The World's 10 Most Dangerous Airports

The World's 10 Most Dangerous Airports
These airports are not for the faint at heart Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Are you adventurous enough to risk landing in trouble?

Sahana Iyer
June 30 , 2019
10 Min Read

Have you ever held onto your armrest on an airplane going through a turbulence as your stomach twists, softly praying you make it through or at least know how to open up that parachute you never had to use? Fortunately this isn’t a frequent occurrence with destinations to which people more commonly travel. However, for some others, every landing and takeoff is an adventure. These are the most dangerous airports in the world. Travel to these on your own peril or for an incredible adrenaline rush.

 A scary landing into Princess Juliana International Airport


Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Marteen

With a stretch of the beach located right before the runway, Princess Juliana Airport keeps people holding on to their heads. As the plane descends, it is only a few feet above the people’s heads and also greets them with an unpleasant gush of sand and wind. However, astonishingly, we haven’t reached to the dangerous territory yet. The main scare is the runway of only 2,179 metres, which is short of the 2500 metres that is easy required for a cozy landing. 

 Cars are stopped at the ends to let an aircraft land

Gibraltar International Airport

As children, we all peered through a car door the car window to look at an airplane fly through the air. At Gibraltar, you can not just look at it go by but fear as it flies towards you. The beginning of the runway intersects with a functional street that requires to be halted during descents. In addition to that scary phenomenon, the runway ends suddenly at the sea on both ends of the runway.

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This has to be one of the most rare photos I've ever taken. Not often if ever will you see a train parked across a airplane runway! Gisborne airport is one of the only (if not the only) airports in the world where a train track crosses the runway

Gisborne Airport

While Gibraltar dodges the road traffic to avoid accidents, Gisborne takes it one step further as the railway line intersects with the runway. Cars may be halted at Gibraltar but both schedules of the railways and airplanes must be taken care of in Gisborne to avoid any unfortunate incidents. In addition to this, the airport has three grass runways and only one main runway.

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Ever play Google Autocomplete? You type in the start of a phrase and see how Google’s algorithm finishes it for you? We did “World’s Most Dangerous…” and here’s where it took us:⁣ ⁣ World’s Most Dangerous Airport⁣ ⁣ Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland⁣ ⁣ Picture it: you pilot your puddle-jumper out of a thick, low-lying cloud cover and suddenly the ground is flying up at you at great speed. Only it’s not really land, it’s ice. Slick ice they call a runway. And the “runway” is only 1800 meters long. There’s a constant sheer wind, lots of turbulence, and incredibly low visibility. Oh, and a VOLCANO nearby that sometimes spews clouds and toxic gases out into the air, obscuring the airstrip completely.⁣ ⁣ In most places, that translates to a delayed flight due to inclement weather. At Narsarsuaq Airport in Greenland that’s just a Tuesday. Like McMurdo in Alaska - this remote airstrip is one of the most extreme airports in the world. But man is it beautiful up there.⁣ ⁣ Incredible cockpit shot from @simoneciaralli

A post shared by Fugitive Media (@fugitive_media) on May 17, 2019 at 7:08am PDT

Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland

The runway is not unlike the place it is situated at, frozen. The frosted runways are only one of the reasons the airport is feared by pilots. Amidst fjords, the airport is subject to harsh winds and fog, that contribute to the unfavourable conditions for landing. If this has worried you, be wary of the active volcanoes in close vicinity that randomly erupt ash, adding to the long list of problems at the runway.

 The snow makes for a risky landing

McMurdo Air Station, Antarctica

It is hardly surprising that the least travelled continent does not have the most hospitable conditions or infrastructure to support a functional runway. In the perpetually freezing climate, even the runway is manufactured from ice. The sleek terrain may cause an amateur pilot to skid the aircraft, in proper precautions are not taken. The weight of the airplane is also a major factor as it might crack the very runway. And night vision goggles are necessary to navigate the pitch dark nights. 

 Land on a beach at the Barra International Airport

Barra International Airport, Scotland

An exhausting work day leaves us fantasizing about flying away to calming beaches. Barra International Airport takes the phrase quite literally. Situated on the sandy bay of Traigh Mhòr, the airport is just five feet above sea level. The runway is hence submerged in cases of high tide. This requires the aircrafts to follow a strict schedule and only attempt a landing in particular conditions.

 The runway starts and ends in the surrounding waters

Wellington International Airport

I love staring at clear, neverending waters of the sea from sky piercing heights in an airplane. This runway allows you to just that. In fact, from the beginning of the descent to the end, the starting and ending of this runway is straight into the sea. The worrisome length of 1,936 metres just adds to the trouble. A pilot also needs to steer through mountains and mighty winds while descending. And just when you think you are in the clear, hurricane winds could hit you as you disembark.

 Only a handful of pilots are allowed to land at Paro airport

Paro Airport, Bhutan

What can you expect of an airport that has less than 20 pilots qualified to even land on it? Sitting atop a magnificent 2,225 metres above sea level, this pilot’s nightmare is surrounded by intimidating mountains approximately 5,486 metres high. In addition to rough weather conditions that do not allow for easy landing- in fact, landing is allowed only during the day- the runway is not even in clear vision of the pilot and requires the airplane to be maneuvered a steep 45 degrees before drastically dropping onto the runway.

 The short runway is a major disadvantage for pilots

Lukla Airport, Nepal

The recent traffic at Mount Everest has gained tourism to the Himalayas a little infamy. This still hasn’t discouraged people from the Everest trek. If you ever decide to travel there, Lukla airport might be the one you have to experience- and you better be ready for it. With a fearsome short runway of only 527 metres, it is quite a risk to embark on, even if the weather conditions are wholesome. The risk factor increases as the runway has a steep cliff on one side, and a stone wall on the other. The often disrupted connection to the air traffic controllers also forces the pilots to land without assistance. Combine that with no lights, and you have the ideal horror scenario.

 The downgrade slope is hard to gauge while taking off or landing

Courchevel Airport, France

The French Alps paint a picturesque scenery of the gorgeous frosty-tipped mountains and skiing, but if you have landed at the Courchevel Airport, the French Alps may be associated with danger in your memory. While Lukla’s 527 metres troubles us, Courchevel’s even shorter 518 metres runway is a jaw-dropper. In addition to this, the runway has an 18.5 percent down-gradient which means even while taking off, the airplane must travel down the slope of the runway, making both take-off and landing, extremely dangerous.

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