Flying can be nerve-wracking enough without the very real possibility of imminent death. Some of these airports are barely more than a runway strip in the middle of nowhere, and honestly the pilots that navigate them deserve a medal. Here are 5 of the most dangerous airports to have to travel through in the world.
1. Lukla Airport, Nepal
Named the most dangerous airport in the world by many, the Lukla Airport in Nepal does not promise a smooth take-off, particularly for those afraid of heights. It is one of the shortest runways in the world which gives the pilot a very small margin of error and to make matters worse, it’s located at an altitude of 2860 metres and tucked in between mountain ranges. There are no air traffic controllers, either.
2. Princess Juliana International Airport, St Maarten
Perhaps the most notable thing about this airport is that a popular beach sits right in front of the runway. Because the airport was initially designed to deal with smaller aircrafts the runway is dangerously short at only 2179 metres long. The actual requirement for a safe landing is over 2500 metres in a larger vessel, which their booming tourism industry has created a necessity for.
3. Paro Airport, Bhutan
With only 8 pilots in the world qualified to land a plane on this strip, the Paro Airport nestled amongst the Himalayan Mountains is definitely one of the most dangerous in the world. The runway is only 1981 metres in length and is surrounded by towering mountain peaks up to 5500 metres high. Pilots are forced to descend at a higher speed to make in order to make the landing safely, adding to the sketch factor.
4. McMurdo Air Station, Antarctica
The ice on the runway at the McMurdo Air Station in Antarctica contributes to its reputation for being an imprecise one to touch-down on. The possibility of skidding out if the landing doesn’t go well is palpable, and there has been more than one fatal crash at this airport over the years. Pilots are also trained to land here using night-vision goggles due to the fact that it’s dark for half the year and there are no lights there because, well, who needs lights in Antarctica?
5. Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Like Antarctica, the runway at Narsarsuaq Airport is covered in ice for the entire year, but unlike its frozen counterpart it’s also got one a heck of a storm problem. Between the high winds and the ash from the neighbouring volcano it is one precarious landing job. Not only is ash dangerous for visibility reasons, but it also has a reputation for clogging up and stalling airplane engines. To top it all off the runway is super short, at only 1800 metres and the turbulence factor is excessive.
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