10 scariest airport runways
Check out some of the most terrifying takeoff and touchdown spots around the world.
White-knuckle travelers beware: The airports below are notorious for their tricky and oftentimes terrifying runways. Whether the shorter-than-average landing strips end with an abrupt drop-off or mountainous terrain makes for a twisting flight path, getting to and from these airports takes some serious know-how. Fasten your seatbelts and read on to learn about the 10 most frightening runways out there.
Paro Airport, Bhutan
Nestled in a valley below the Himalayan Mountains, Bhutan's Paro Airport is notoriously frightening to fly into. In addition to navigating the area's 16,000-foot-high jagged peaks, pilots also must contend with forceful winds that gust around the mountains. But if you find yourself on a flight to Paro, rest assured that you're in good hands: Only eight pilots in the world are qualified to make the landing.
Toncontìn Airport, Honduras
A variety of factors, including a short runway, proximity to mountainous terrain and a tricky approach, make Honduras's Toncontìn Airport infamously challenging to fly into. In 2008, after the crash of a TACA airlines flight at the airport, all international flights were temporarily diverted to Soto Cano Air Base, and Toncontìn was reserved solely for domestic flights and smaller aircrafts.
Kai Tak, Hong Kong
It's no longer open, but Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong just might take the cake for the most hair-raising airport ever. It was located in the center of Kowloon, Hong Kong, and pilots were forced to make a sharp turn and fly between buildings to strategically place their jets on the runway — which ended with a drop into the ocean. Much to adrenaline junkies' dismay, runway misses and safety reviews caused the airport to close in 1998.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba, Netherlands Antilles
On the northeast corner of Saba — the smallest of the Caribbean's Antilles islands — sits the tiny airstrip at Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport. Trade winds and a mountainous terrain make it necessary to navigate the territory carefully, or else risk overshooting the 1,300-foot-long runway and ending up in the vast sea below.
Barra Airport, Scotland
Tarmac? What tarmac? At Scotland's Barra Airport, located on Traigh Mhor beach, planes land right on the sand. When the tide comes in daily, the airport is washed away. And when the sun starts to set, a few cars' headlights in a nearby parking lot provide illumination, since the airport features no artificial light. Sunbathers must watch out: When the windsock is flying, the airport is active, and they need to take their towels elsewhere.
Courchevel Airport, France
Since it's part of the French Alps' Les Trois Vallées ski resort, it's no surprise that Courchevel Airport's slanted, snow-flanked runway resembles a ski slope, complete with a vertical drop at the end. Pair the undulating landing strip with the region's snow, ice and blustery winds, and it's easy to see why this small airport has made our list.
Tioman Island, Malaysia
Getting to gorgeous, tropical Tioman Island isn't for the faint of heart: The airport's short runway not only ends in an abrupt drop off a cliff's edge, but pilots are forced to head straight for the mountains before making a sharp 90-degree turn to line the aircraft up directly with the landing strip.
LaGuardia Airport, New York
Thanks to congested airspace — nearby John F. Kennedy and Newark airports also have competing traffic — as well as runways that jut out into the water, New York's LaGuardia airport is no piece-of-cake landing spot. One runway's approach requires pilots to make a steep, low-altitude turn frighteningly close to the ground.
McMurdo Station Airport, Antarctica
When aircrafts carrying researchers or supplies touch down in Antarctica's McMurdo Station, they do so upon ice, not tarmac. Though the ground's temperature is carefully monitored — if it's too warm the ice may not support heavy aircrafts — it can be a bit unnerving to land on sheets of frozen water. But according to some pilots, when conditions are good, touching down on the frozen tundra is smoother than landing at a regular airport.
Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal
Named for two climbers who conquered Mount Everest, Nepal's Tenzing-Hillary Airport is an adventure in and of itself. It features one of the steepest uphill runways in the world, capped off with a fence to prevent planes from dropping off the edge of a cliff. And during takeoff, planes head downhill, where the runway ends and delivers aircrafts into a deep valley, where they hopefully gain enough momentum to climb skyward again.
This article originally appeared on WomansDay.com and it's republished here with permission.
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