10 of the World's Scariest Airports to Fly Into
Of all modes of transportation, airplanes are statistically the safest way to travel. According to a study conducted from 2000 to 2009 by Ian Savage, economics professor at Northwestern University, airplanes caused the least number of passenger deaths per one billion miles traveled (0.07), while motorcycles caused the most (213). Still, we don't blame you if you are afraid to fly. While turbulence and claustrophobia are two main reasons travelers feel uneasy on airplanes, it's the landing that often keeps people on the edge of their seats. Of course, landings can be anxiety-inducing for a number of reasons, from limited visibility and small airstrips to navigating through the world's tallest mountain range. Here, AD rounds up ten of the most terrifying airports to fly into, from a runway that is literally a sandy beach in the United Kingdom to another that sits within the foothills of Mt. Everest in the Himalayas.
Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, Santa Cruz, Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport (more commonly known as Madeira Airport) made headlines earlier this year when, at a ceremony renaming the airport for the country's most famous native, a statue was unveiled of the soccer star that looked nothing like him. The airport's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean makes for a stomach-turning descent, as it appears as though the airplane will land in the water before landing on the runway.
Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Chaurikharka, Nepal
Many looking to scale the mighty Mount Everest will likely have to fly into Nepal's Tenzing-Hillary Airport. For any unsure how they will cope with the risks of climbing the world's tallest mountain, the 1,500-foot landing within the mountain range will help test their nerves.
Princess Juliana International Airport, Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten
For some beachgoers on the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten, airplanes will seem within grasp as they quickly descend to a short runway. To date, there have been no records of major incidents at the airport.
LaGuardia Airport, New York City
Relatively unchanged since it first opened in 1964, New York's LaGuardia Airport is among America's busiest airports (20th according to a recent study by the Federal Aviation Administration). With roughly 30 million passengers traveling through the airport in 2016, many pilots have dealt with the difficulties of landing in LaGuardia: crowded airspace, wind shear from the nearby ocean, and short 7,000-foot runways (modern runways now range between 8,000 and 13,000 feet). In 2015, a passenger jet skidded off a runway at LaGuardia and crashed into a nearby fence (with only minor injuries reported).
Toncontín International Airport, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Built in the 1920s, Toncontín is considered by many to be among the most dangerous airports in the world, due to its short runways and close proximity to mountainous terrain. In 2008, an Airbus 320 crashed after it overran the runway after landing. Several people were killed in the accident.
Courchevel Airport, Saint-Bon-Tarentaise, France
The idea of visiting the charming French ski town of Courchevel sounds perfect until you realize you have to land at the local airport. With a 1,722-foot runway that ends with a terrifying vertical drop—off the side of a mountain—your seatmate won't judge you for your white-knuckled landing.
Barra Airport, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
For passengers approaching Scotland's Barra Airport, there is no traditional runway to see. That's because airplanes land on a narrow strip of beach. At night, car headlights are sometimes used to help pilots with additional visibility.
Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
Located some 5,000 feet from the famous rock that bears the same name, Gibraltar International Airport has an actual road—Winston Churchill Avenue—that runs straight through the landing strip (movable barricades close when aircraft land or take off).
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba
Located on the coast of the tiny, Dutch Caribbean island of Saba is Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport. Due to the small size of the airport, jet planes are not permitted to land. Yet short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircrafts are allowed to use the space. Nevertheless, STOL pilots must be careful, as overshooting the short runway means tumbling into the ocean.
Paro Airport, Bhutan
Not only are flights into Paro Airport restricted to daylight hours, but only eight pilots in the world are qualified to land there. In order to safely land on the 6,500-foot-long strip, airplanes come within close proximity of several homes during the decent.