Most Extreme Airports
Here at I Love meet and greet, we love to listen to our customers’ stories of places they are flying off to or where they have been on holiday, when they drop off or collect their cars from us outside the airport. Their stories about the busiest airports, small airports and, in particular, the scariest runways are hugely fascinating.
Shortest Runways in the World
Due to a 2300 metre runway at the Princess Juliana International Airport in St Maarten in the Caribbean, the planes fly very low on approach, over the sea and then over tourists’ heads on Maho Beach. From the ground, people on the beach have a spectacular view of the planes just 30 metres above and as a result the location is popular with plane spotters. The authorities have even introduced safety measures to prevent enthusiasts climbing on the main fence around the runway and being injured from the force of the jet blasts.
Courchevel Altiport in France is a small airport situated in the Courchevel Ski Resort in the French Alps and has a short runway of only 537 metres which is surrounded by treacherous mountains. With a gradient of 18.5% and a lack of lighting aids, landing at this small airport is a challenge for pilots even without fog or snowy conditions.
The Tenzing-Hillary Airport lies in Lukla, Nepal, the most popular starting point for Mount Everest climbers. This is one of the shortest runways in the world and is 527 metres long with mountains at the northern end and a steep 600 metre drop at the southern end which means that there are no second chances for landings.
The 2,286 metre high Matekane Air Strip in Lesotho is often used by charity organisations and doctors to access remote African villages in the area but the small runway of 396 metres lies alongside the edge of a 600 metre cliff making take-off and landing super scary. Often pilots cannot get airborne on the runway so they go off the edge of the cliff and then take off during the drop.
Barra Airport in Scotland has three runways set in a triangular format yet it is not these runways which make the airport unique, it is the fact that they are all on the beach. The small airport is the only one in the world which uses the beach as a runway for scheduled flights. At high tide these unusual runways are often submerged, so flight times are scheduled around low and high tide.
The 1800 metre runway at Gibraltar Airport was built right on the sea and lies across the small stretch of land which connects Gibraltar to Spain. The airport lies at the base of the 426 metre high Rock of Gibraltar and the challenging runway intersects the Winston Churchill Avenue. This is Gibraltar’s busiest road and every time a plane takes off or lands, it is closed by a railway-type crossing.
In Antarctica, the Williams Field Airfield consists of two snow runways both situated on 8 metres of snow, which lies on top of 80 metres of ice, floating over 550 metres of water. The small airport is limited to ski-equipped aircraft and only operates during the summer season.
Madeira Airport has been regarded as Europe’s most dangerous and scariest runway for decades. In order to double the length of the short runway, a new landing platform was constructed on the edge of the island. The neighbouring mountains, unpredictable ocean and strong winds still make landing a challenge for pilots.
Gisborne Airport is a tiny airport and one of the very few airports in the world which has a railway line cutting across the main runway. The Palmerston North – Gisborne Line crosses the runway almost exactly in the middle. Quite often either trains or planes are stopped to let the other pass.
Located in Bangkok, the Don Mueang International Airport is regarded as one the world’s oldest international airports as well as Asia’s oldest airport. In 2004 it was the second busiest airport in Asia by passenger volume. Yet it is also unique in that the Royal Thai Air Force’s Kantarat Golf Course lies between its parallel runways. There is nothing separating the golf course and the runways so golfers have to watch out for a red light which indicates when a plane is landing.
We look forward to hearing more tales of the world’s most extreme airports and the scariest runways. Remember, whichever destination you are flying to, consider booking airport parking with I Love meet and greet. As one of Gatwick Airports’ approved operators, we’ll give you that added peace of mind that your car is in safe hands while you are on your travels.
By Sarah Anglim at 23 Jan 2017