of the runway. It also slopes upwards, making for a difficult journey off of the airstrip. The airport itself is located in the village of St. Jean, on the edge of the St. Bartélemy island, and does not currently host international flights.
Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong
Hong Kong is famous for its incredible skyline (and dim sum), but it is also notorious for its old airport, Kai Tak. This edifice severely lacked in health and safety features, which makes it very dangerous to negociate. As stunning as the skyscrapers are, they are tight for pilots to maneuver around, especially in foggy conditions. This and more is why the airport was forced to close in 1998.
Damascus International Airport, Syria
While the vast majority of airports in this compilation are dangerous due to features such as oddly shaped runways and bad landing features, Damascus Airport is actually fairly well put together. But danger takes many forms, and given the horrifying conflict that has been going on for far too long, it is best to avoid being on Syrian soil. Shame, it has been said that Syria is among the most beautiful countries in the world.
Toncontin International Airport, Honduras
It is no small task to land a plane at Toncontin International Airport in Honduras. Like a couple of other airports on this list, the landing requires a difficult turn, unless, of course, the pilot is interested in collapsing in the valley. This move is all the more difficult in windy weather conditions. Toncontin was even featured as number 2 on The History Channel’s Most Extreme Airports.
MCAS Futenma Okinawa, Japan
MCAS Futenma is dangerous for quite the unique reason. Unlike the rest of these airports, it is used exclusively for military purposes. If that wasn’t bad enough, the area surrounding the airport is very densely populated. Therefore any potential evacuation, were there to be problems there would be incredibly slow and difficult, perhaps leading to serious injuries to local inhabitants, or worse.
Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, Colorado
According to the Telegraph, Aspen/Pitkin County Airport fulfills the criteria of the most dangerous airport in the world due to its runway, which is surrounded by mountains. It also has a very steep runway that is quite difficult to land on. So instead of using it in the traditional way, pilots end up landing their aircrafts on either side of the runway.
The Ice Runway, Antarctica
Trying to take off on a runway that is covered in four inches worth of snow is more than a little difficult, yet this is the reality of the pilots who take off and land on the ice runway. The airport itself is located a stone’s throw from Antarctica’s McMurdo Station and is the only way in which pilots can operate airplanes into the entire continent.
Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten
Much like in St. Bart’s, St. Maarten’s airport landing area is more than slightly catastrophic. Though the runway doesn’t end at the beach, it is quite close to the sea, meaning that sunbathers can’t avoid seeing the underside of the planes from quite the close distance. This also means that these folks end up with a face full of sand each time a plane lands nearby.
Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
The Gibraltar International Airport has the lovely rock of Gibraltar as its backdrop, but it is more than difficult to deal with one particular feature of this establishment. Though the runway is quite long and wide, it is located in the middle of a street, meaning that drivers need to stop whenever a plane needs to land. Still, the pilots have a fairly easy time landing their planes here, at least in theory.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Antilles
Because this airport has one of the shortest runways in the world, it has caused plenty of problems for pilots and passengers alike. Placed on the Caribbean island of Saba, Juancho’s runway has the gall to end on a cliff, giving even the best-trained pilots a run for their money if they aren’t capable of taking off properly. Tourists are advised to take a ferry from nearby islands if they wish to visit Saba.
Cliffs Used for Air Strips
Airports aren’t necessarily the only place to catch a ride. It is just as possible, albeit moronic, to catch a flight with a daredevil of a pilot on an airstrip that is located on the edge of a cliff. In Papua New Guinea, for example, there is a large number of airstrips that are located in several of the mountains. It is highly recommended just to fly out of an airport like the common folks.
Paro Airport, Bhutan
Due to its location between enormous mountains, Paro Airport only allows for traffic during daylight hours. Though this may seem strict, the reason why is this is that the pilots need to make a sharp 45 degree turn because of the tight space between the mountains. In addition, many mountaintop homes are located atop the mountain, leading to the real possibility of severe injury were there to be a crash.
Matekane Air Strip, Lesotho
Lesotho is a tiny country, but people still travel from place to place by air. The Matekane Air Strip is primarily used by people who are determined to reach neighboring villages for emergencies only. The majority of these brave travelers are groups of charity workers and first relief doctors. It is also crazy dangerous, with a 2,000-foot drop at the end.
Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Surrounded by a myriad of fjords, Narsarsuaq is yet a further example of an airport that is covered in glacial matter. It is not dark twenty-four hours a day during the winter, such as in Antarctica, but there are still intense weather conditions that are very dangerous for planes to take off and land safely. There is often turbulence that is likely due to the constant storms. If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s important to consider the fact that an active volcano erupts every once in a while.
Madeira Airport, Portugal
Madeira Island in Portugal is quite the romantic destination, but its airport is nothing like that. There is nothing sweet about landing in this airport because the engineers chose to build a runway next to a row of steep cliffs right next to the Atlantic ocean. Another factor to consider include mountains on either side of the runway. Only a few pilots are actually licensed to fly in and out of this airport.
Telluride Regional Airport, Colorado
Telluride Regional Airport in Colorado is the highest airport in the United States at a staggering 9,000 feet above sea level. However, it has the most poorly designed runways of this entire list as they end at the edge of a cliff with an incredibly high drop. There is a huge chance of planes toppling off because of the windy and turbulent windy conditions of the area.
Midway International Airport, Chicago
Though Midway International Airport isn’t quite the mess that O’Hare is best reputed to be, it has an entirely different jumble that makes it difficult to navigate. The runways at this airport are too short compared to the average, and so pilots have been known for overshoot take off and landings. A horrible accident occurred in 2005 wherein a plane crashed and injured many people.
Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport, Sitka, Alaska
Things can get a little crazy at Sitka Rocky Gutierrez Airport, Sitka, in Alaska. The airport is completely surrounded by water, and the airport gets rather unpredictable. Pilots must be well aware of boulders and rubbish that make their way onto the island’s runway. To add to the chaos, large flocks of birds live near the airport and can obstruct the views of the pilots as they are trying to land.
Yeager Airport, Charleston, West Virginia
Not only does Yeager Airport sit on the edge of a flattened mountain, but it has one of the shortest runways of any airport on the East Coast. This microrunway is located between two cliffs, so a perfect takeoff and landing are beyond crucial. For instance, in 2010, a pilot overran the runway and nearly slipped off the cliff. No one was harmed, but serious damage was done to the plane.
San Diego International Airport, San Diego
San Diego International is one of the most dangerous in the country, but not for the reasons you might think. Instead, it is the west-blowing winds that attack the planes as they take off or land. This has led to more than one nose to nose encounter between airplanes.
LaGuardia Airport, New York
LaGuardia Airport is one of the most famous in the world, and certainly on this list. Though it allows for incredible views of the Manhattan skyline during takeoff and landing, the runway itself is just a little too close to those skyscrapers. It is one of the three busiest airport systems in the country, and so planes must zigzag around each other to land neatly while making tight, low altitude turns.
Catalina Airport, Avalon, California
California airports seem to be a recurring theme to this collection. Catalina Airport is something very special because the sides of the runway drop off on both ends, so pilots can’t see the planes coming in from the other direction. The Airport in the Sky has a high altitude of 1,602 feet and is known for its turbulence.
Reagan National Airport, Washington, D.C.
It takes special skill to fly in and out of Reagan National Airport, which is why so few pilots attempt it. The airport itself is located between two no-fly zones, so pilots must take several sharp turns to avoid flying over the Pentagon and the CIA headquarters. Another sharp turn must be made as to not fly over the White House.
Kansai International Airport, Japan
Kansai International Airport is located on a man-made island in the middle of Osaka Bay off of the Honshu shore. The airport is large enough to be seen from space and covers some 600 acres of land. It also faces cyclones, typhoons, and water instability. In 2016, 25.2 million passengers used the airport, making it the 30th busiest airport in Asia.
John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, California
One of the most dangerous airports in the United States is John Wayne in Santa Ana. Because of the serious noise restrictions, the planes must take off at full throttle and pull back on their engines quite swiftly. Flying out of this airport feels a lot like being on the passenger end of a missile takeoff.