Believe it or not, traveling by aircraft is still by far the safest form of travel. According to the NTSB, in 2016 there were only 108 accidents and 29 fatalities.
And considering some of the places pilots try their luck at landing, that’s an even more impressive record!
If you’re a pilot, you might want to consider avoiding the most dangerous runways—then again you may want to start a new bucket list!
But where are these dangerous airports?
Read on for the most dangerous landing strips in the world.
Lukla Airport in Nepal
Are you and your friends thinking about a visit to Mt. Everest?
The short runway at Lukla Airport would make most pilots think twice. But the fact that it’s nestled between the mountains should also give you pause. The airport is at an altitude of over 9,000 feet.
But wait, there’s more! There are no landing strip lights and almost no electricity at the airport.
Air traffic controllers? Nope. There’s no one in the tower.
If you do head into Lukla airport, pray for perfect weather and landing conditions. Your airplane better be in excellent condition, too!
Courchevel Airport in France
If Mt. Everest isn’t your thing, how about a trip to ski in the French Alps? If you’re looking for an exciting takeoff and landing, Courchevel airport will get your pulse racing.
The runway at Courchevel is one of the shortest in the world, measuring 1,760 feet. It has about an 18% grade for slowing down incoming airplanes. And the runway is built right into the mountains.
But not anyone can fly into Courchevel. Pilots need a special permit if they want to land on that precarious runway. And you won’t be flying in on a jetliner, either.
Only small planes can handle the short runway and dangerous conditions.
Princess Juliana Airport in Saint Maarten
If you want a quiet day at the beach when you’re in Saint Maarten, avoid the beach in front of the airport.
Commercial jetliners fly in low right over the beach when landing at Princess Juliana Airport. Sunbathers suffer loud noise and wind gusts. But the pilots aren’t worried about sunbathers.
They’re aiming for a runway that’s only 7,546 feet long. When it comes to jet landings, 10,000 feet is the standard.
You’ll feel better about landing at Princess Juliana Airport if you’re in a small airplane.
Paro Airport in the Himalayans
Flying and landing in and around any mountains are dangerous. But the Himalayan mountains boast one of the most dangerous landing strips in the world.
Paro Airport in the Himalayans is so dangerous, pilots need special certification for landing there. It’s said that only 17 pilots qualify for landing at Paro, though exact figures are hard to find.
The high altitude also means thinner air, necessitating faster-than-average landing speeds.
McMurdo in Antarctica
Antarctica doesn’t get a lot of visitors. So the airport isn’t state of the art. And while the runway is long enough, the Pegasus White Ice runway is slippery ice.
The Pegasus is one of three airfields at McMurdo and the only one for airplanes with wheels. The other landing strips servicing McMurdo are for planes with skis only.
If your landing isn’t perfect on the slippery landing strip, your plane runs askew. During the winter, it’s dark 24 hours a day, making landing even more difficult.
Flying into Antarctica often requires landing blind since the runway doesn’t have lights.
New Zealand’s Gisborne Airport
Flights into this airport are timed accurately. Why? Because of the railway that runs across the landing strip!
There’s one main paved runway and also several grass runways. The national railroad bisects the landing strip. Don’t let it surprise you if you catch a glimpse of the railroad cars before landing.
Barra Airport in Scotland
At high tide, the runways of Barra International Airport are submerged by the bay of Traigh Mhor. That’s what happens when your landing strip is only five feet above sea level!
And when the runways aren’t under the water, severe weather is often a problem. Since the runway is a beach, flights are daytime only.
Narsarsuaq Airport in Greenland
This airport is tricky for pilots due to high winds and severe turbulence. This is another daytime-only landing strip due to poor visibility.
There aren’t a lot of tourists landing on this ice-covered runway. But if your bucket list includes the Northern Lights, you might find yourself here.
And one more thing that makes a landing here dangerous—active volcanoes! Volcanic ash ruins jet engines.
Juancho E Yrausquin Airport on Saba Island
How about landing on a 1,300-foot runway after a cliff approach and a sharp left? Fly into Saba Island if you want that breathtaking experience.
If you watched the original King Kong Movie, the island should look familiar since they filmed it there.
If you’re not crazy about the cliff approach and jarring turn, take the ferry from St. Maarten.
Tioman Airport in Malaysia
You might want to close your eyes landing at Tioman Airport in Malaysia. That’s because your pilot heads straight for a mountain first.
There’s a last-minute 90-degree turn that lines the plane up with the landing strip. After landing, the pilot hits the breaks fast, avoiding the cliff at the end of the runway.
Hong Kong’s Kai Tak International Airport
This deserves an honorable mention, though the airport closed in 1998.
Pilots executed a hair-raising 47-degree turn at low altitude and speeds of 200 mph only moments before the dangerous landing.
What made it even harder? The mountains and water surrounding the landing strip. Pilots also maneuvered over apartment buildings and parking garages.
And if you flew between May and November, the landing was sometimes through a typhoon!
Will You Try the World’s Most Dangerous Landing Strips?
If you’re a spirited adventurer, test your skills on the most dangerous landing strips in the world! From beach landings to cliffhangers, you’ll get a rush!
These airports may have the worst reputations for dangerous takeoffs and landings. But general aviation is still one of the safest modes of transportation.
Intrigued by the allure of flying? You’re not alone.
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