Whether an airport is considered “dangerous” depends on various factors.
Some airports face special challenges because of where they are located, the condition of their runways, or how planes approach them.
Safety is the most important concern in the aviation industry, and all airports follow strict rules and procedures to ensure it.
However, certain airports mentioned earlier have extra challenges that require pilots to be highly skilled and experienced.
It is also important to note that the list of challenging airports is not complete.
Many other airports around the world may also be seen as difficult for various reasons.
Here are a few examples of dangerous airports in the world,
Tenzing-Hillary Airport (Lukla Airport)-
Tenzing-Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, is situated in Nepal at an altitude of 9,383 feet, surrounded by mountainous terrain.
The Lukla airport serves as the gateway to Everest base camp trek and all other treks in the Khumbu region.
What makes it particularly challenging is its unusually short runway, measuring only 1,729 feet, whereas typical runways range from 7,000 to 10,000 feet.
It is positioned on the edge of a cliff; the airport has a 2,000-foot drop on one side and a stone wall on the other.
The weather in the mountainous region is highly unpredictable, leading to flights operating exclusively in the morning.
Sudden snow or fog often results in flight cancellations.
Due to the airport’s precarious location, once a descent begins, landing becomes inevitable.
Only small planes and helicopters, operated by specially trained pilots, can navigate this challenging terrain.
Captains require specific qualifications, including a minimum of 100 short take-offs and landings, one year of experience in Nepal’s challenging conditions, and 10 successful flights to Lukla with a certified instructor.
Tenzing-Hillary Airport has a history of plane crashes.
In 2019, a tragic incident claimed three lives when a plane veered off the runway and collided with a helicopter. Another fatal crash occurred in 2008, resulting in the loss of 18 lives. Despite such incidents, people still choose to take this flight.
Lukla, with a population of fewer than 500 people, serves as a popular starting point for the Mount Everest trek.
While there are alternative modes of reaching Lukla, such as bus rides, private helicopters, and trekking, the 40-minute flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is favored for its time-saving convenience.
Princess Juliana International Airport-
Princess Juliana International Airport, located on the Caribbean Island of St. Maarten, is renowned for its unique and thrilling proximity to a public beach.
It is situated right next to the beach; the airport’s planes fly so low that sunbathers experience a gust of wind and sand whenever an aircraft arrives.
The runway is relatively short, measuring 7,100 feet, with the beach on one side and mountains on the other.
Aviation enthusiasts are drawn to the beach for the opportunity to capture dramatic take-offs and landings up close.
Despite the spectacle, numerous warning signs caution people to stay at a safe distance due to the powerful jet blast from planes, which can potentially topple individuals over and cause injuries.
Tragically, in 2017, a woman lost her life due to head injuries after being knocked over while standing by the airport fence.
The airport is famous for its low-altitude beach landings, requiring precise maneuvering due to its close proximity to Maho Beach.
Tourists often gather on the beach to witness planes landing, creating safety concerns as they get extremely close to the arriving and departing aircraft.
Paro International Airport-
Paro International Airport, situated in Bhutan, stands out for its extreme difficulty of navigation, limiting landing permissions to just 17 pilots.
Serving as Bhutan’s sole international airport, it is nestled in the Himalayas at an elevation of 7,364 feet above sea level.
Operations at this airport are restricted to daylight hours, and even then, pilots must possess exceptional skills to prevent the aircraft’s nose from making contact with the surrounding mountains.
Pilots executing a descent at Paro International Airport employ a challenging maneuver, tilting the plane at a 45-degree angle and carefully navigating around cliff-top homes to ensure a safe landing.
Once passengers disembark, they are greeted with fresh mountain air and breathtaking views of the 18,000-foot peaks that envelop this small airport, featuring a runway of 6,500 feet.
The unique challenges and stunning mountainous surroundings make Paro International Airport a remarkable but demanding destination for air travel.
Madeira Airport, also recognized as Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, is located in Portugal and is known for giving even the most confident flyers a newfound appreciation for solid ground upon touchdown.
The airport features a short runway positioned between cliffs and the ocean.
To ensure the safety of landings, the airstrip is extended with 180 columns in the water.
The presence of unpredictable Atlantic winds adds a dramatic element, contributing to the airport’s reputation for turbulent landings that can be unsettling for passengers.
Due to these challenging conditions, only a select few pilots are authorized to land at Madeira Airport.
Narsarsuaq Airport, located in the southern part of Greenland, presents several reasons why it is considered intimidating.
Nestled amidst picturesque fjords (a deep, narrow and elongated sea or lakedrain, with steep land on three sides), which are visually stunning but pose challenges for airplanes, the airport’s approach to the 6,000-foot runway involves navigating through these narrow water channels.
Pilots must execute a challenging 90-degree turn, a task made even more difficult by strong winds in the area.
Adding to the complexity, nearby volcanoes have the potential to erupt ash, reducing visibility and creating hazardous conditions.
Due to these various challenges, nighttime operations are deemed treacherous, leading to a restriction that permits only daytime landings and take-offs at Narsarsuaq Airport.
Gibraltar International Airport-
Gibraltar International Airport, situated in Gibraltar, provides a landing experience unlike any other.
Approaching the airport, pilots find themselves directed towards a massive rock monolith.
The Gibraltar International Airport runway is sandwiched between this prominent rock and a bustling city, culminating abruptly with the sea on either side. Upon touching down, pilots are required to brake promptly to ensure a safe stop.
However, what makes Gibraltar unique and earns it a spot on this list is the unconventional layout of the runway.
The runway intersects with a busy street, necessitating the closure of the road every time a plane arrives or takes off.
This distinctive feature adds an extra layer of complexity to operations at Gibraltar International Airport, making it an intriguing yet challenging destination for air travel.
Nestled in the French Alps, Courchevel Altiport provides a thrilling prelude to the skiing adventure that awaits.
Positioned at an altitude of 6,500 feet above sea level, this Courchevel Altiport airport challenges planes to navigate through a course of mountains and valleys before reaching its destination.
The runway, measuring a mere 1,700 feet, adds to the excitement with its steep incline, featuring a downward gradient of 18.5%.
Take-offs from this high-altitude airport are equally nerve-wracking.
Adding to the complexity, Courchevel Altiport lacks lighting aids, making flying during adverse weather conditions unsafe.
This mountaintop airport, with its unique topography and challenging conditions, permits landings only by specially trained pilots with proper clearance, contributing to its reputation as a remarkable but demanding destination.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport
The notable feature of Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in Saba is its exceptionally short runway, measuring just 1,312 feet.
For those prone to nervousness during flights, opting for a boat journey to reach Saba island from St. Maarten might seem more reassuring than the brief 15-minute flight.
Bordered by hills on one side and with minimal distance from the Caribbean waters on the other, this Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport runway presents a unique challenge.
Pilots approaching this airport must exercise precise judgment, as any miscalculation can bring the aircraft dangerously close to the edge of the sea.
The distinctive characteristics of Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport contribute to its reputation as an airport with a short and challenging runway, making it a noteworthy destination for those seeking a unique travel experience.
St. Helena Airport-
St. Helena Airport, situated on the remote British Overseas Territory in the Atlantic, was proposed to improve accessibility to the island.
Before the airport, reaching St. Helena required a five- or six-day boat journey from Cape Town.
However, upon its completion in 2015, delays gave way to the realization that turbulent wind shears made it challenging for flights to land.
The St. Helena airport is positioned near cliffs where ocean winds converge, posed significant difficulties highlighted during a hair-raising trial flight in 2016.
This roller-coaster-like experience led to the moniker of the “world’s most useless airport” due to delays in its opening.
Despite facing setbacks, commercial operations commenced in 2017, only to be later interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pilots with special training are required for landings at this airport, known for its rough conditions, serving an island renowned for its trails and whale shark.
Toncontín International Airport-
Toncontín International Airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, has gained notoriety as one of the world’s most dangerous airports.
Surrounded by mountains, the airport’s approach raises concerns among pilots, requiring a nerve-wracking 45-degree turn just minutes before touchdown in the valley.
Adding to the challenge, pilots must navigate through residential neighborhoods during this critical phase.
The tabletop runway, measuring 7,000 feet, poses a significant risk, as overshooting it can have fatal consequences.
Due to its history of several accidents, a new airport has been constructed in the Comayagua valley to replace Toncontín.
Inaugurated in October, Palmerola International Airport boasts a longer runway and improved facilities, offering a safer alternative to the challenging conditions presented by Toncontín.
The move towards Palmerola International Airport reflects a commitment to enhancing aviation safety in the region
Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is notorious for its challenging conditions, characterized by short runways, a tricky approach, and often slippery surfaces.
Landing at this airport can be particularly unnerving as planes descend remarkably close to the city amidst an expanse of rooftops.
The airport gained tragic notoriety in 2007 when a plane overshot the runway, resulting in a catastrophic crash.
The aircraft collided with a petrol pump and warehouse, leading to the loss of 187 lives on board and an additional 12 on the ground.
This incident highlighted the inherent risks associated with the unique characteristics of Congonhas Airport, emphasizing the importance of addressing safety concerns and implementing measures to mitigate potential hazards in such challenging environments.