Nervous flyers are warned: the following airports are infamous for their problematic, and often downright terrifying, runways. So, if you’re heading off on a round the world trip and don’t fancy hair-raising take offs or nail-biting landings, I’d suggest that you give the following airports a wide berth.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport – Saba, Netherlands Antilles
Perching precariously on the very north-eastern tip of the island, this airport requires pilots to use all their skill and experience to tackle stormy trade winds and spin drifts (spray blown from the cresting waves during strong winds). As if this were not enough, the runway is only 1,300 feet long – if the landing or take off is not timed to perfection, you could end up hitting the cliffs just before the runway or ending up in the vast sea beyond. Nice.
Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal
Renamed after the famous climbers who conquered Mount Everest, this runway is characterised by a monstrous mountain at one end and a drop of nearly 3,300 feet at the other. Add in to the mix one of the steepest uphill runways in the world (or downhill for take offs) and the fact that at an altitude of 9,500 feet aircraft can’t run on full power, and you have yourself one nerve-racking experience.
Tioman Island, Malaysia
The reward for braving this perilous runway is the beautiful, tropical island of Tioman, located off the east coast of Malaysia. Your pilot is made to work hard for it though: the approach involves taking the plane on a heading straight for the mountains before performing a 90 degree turn to line up the runway, which is worryingly short with a cliff at the end. Valium, anyone?
Paro Airport, Bhutan
The approach into Paro Airport requires such skill and expertise that only eight pilots in the world are qualified to make the landing. So the good news is that you’re in safe hands. The bad news is that the runway is tucked away in a narrow valley, surrounded by 16,000 foot high Himalayan peaks and the area is prone to strong winds that whip across the mountains and up the valley. Stomach droppingly scary.
Toncontin Airport, Honduras
Located in a bowl-like valley, pilots must perform a dramatic 45 degree, last minute bank in order to touch down safely. Surrounded by mountains, the runway is too short to accommodate anything larger than a Boeing 757. Buckle up and hold on tight.
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