When people think about flying, they are turned off by the possibility of sitting next to a crying baby, a person who sweats a lot, severe turbulence, and bad weather. Most passengers believe they’re safe once they see the airport from the windows.Imagine you’re on a plane to your vacation getaway and the pilot says you have been redirected because the runway is too short and you risk falling off a cliff. Technically, flying on an airplane is among the safest way to travel – the chance of a crash is just 1 in 11 million. But the odds are different if you were about to land at one of these places.
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.
“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.
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.
How can it not be classified as dangerous, if you see 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.
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.
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. People and officials don’t seem to be bothered by the danger, as the airport is still open and remains busy.
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?
According to this YouTube video, seen viewed more than 6 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.
This 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.
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.
Oscar Josué Elvir Vasquez / Wikimedia Commons
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 a twisted ravine. The airport sits in a mountainous region requiring pilots to make some unconventional maneuvers to land safely. There have been at least six major crashes there since 1989.
The Navy calls the Marine Corps Air Station in Funtenma “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.
The problem is the challenging location of the airport. It is squeezed between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Pilots must navigate numerous obstructions flying into this airport. Another problem is the lack of a control tower. Imagine landing anywhere like that...
This airport closed in 1998 because it was far too dangerous. This video provides a glimpse as to why. Passengers flying into it pretty much expected pilots to abort landings. Passing through high-rises was inevitable as planes landed. Planes would sometimes even overrun the landing strip and plunge into the sea.
Telluride is the highest commercial airport in the U.S. at 9,070 feet. The problem is the mountainous terrain. It creates an especially difficult approach for pilots trying to land. The 1,000-foot cliffs on both ends of the runway don’t help. Also, in addition to all that, there is strong turbulence during winter because of the powerful winds.
Jojo M. / Yelp
The challenge here is that pilots have to navigate rapidly rising terrain on both ends of the 8,500-foot runway and be aware of its high departure climb gradient performance requirements. As part of a new expansion project, the airport has installed a new state-of-the-art lighting system. Some planes need a longer runway or they need to take on less fuel in order to get off the ground and later refuel.
Remember when a few years ago Former Vice President Joe Biden compared LaGuardia Airport to “third world” airport. 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.
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.
Visitors admire the city for its gorgeous scenery but pilots are not impressed. The mountainous terrain and surrounding valleys have always been a problem here. They have made landing challenging for both commercial and business aviation pilots over the years.
Igor Bubin / Wikimedia Commons
Strictly technically speaking, 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.