Flying can be a nerve-racking experience for fretful travelers; however, landings at these 10 airports are sure to frighten even the most frequent flyers. From an airport at the edge of a cliff to sandy beach landings, here are the world’s craziest runways—consider yourself warned.
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Gustaf III Airport, Saint Barthelemy
Flying into St. Barts is an experience unlike any other. The extremely short runway starts at the top of a hill and ends directly at the beach, so you feel like you’re about to have a safe landing, until you see the water’s edge at the end of the runway. Because of this, the airport only serves small regional commercial airlines and charters.
If you’re visiting the island, join the crowds standing at the top of the hill and watching planes land.
Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, Madeira, Portugal
Believe it or not, this airport had even scarier landings before the year 2000—the year it dramatically extended its still-short runway. The extended runway is almost double its original size, but it’s still terrifying, since it’s constructed on a platform over the water. The surrounding landscape of high mountains, roadways, and ocean adds to the sense of drama.
Nantucket Memorial Airport, Massachusetts, U.S.
Despite being on an island and having a shorter runway near the ocean, Nantucket’s airport has crazy landings for an entirely different reason—fog. Flights are constantly canceled and delayed due to weather; in minutes, fog can completely cover the airport and runway, making it impossible for small planes and charters to land.
Tenzing-Hilary Airport, Lukla, Nepal
Nepal’s Lukla airport has consistently been rated the most dangerous airport in the world for over 20 years. Due to its location near Mt. Everest, this small airport is popular, but also frequently experiences delays due to high winds, clouds, and drastically changing visibility. Weather conditions pair with the surrounding high terrain and cliffs to make this one of the craziest airports for landings.
Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
Gibraltar Airport has one of the craziest landings in Europe due to its seaside location and the fact that the runway intersects with a main street, Winston Churchill Avenue. The road has to be closed for landings and take-offs, which makes for an all-around crazy experience—for both drivers and flyers.
Barra Airport, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
This airport, located on the Scottish island of Barra, is the only airport in the world with a functioning beach runway. There are three runways on the beach in the shape of a triangle. At high tide the runways are under water, so flight times coincide with low tide.
Princess Juliana International Airport, Sint Maarten
St. Maarten’s airport is famous for crazy landings since one end of its runway abuts the popular Maho Beach. Despite warning signs for jet blasts on the beach, the area has become a popular tourist spot for plane watching.
Skiathos Island National Airport, Skiathos, Greece
Skiathos Island’s short and narrow runway earns it a place on the crazy landing list. Despite these factors, the airport serves commercial jets—some airlines require pilots to undergo additional training for these landings. One of the airport’s runways nestles against a coastal road, making it a popular spot for plane spotters and earning itself the nickname “2nd Saint Maarten.”
Courchevel Altiport, France
Courchevel Altiport is located in a ski resort area in the French Alps. Its short runway, steep surrounding terrain, and extreme weather conditions make this one of the craziest airport landings in the world. The upslope runway makes landing here extremely difficult, as do the open surrounding ski trails.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba, Caribbean Netherlands
This small airport on the Dutch Island of Saba has one of the shortest commercial runways in the world … and it’s surrounded by high hills and seaside cliffs. To land here, a plane even needs a special waiver from the Netherlands Aviation Authority.
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