Toncontin Airport, Honduras from The 17 Most Dangerous Airports in the World

The 17 Most Dangerous Airports in the World

Toncontin Airport, Honduras

If you can, avoid flying into Toncontin Airport. Stories of its danger have made the news several times. The runway in Tegucigalpa is much shorter than average and is located in the middle of populated valleys. The nightmare of landing there begins with twisted ravine. The airport is located in a mountainous region requiring pilots to make some unconventional maneuvers to land safely. There have been six major crashes there since 1989.

Gibraltar International

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Gibraltar is now officially among the 10 Most Dangerous Airports. And how can it not be, according to this video? Taking off and landing is quite the challenge because the plane can easily end up in the ocean. The runway is one straight and very short line. It’s also in the middle of a town. There is actually a railway crossing in the middle and a barrier comes down when a plane is about to land so people know to stay away.

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba Island

Photo Modified: Flickr / David B. Gleason / CC BY 4.0

Landing at this airport is risky business. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is the only airport in Saba but only master pilots dare to land there. With high hills on one side and cliffs on the others, passengers should be strong swimmers, just in case. Going beyond the runway is a realistic possibility. Miraculously, no major accidents have occurred there, yet.

McMurdo Air Station, Antarctica

Photo Modified: Flickr / Alan Light/ CC BY 4.0

Ever wonder what it’s like to land on ice? This video can demonstrate. The three runways at McMurdo Air Station are long but they are entirely made of ice. Sometimes the pilots have to use night vision equipment to land because it’s dark all day. When you add the factor of unpredictable and always below-zero degrees weather, do you really want to fly into McMurdo?

Narsarsuaq Aiport, Greenland

The airport is as beautiful as it is dangerous. As evident from this clip, pilots have to fly up a fjord. Severe turbulence is almost always a given, made even worse by strong winds. And don’t forget about the icebergs wandering around the runways for takeoff and landing. Unsurprisingly, planes are not allowed to leave or arrive when it’s dark.

MCAS Futenma, Okinawa

Photo Modified: Flickr / Hideyukl KAMON/ CC BY 4.0

The Navy calls the Marine Corps Air Station in Funtenma, Okinawa, Japan “the most dangerous in the world.” Landing there requires passing over 16 schools, hospitals, and city offices. The more than 3,000 people living in what is supposed to be a “clear zone” is just another risk factor. Also, the city of Ginowan, with 96,000 people, surrounds the air station. In 2004, a helicopter crashed at Okinawa International University.

Damascus International Airport

By technical standards, the Damascus International Airport is less of a risk. The terrain is fit for landing but the airport is close to Syria’s capital. The bloody civil war in the country has been ongoing since 2011; hundreds of thousands have died, more than a million have been displaced because of constant attacks and fighting. The airport, in particular, is claimed by various rebel groups, including the Islamic State.

Paro Airport, Bhutan

According to this YouTube video, seen viewed more than 5 million times, the most dangerous landing in the world was into Paro Airport in Bhutan. Visiting this remote and exotic region begins with a unique but scary terrifying experience. The 6,500 foot-long runway is surrounded by steep 18,000-foot peaks and mountain foliage. Only eight pilots in the world are qualified to land there, according to the Daily Mail. Planes have to weave through houses that are scattered across the mountainside, coming within feet of clipping the roofs.

Madeira Airport, Portugal

Photo Modified: Flickr / Alexander Baxevanis / CC BY 4.0

“Europe's most dangerous airport” is in Madeira. The runway is so narrow that it was extended by 655 feet in 1977 after a crash killed 131 people, according to the Independent.  Pilots hate the airport for other reasons as well – it’s surrounded by rocky hills and an utter drop into the ocean. The location is not ideal either, as strong winds often cause severe turbulence.

Barra Airport, Scotland

Photo Modified: Flickr / calflier001 / CC BY 4.0

This is a unique airport that uses a beach for its runways. If it’s hard to imagine, you can see how it’s done in this video. The airport is the only one in the world that turns a beach into a runway. Flight times have to be scheduled according to high tide. Sometimes cars in the parking lot have the lights on to help pilots see where to land.

11. LaGuardia Airport in New York

Photo Modified: Flickr / jqpubliq / CC BY 4.0

Remember when two years ago Vice President Joe Biden compared LaGuardia Airport to “third world” airport. The good news is that a $3.6 billion construction project has been approved to upgrade the airport and bring an entirely new central terminal. The safety problem comes from the fact that pilots have to be careful in not interfering with flights from the other two airports servicing the area – John F. Kennedy Airport and Newark Liberty Airport in neighboring New Jersey.

Courchevel International Airport in France

The issues with an airport servicing a ski area are numerous – small airport and short runways (1,722 feet) at an altitude of 6,560 feet with an incline of 18.5 percent. There is no go-around procedure in this airport, as you can see in this clip. If there is fog, which is to be expected in the French Alps, you can’t land. It’s almost impossible to make a final approach because the vertical drop at the end is practically invisible.

Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong

This airport closed in 1998 because it was far too dangerous. This video provides a glimpse as to why. Passengers flying into into Kai Tak Airport pretty much expected planes to crash into the water and pilots to abort landings. Passing through high-rises was inevitable as planes landed. In addition, overcrowding became an issue at the airport shortly before it was shut down for good. Planes would sometimes even overrun the landing strip and plunge into the sea.

Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

If you are a tall person at the beach on the island of St. Maarten, you’ll probably be able to touch a plane as it lands. It certainly feels that way, though, as seen in this video. That’s how dangerous this airport is. People and officials don’t seem to be bothered by the danger, as the airport is still open and remains busy.

Lukla Airport, Nepal

Photo Modified: Flickr / lndrik myneur / CC BY 4.0

You have probably seen how people clap every time a plane lands. Passengers, who are safely arriving at Lukla Airport in Nepal, applaud with sincere excitement. The airport is too high – 9,325 feet – and the airstrip is extremely short and narrow. A margin of error is practically non-existent. If a pilot misses it by few feet, he or she may have to land on a mountain, putting passengers and crew in severe peril. See why in this video.

Cleveland Hopkins International

A few months ago the FAA fined Cleveland-Hopkins $735,000 for unsafe conditions in the winter. The airport didn’t have not having proper staffing and de-icing equipment available during the storms, potentially putting passenger safety at risk. The staff has also been known to sleep on the job and to be too distracted to help park planes at the gates.

Los Angeles (LAX)

LAX has been known as the most perilous airport in the U.S since at least 2011 when it was ranked the most dangerous by Travel + Leisure. Back then, it has had 60 reported runway incidents in five years. A famous example is when back in 2007, a WestJet 737 landed and almost hit a Northwest Airbus during take-off.