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9 of the most extreme airport runways

By: Josh Lew on July 16, 2015, 3:46 p.m.
The runway at St. Martin's Princess Juliana Airport is mere feet from the island's most popular beach

Photo: Chris Favero/flickr

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Any landing you can walk away from

Air travel makes it possible to go almost anywhere on Earth, provided you can afford the fare. Even the most remote wilderness destinations are accessible via small bush planes. The general rule of flying is that the smaller the airport, the more extreme the runway.

But some larger airports are also characterized by white-knuckle takeoffs and landings. Some large commercial runways seem dangerously close to people and buildings, while others have to contend with being surrounded by ocean water — like the runway at St. Martin's Princess Juliana Airport pictured here — or towering mountains. Even cold-blooded jumbo jet pilots can get nervous approaching some of these large landing strips. Of course, at most modern airports, the sense of danger is at least partly an illusion. But that offers little comfort when you look out the window during the final approach to see waves, hillsides or buildings only a few feet below. (Text: Josh Lew)