Welcome to our article covering the most dangerous airports in the world. We start by reminding you that Aviation remains as one of the safest forms of transportation worldwide. However, some airports offer distinct features that challenge even the best pilots, whether on a commercial flight or flying a private jet.
Several factors can make an airport truly dangerous. These include cliff passes to urban centres, islands with tailored runways, or even beaches full of tourists. Naturally, pilots train to handle all of the above, and we know that overcoming such challenges is well worth it for the enjoyment of an exclusive holiday.
If you’re missing a good adrenaline rush, hop on this exclusive private jet adventure as we discover and challenge the ten most dangerous airports in the world.
Private Jet Charter Holidays
Better than taking that dream holiday you’ve been postponing is enjoying it in a completely private way. Whether exploring mountains and valleys or lying in the sun on a paradise beach, there is nothing like avoiding queues at the airport. Our team doesn’t see any of the following airports as risky per se but as unique locations instead. Here, commercial, cargo, or private jet pilots often require very specific training or following a more demanding checklist.
Even if you are not one of the lucky few people to own a private jet, you can still enjoy the unique perks of flying private with us at very affordable prices. Although our flights can land at almost any airport , we invite you now to look at the following ones and their unique potential to take your breath away.
Lukla Airport, Nepal
Nepal is one of the most beautiful locations in the world, but getting there by plane requires what some consider as nerves of steel. Located 2.846 m (9,383 feet) above sea level and surrounded by mountainous terrain, Lukla is also one of the world’s most dangerous airports.
Its extremely short runway is only 527 metres (1,729 feet), and this gateway to Mount Everest also witnesses strong winds and unpredictable weather. Standing on the edge of a 2,000-foot cliff and mountain on the other end makes for a fun day out.
Planes slow down aggressively much thanks to the upwards angle of the runway. Once the final descent begins, it is mandatory for the aircraft to land, as there is no room to go-around. The airport is only open in the morning, and flights face frequent cancellations due to sudden snow or mist.
The only aircraft that can land and take off here are small planes and helicopters. In addition, pilots require special training, including:
· At least 100 short take-offs and landings;
· One year’s experience in Nepal under these conditions;
· Ten successful flights to Lukla with a certified instructor;
There have been a few occurrences in the past, however, it remains a popular tourist destination in this part of the world. The mountain approach offers views hard to find anywhere else, adding beauty to the adrenaline rush.
Princess Juliana International Airport, Saint Martin
If you’re seeking a paradise destination, there is nothing better than flying your private jet to a Caribbean Island. St. Maarten is one of the most popular you can find, not only for its beaches but also for its airport, which extends across the whole island.
Besides a short runway, the airport limits sit on top of a beach and just before a mountain on the other end. Planes approach at such low altitude that bathers can feel the gusts of wind and sand each time they land.
There are several videos online of approaches and take-offs from this airport that became viral. As a result, many visitors head deliberately to the beach to experience the adrenaline rush close to the arriving and departing aircraft.
Numerous signs warn about the danger, as the force of the jet blast from an aircraft can knock you down or send you flying a few feet in the air, causing severe injuries. In 2017, a woman died after a turbine exploded. She was hanging on the airport fence with other tourists, while watching an aircraft preparing for take-off.
When you consider even the heaviest jets operate here, these adrenaline-seekers are corageous when facing the tons of thrust required to take off on a short runway.
Regardless of the danger, Princess Juliana Airport remains a significant tourist attraction. It is truly one of the most dangerous airports in the world, especially for pilots who have to land a plane close to the public and facing a mountain. More so to those waiting to withstand tons of thrust in such close proximity.
Paro Airport, Bhutan
Paro International Airport is Bhutan’s only international airport, located in the Himalayas at 2,235 metres (7,364 feet) above sea level. The approach is so tricky that only 17 pilots are currently certified to operate here.
Arrivals and departures are only possible in good visibility and during daylight hours. There is also no radar system, which forces pilots to undertake a manual approach. In addition to the treacherous Himalayan winds, they manoeuvre the plane up to a 45-degree angle before ligning up with the runway. All to avoid the clifftop houses and meander between hills while making a successful descent.
Once you land and take a grasp of the Himalaian fresh air, you can enjoy the beauty of the surrounding 5,500 metres (18,000-feet) mountain peaks. They engulf this small airport with a runway of only 1,200 metres (6,500 feet) and are a unique sight. It is an adventure well worth its thrills since Bhutan is one of the most exclusive destinations in the world.
Madeira Airport, Portugal
Recently renamed Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, home to the football star, Madeira Airport defies any pilot’s skills. It’s infamous as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, and for a few good reasons.
Along with the strong Atlantic winds, its relatively short runway stands partially on 180 columns adds to its spectacular effect. This creative work of engineering helps extend the airport into the water between the cliffs and the ocean, allowing for a safer operation.
In September 2000, extension works on the runway took place, but landing on this beautiful island remains challenging. Without many surprises, pilots require specific training and qualifications to operate here. Since it’s a popular destination, windy days become an attraction with several commercial and private jets struggling to line up with the runway.
Its unique weather conditions are the primary concern for those landing here. Suffering from severe crosswinds at any time of year results in many flights being force to opt for a reapproach or diverting to another airport. The airport became a YouTube sensation with constant videos of go-arounds and bumpy landings.
Despite such characteristics, it remains one of Europe’s most sought-after destinations. It’s so popular that there is a platform next to the runway so that the public can watch pilots attempting these incredible landings.
Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
Gibraltar International Airport is a civilian airport that operates in the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar. With 6,2 square kilometres (3.85 miles), the approach takes place toward a gigantic monolith. Its runway sits between a giant rock and a busy city. It ends abruptly with the sea on either side, leaving little room for mistakes.
Furthermore, space is so limited that the runway crosses the region’s public road. As you may expect, this road must be closed every time a plane lands or takes off. The runway, in particular, requires heavier aircraft to break hard as soon as they touch down. Pilots still have to watch out for the street traffic, adding to the unique fun of operating at Gibraltar Airport.
One of the most exciting characteristics of this airfield is that people and traffic can cross it once an aircraft is parked or departed towards its destination. There is never a dull moment in Gibraltar, especially considering the constant challenges even the most experienced pilots face.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is located on the Caribbean Island of Saba, one of the former Netherlands Antilles. The airport’s single runway is only 400 metres (0,25 miles) long, and is considered the smallest operational runway in the world. Currently, only three small aircraft models operate here under very special circumstances.
Its scary, short runway has hills on one side and the ocean on the other, with a runway mysteriously marked with an ‘X’ at each end. These signal to pilots that it is restricted to commercial aviation.
The island is worth a visit, with almost untouched vegetation, a small hotel and a beach. It is the perfect option for those seeking a secluded break. A mere 15-minute flight away from St. Maarten, it can add up some excitement to your Caribbean holiday.
Just for the looks of it, you know you’re before one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Strong winds, unpredictable weather and a very short runway test pilots’ and passengers’ nerves all year-round.
Barra International Airport, Scotland
Barra Airport is a short-range airport located in the wide shallow bay of Traigh Mhòr. It is sits at the northern end of the island of Barra. The airport operates a single destination, Glasgow, and it is the only one worldwide to use a beach as a runway.
The beach sets three runways in a triangle, marked by permanent wooden poles at their end. To add to the challenge, flights operate according to the tide schedule. During high tide, the runways become covered by the sea and therefore, unusable. Emergency flights occasionally operate at night, with vehicle lights illuminating the runway and reflective strips placed on the beach.
Barra Airport also has an Ordinary CAA licence that allows public passenger transport or flight instruction flights. More interestingly, it holds the top spot on the world’s leading airport approaches.
Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Narsarsuaq Airport is the only international airport in the south of Greenland. The village it serves is rather small, with the airport functioning mainly as a passenger transfer platform. Greenland is also a beautiful holiday destination and well worth a visit for those looking for a unique lifestyle experience.
Initially built as an air base for the army, the airfield is located in the middle of the fjords. Approaching the 1.800 metres (6,000 feet) runway is particularly tricky. Pilots must take a 90-degree turn, bringing a constant challenge due to the strong winds.
Additionally, several volcanoes nearby occasionally erupt, with ash reducing visibility and limiting flight operations. Because of its treacherous nature, the airport operates only during daylight.
Gisborne Airport, New Zealand
Located in the suburb of Elgin on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Gisborne Airport is famous for its railway line. The Palmerston North-Gisborne Line crosses the main runway and makes it a unique location worldwide.
The airport is surrounded by an area of nearly 160 hectares, and it may not be your first pick when visiting New Zealand. There is a single terminal, one main runway and three grass runs suitable for light aircraft.
The railway line crosses the asphalted runway, used primarily for cargo services. Classic locomotives occasionally run on the Vintage line from the town of Gisborne, operating a 17 km (10.5 miles) service between the city and Muriwai.
It is the only train in the Southern Hemisphere crossing a runway. Unsurprisingly, it requires permission from ATC to make the crossing. Our suggestion for those looking for a unique adventure is taking a private flight to Gisborne Airport and crossing the airfield by train.
Reagan National Airport, USA
Ronald Reagan National Airport is an international airport in Virginia that serves mainly the city of Washington, DC.
Located 8 km (5 miles) from the city, the airport is the closest to the capital. It’s one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to the evasive manoeuvres required on approach.
Planes make sharp turns near the Potomac River to line up with the runway, and avoidance of no-fly zones throughout the city is a challenge for pilots. Pilots must take exceptionally tricky routes to dodge high-profile buildings, including the Pentagon and the White House.
In addition to low turns and close weaves to the ground below, there are manoeuvres to avoid restricted and prohibited airspace above sensitive landmarks, government buildings and military installations in and around Washington. These measures also comply with some of the strictest noise restrictions in the country.
Similarly, planes departing from Reagan Airport tend to make an immediate, sharp turn within seconds of departure. The intent is to avoid the Washington Monument and the White House. Reminding you that you can visit both, you may still face a true rollercoaster of take-offs and landings.
Most Dangerous Airports in the World: Interesting Curiosities
If the previous airports didn’t add enough thrill to your bucket list, the following might do so in a peculiar style. There are enough ingredients in the next two airfields to ensure an adventurous flight with many stories.
Ice Runway, Antarctica
Ice Runway is designed especially for the US Antarctic Programme for both large and medium-sized flights. Pilots must be extremely cautious when landing here with a surface made entirely of snow and ice.
This sea ice runway is built at the beginning of each season,, and operations run until early December when the ice and snow begin to melt. At such point, flights switch to Williams Field airport.
Despite its peculiar features, pilots who land here relate that the surface is stable and not too different from a regular tarmac. The big difference, however, lies in the aircraft’s weight, causing it to sink into the ice, even if only by a few inches. Laser light is fitted to the plane to measure the settlement rate, and the aircraft moves to a new ice location if the 10-inch red line is reached as a safety measure.
Kansai International Airport, Japan
Kansai International Airport in Japan is located on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, off Sennan. The island was built specifically to minimise noise pollution in the city. Its runways, over 3 km (1,86 miles) long, are connected to the mainland by a 4 km (2,5 miles) bridge.
With its quirky design and surrounded by sea, the approach to the airport creates the illusion of landing on a giant aircraft carrier. In 2001, it was one of ten projects distinguished with the Millennium Civil Engineering Monument by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
We can comfortably say that getting to the most remote or paradisiacal places worldwide is not always easy. Sometimes it takes a measure of effort and dedication to be able to visit unique locations.
Nevertheless, practically all that made our most dangerous airports in the world list offer standard safety conditions. Pilots ensure that weather conditions or unique routes are appropriately planned and calculated. Furthermore, private jet charter companies rely on highly qualified pilots to deal with these conditions. In extreme cases, you can hire a local certified pilot to ensure even the most remote destination is never off-limits.
Should any of these locations stir the adrenaline-seeker in you, prepare for an adventurous start.
Contact us today to access the best exclusive private flights and plan your next getaway in style.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
We would never send you to a remote destination without covering a few common questions. You’ll find our answers regarding the most dangerous airports in the world in the following lines to help you pick the ideal place from our list.
What is the most dangerous airport in the world?
Lukla Airport in Nepal is considered the most dangerous of all the challenging airports around the world. Besides its altitude, unstable winds, and too short a runway, this Everest gateway in the mountains of Nepal lies on a cliff and ends in an abyss. A constant challenge for pilots who defy their skills and a unique and powerless feeling for passengers who dare to land at this beautiful destination.
Are there dangerous flying areas?
Yes. There are several airspaces that, due to military reasons or continuous conflicts, are not allowed or dangerous to fly over. The Conflict Zone and Risk Database categorise countries into three levels of risk and may force operators to adopt stricter measures or avoid flying over a particular area altogether.
Which airport has the world’s shortest runway?
The shortest runway in the world belongs to Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in the Caribbean. With just 400 metres, it is located at 18 metres altitude and serves the Dutch Caribbean island of Saba. Only STOL aircraft can land at this airport, as it’s closed to jet traffic or any other aircraft type.
Are there any particularly dangerous airports on landing?
Almost any of the airfields we covered in our most dangerous airports in the world list have enough ingredients to recreate an adrenaline rush on landing. We would bite our nails when approaching Lukla in Nepal or Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in the Caribbean. The combination of short runways and strong winds make even the most experienced think twice.