There’s a high chance that you’ve been to a fair few airports over the course of your life. However, you’ve probably never visited these most dangerous airports in the world…
If you love going on vacation, there’s a high chance that you love the buzz and the excitement you feel when you head to the airport. No vacation would be complete without wandering around Duty-Free, paying more than you normally would for a bite to eat before you head up into the air, or general anticipation you feel as you wait in line to board the plane. Yet, have you ever wondered how many airports there really are in the world?
In 2015, the Airports Council International noted that there were 17,678 commercial airports in the world – and that doesn’t include those that only deal in cargo or business aircraft! Most of these airports are pretty standard, and most people don’t take too much notice of them. After all, you just have to jump on the plane and let the pilot do the work, right? Well, it seems as though there are some airports in this world that even the most experienced of pilots struggle with. These are the most dangerous airports in the world.
Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Ecuador
Ecuador is a beautiful country that sees millions of visitors every single year. If you plan on visiting yourself, you’ll be happy to know that the Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport has since been closed and replaced by a newer, safer alternative. While this airport was still in use, experienced pilots used to shake in their boots when they realized where they were flying to.
That’s because the Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport was a high-altitude airport that had to deal with all kinds of weird and wonderful weather conditions. As if that wasn’t enough, the airport was also close to nearby active volcanoes, who would often spew ash dust clouds around the surrounding area.
Princess Juliana International Airport, Saint Martin
You may have already seen this airport on television or online because it’s constantly picked up as one of the most bizarre airports to ever grace this world. The Princess Juliana International Airport is located on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, but to be more specific, it’s located just a flip flop away from the beach.
In fact, most tourists make their way to the beach to check out this phenomenon for themselves. The planes fly just above their heads, and they get the chance to feel the power of the engines and the sound of the planes themselves. Authorities try to dissuade people from doing this, but it seems as though there’s no stopping them.
Don Mueang International Airport, Thailand
If you’ve ever been to Don Mueang International Airport in Thailand, you may not have noticed anything that was too out of the ordinary. That’s because, from the outside, it seems like a perfectly normal airport with a perfectly normal runway. However, that just isn’t the case. The Don Mueang International Airport is actually home to an 18-hole golf course!
As if that wasn’t enough, the golf course lies right in the middle of the two large runways, which means that players have planes coming and going on either side of them as they attempt a hole-in-one. Of course, with golf balls flying everywhere, it’s not too safe for the players or the planes.
Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport, Skiathos
If you’ve ever been to Greece, you’ll know that these islands are often craggy and rugged. While this just adds to the charm of the place, there’s no doubt about the fact that this makes it difficult for aircraft to land. The island of Skiathos is particularly known for its rugged landscape, and this forced airport developers to build a short and narrow runway.
Of course, pilots would ideally like as much room to work with as possible when it comes to landing their planes, but when that isn’t possible, accidents can happen. This danger is also heightened by the fact that planes have to land just a stone’s throw away from the main road.
Svalbard Airport, Norway
When you think of Norway, there’s a high chance that you think of snow, ice, and some of the coldest weather known to humankind. Although most people would say that this wasn’t a practical place to house an airport, that doesn’t mean that Svalbard Airport doesn’t give it a good shot.
The runway of this airport lies in the middle of a frozen lake and snow-capped mountains, and the whole thing is covered in snow and ice during the cold winter months. That doesn’t stop planes from attempting to land on the runway, but it’s not easy. The whole thing is made even more complicated by the fact that this airport doesn’t have any runway lights, so planes are only allowed to land during the day.
Madeira Airport, Portugal
If you were to look at Madeira Airport before heading to this Portuguese vacation spot, then there’s a high chance that you would cancel your trip and stay home instead. That’s because there’s no doubt about the fact that it’s one of the most dangerous airports in the world – and one look at the runway will tell you that.
Not only is the runway propped up on stilts that are just a few meters away from the ocean, but the airport is also extremely close to homes, hotels, and the hills. The runway is also incredibly short, which means that pilots have to take extra care when landing their passengers.
Toncontin International Airport, Honduras
Honduras is one of those places that many people want to see over the course of their lifetime, but with airports like this, you might want to re-think where you want to go in the world. While there’s no doubt about the fact that the views into this airport are absolutely stunning, we can’t help but feel a little sorry for the pilots who have to traverse this runway every single day.
That’s because the runway is located right in the midst of a deep valley, and is surrounded by high peaks and mountains. To make matters worse, the runway is only one-way, which means that the only way in is also the only way out.
Barra International Airport, Scotland
When you think of Scotland, you probably think of beautiful highlands, cragged rock faces, and stunning fields. What you probably don’t think of when you think of this country is an airport that allows planes to land right on the beach! It might surprise you to learn that Scotland is full of beautiful sandy beaches that might not be the warmest beaches in the world, but they certainly do the job.
Barra International Airport features three separate runways that connect together to create an epic triangle. Of course, this airport only really allows for light aircraft and smaller planes, because sometimes they even land in the water.
Ice Runway, Antarctica
Not many people make their way to Antarctica each year, but a fair few researchers do head over to the McMurdo Station to complete tests and experiments. Planes come and go from this area every so often with researchers and supplies, but it’s fair to say that the conditions are pretty harsh for pilots.
That’s because the runway is essentially made from snow and ice, and the weather can change in an instant. Quick changes in the outside temperature and visibility can make this airport extremely difficult, and planes often have to divert until it’s safe for them to land on such a runway.
Kansai International Airport, Japan
Japan is known for being extremely innovative and forward-thinking, and it seems as though they have put these attributes on paper – or on land – for the Kansai International Airport. That’s because this airport actually lies on an artificial island, and rumors suggest that the 2.5-mile-long and the 1.6-mile-wide island can be seen from space!
While the architects of this airport thought that it would be the perfect place to have planes come and go, it’s safe to say that the unreliable weather in Japan causes a few problems. With an unstable seabed below and earthquakes and cyclones fairly common, this does spark a few concerns.
Gustaf III Airport, Saint Barthélemy
Saint Barthélemy may not be the kind of location that you’ve seen on television or heard about in the news, but it’s fair to say that its runway has caused a stir across the globe. Not only is the runway super short, but the positioning also causes a few problems for the pilots who fly here. In fact, larger aircraft are not permitted to use this runway at all, because it’s just not safe for them to use.
The runway itself actually goes down in a slope, but pilots have to make sure that they stop their plane in time because they’ll end up at the bottom of the slope, and right in the middle of the ocean! We bet most pilots would rather not traverse this one.
Tioman Airport, Malaysia
Malaysia is known for its luscious landscapes and its natural beauty, but it seems as though this can often get in the way of modern inventions. This is definitely the case when it comes to Tioman Airport on Tioman Island because it’s deemed to be one of the most dangerous airports to reside on this planet.
One of the main reasons for this is because this airport features a short runway that forces pilots to avoid the mountains and the ocean, while also making a sharp 90-degree turn before it can line up on the tarmac. This is not for the faint-hearted and requires a huge amount of skill from the pilot.
Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
Most people think of the giant rock when they think of Gibraltar, but it’s fair to say that there are others who think of the strange entrance onto the territory. Although the main hub of Gibraltar International Airport looks like any other across the globe, the runway really catches your eye.
This might have something to do with the fact that the runway goes straight through one of the busiest streets in the area, and cars have to be kept back by a barrier. Of course, if any of the communication fails between the air traffic controllers and the barriers, then it’s fair to say that the people of Gibraltar are in for some trouble.
Paro Airport, Bhutan
Paro Airport looks pretty beautiful, right? Well, appearances are sometimes deceiving, because this airport is actually considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world. In fact, there are only eight pilots in the whole world who have passed the necessary tests and qualifications to land at this airport, because the flight is so treacherous.
This is largely because the landing strip is covered on both sides by huge and sharp mountain peaks. However, it’s safe to say that the tiny runway also causes a few problems. Rumors suggest that most passengers hate flying into this airport and try to avoid it wherever they can.
Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, United States
Although there’s nothing too dangerous at the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, there’s definitely something eerie about this place. If you’ve visited this airport yourself, you may have noticed something a little strange about the runway. While a large portion of the runway is flat tarmac, there are two rectangles right in the middle that seem to have pride of place.
What’s bizarre about these rectangles is that they are actually grave markers! It was the last wish of the previous landowners to be buried underneath the airport, so that’s exactly what happened. Now, planes fly above these graves every single day.
Agatti Aerodrome, Lakshadweep, India
It’s not every day you see an airport in the middle of the ocean, but that’s exactly what the Agatti Aerodrome prides itself on. Surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and crystal clear waters, it’s easy to believe that the Agatti Aerodrome is the airport of dreams. However, the reality of this airport is that it’s extremely dangerous.
The runway itself is only 4,000-foot-long, and this means that pilots struggle to stop the planes before they head off into the ocean in front of them. Although there’s only one airline servicing this island airport, a new master plan is currently in place to expand the runway and the airport as a whole over the next few years.
Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong
If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong, you’d know that it’s a thriving metropolis of city life and busy people. However, have you ever heard of the Kai Tak Airport? Although it’s no longer used as a commercial airport, there’s no doubt about the fact that its reputation is still going strong – even though it was closed over two decades ago.
Not only did the Kai Tak Airport fly extremely low to the city on the ground, but the mountains either side made landing and taking off pretty difficult. As if that wasn’t enough, strong crosswinds made things even more sketchy for pilots, who had to make sure their full attention was on their job as they neared Hong Kong.
Wellington International Airport, New Zealand
New Zealand may be a small country, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in terms of its dangerous airports. While there’s no doubt about the fact that passengers who land in Wellington International Airport get the chance to check out some amazing views as they head in or out of Wellington, taking off and landing from this runway can be a bit of a nightmare.
That’s not only because the runway is incredibly short, but also because each end of the runway is welcomed by deep water. One wrong move by the pilot and that plane is headed right into the ocean…
Telluride Regional Airport, United States
If you come away with one fact about the Telluride Regional Airport in the United States, it should be that it takes the crown as the highest-elevation commercial airport in the whole country. It stands at a whopping 9,070 feet, and it’s known for giving passengers the fright of their lives.
This is normally because the actual runway is sat atop an extremely steep cliff. This means that a landing that’s too quick or two slow could spell disaster. As if that wasn’t enough, the high elevation of this airport also makes for some rather difficult weather conditions. With strong winds and unpredictable weather, you’re bound to be in for a bumpy ride.
Congonhas Airport, Brazil
If you’ve ever been in a rush to get to the airport, you’ll know that it’s location can often put you behind your deadline. That’s because airports are normally built a long way away from the city center, to allow a little bit of seclusion and space to be noisy and constantly busy.
However, it seems as though the Congonhas Airport in Brazil didn’t want to abide by these rules. The main runway at this airport lies just five miles away from the main hub of the city, and this means that those who live in São Paulo only have to lift their hand to the sky to almost touch the wheels of the planes.
Lukla Airport, Nepal
Nepal is one of those places that sits on countless people’s bucket lists, but you might want to rethink your travel plans if you’ve booked tickets to fly into Lukla Airport. This airport only services a small town, but there’s no doubt about the fact that there are some big dangers involved.
This is largely because the runway is located in the middle of some pretty high and pointy mountains. As if that wasn’t enough, one end of the runway heads right into one of these mountains, while the other end hangs over a giant cliff. It’s down to highly trained pilots to make sure that they land on the tarmac perfectly.
Chubu Centrair International Airport, Japan
It’s becoming more and more common for Asian countries to create makeshift islands for their airports, and it seems as though the people behind this creation wanted to do the same. The Chubu Centrair International Airport in Japan lies around 35 kilometers away from Nagoya, and over 10 million people used it in 2015 alone!
Of course, that’s not to say that this genius invention doesn’t come with a few drawbacks. Like any creation in the middle of the ocean, this airport has to deal with the fact that water and air conditions can change in an instant. Because of this, landing on the runway can be pretty difficult.
San Diego International Airport, United States
If you’re from the United States of America, there’s a high chance that you have flown to or from San Diego International Airport. It’s a hub for people across the globe and even those who just stop over get the chance to see just how dangerous it is. Although it’s one of the busiest airports in the whole country, flying in or out of this airport isn’t easy because of its location.
Pilots can’t fly in from the south or the east side of the airport because the giant mountains are in the way, so they have to do so from the west side instead. With a huge number of planes flying out of this same spot every day, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Qamdo Bamda Airport, Tibet
Although you might not know a huge amount about Tibet, you may know that this beautiful place is located in the midst of the famous Himalayan Mountains. Because Qamdo Bamda Airport is also located in the middle of the mountains, it takes the crown as one of the highest airports in the world.
The 3.5-mile-long runway actually prides itself on being a whopping 14,000 feet above sea level, but this doesn’t really work in favor of pilots and their passengers. The high altitude can have a knock-on effect in terms of the engines themselves, as well as the people on board. Because of this, it’s pretty dangerous.
Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Greenland is a beautiful and secluded country and one that very few people get the chance to visit over the course of their lifetime. This might have something to do with the fact that its airports are a little sketchy. The Narsarsuaq Airport lies in the midst of incredible fjords and mountains, and there’s no doubt about the fact that it’s extremely remote.
Alongside the rather small and secluded runway, the weather also wreaks havoc on pilots who try to land their planes on this tarmac. That’s because the wind is often tumultuous, and it can result in a huge amount of turbulence that can make some passengers feel incredibly unsafe.
Matekane Air Strip, Africa
Foreign workers often make their way to African regions to help them with aid and to deliver necessities, but obviously, these goods need to get there somehow. Charity workers will use the Matekane Air Strip for such a thing, but there’s no doubt about the fact that it isn’t easy.
In fact, this airstrip is one of the most dangerous airstrips in the world, and it’s probably not hard to see why. Although it looks as though the runway is coming out of a mountain, that change in color actually represents the sheer drop that resides at the end of the runway. Because of this, pilots need to plan their landing perfectly.
Courchevel Altiport, France
There’s a high chance that you’ve heard of Courchevel before, considering it’s one of the skiing playgrounds of the rich and famous. Although the French ski resort is known for its idyllic location in the middle of the French Alps, you can probably imagine that landing here isn’t as easy as other places around the world.
As if the nearby mountains and the snow and ice weren’t enough, this runway is also pretty strange. That’s because the runway isn’t a flat piece of tarmac. Instead, it’s a bumpy road that also has a hill in the middle of it! Many planes often end up in the snow.
Gisborne Airport, New Zealand
New Zealand is known for housing some of the strangest and most dangerous airports in the world, and it’s fair to say that Gisborne Airport is one of them. What’s so bizarre about this runway is that it doesn’t just say hello to planes each day.
That’s because the Palmerston North-Gisborne railway line also snakes its way across the runway. This means that air traffic controllers not only need to take note of the planes that are flying in and out but also of the train timetable. The last thing they want is for a train and a plane to crash on the tarmac.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba Island
Saba Island is often considered one of the most naturally stunning islands within the Caribbean, but it seems as though getting there is no easy feat. Not only is the runway just 1,300-foot-long, but it’s also perched right on the edge of a rather steep precipice.
If pilots don’t land in the perfect position and at the right time, they run the risk of either falling into the ocean or teetering on the edge of a cliff. The airport has been deemed so dangerous that only small planes now try and land here. Even then, it’s been rumored that most pilots try to avoid flying here at all costs.
Copalis State Airport, United States
It’s no secret that airports take up a huge amount of space, but it might surprise you to learn that this tiny little airport isn’t actually quite so tiny. The Copalis State Airport covers a whopping 16 acres of land, and it gives regular people and charters the chance to land their planes on the beach.
As the only airport in the state that allows this, it’s fair to say that it gets pretty busy. However, landing a plane on the beach isn’t something that you should take lightly. It takes a huge amount of skill and attention to detail, and one wrong move could leave you crash-landing in the ocean.