five of the most impressive runways in the world

Fernando Pastrano



Keep in mind that the plane is the safest means of transport in the world. That aviation registers a serious accident for every 2.4 million flights, much less than the road where, in Spain alone, one out of every 360,000 trips ends in an accident.

However, there are airports where, especially due to their geographical location, spectacular maneuvers are often carried out, although very rarely lethal.

Paro Airport, Bhutan

The only international airport in the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is considered the most dangerous in the world. Located at more than 2,200 meters of altitude in a valley surrounded by mountains of more than 5,000 meters, its track of just 2 km. longitude is only reached by descending on an approach route in visual flight (without automatic pilot) and in a spiral, which makes cancellations frequent if the weather conditions are not adequate.

Very few pilots are licensed to fly to Paro (fewer than ten are said to be) and all of them belong to just two airlines, which are the only ones operating in Bhutan, Drukair and Bhutan Airlines.

Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

The northern part of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin belongs to France, while the southern part is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is here where the Princess Juliana airport is located, the third in the Caribbean with the highest number of passengers, behind Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Since the landing and take-off runway, of only 2.3 km., Does not have a taxiway, planes, even the largest ones, are forced to fly a few meters from the beach, normally full of bathers. So much so that a large sign stuck in the sand warns of the danger that engine turbines can generate with “extreme bodily harm or death”.

Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal

Nepal’s international airport is in Kathmandu, the capital. The second most important in the country is the Tenzing-Hillary, named after the first two mountaineers who reached the summit of Everest and returned alive, the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and the Nepalese Tenzing Norgay. Also known as Lukla airport, because it belongs to that municipality, it is the closest to the base camp of the international mountaineers.

It is located at an altitude of almost 3,000 meters surrounded by impressive mountains. Its only runway is only 527 meters long and has a 12% slope, when it is usual for civil airports not to exceed 2%. One end cuts off abruptly with a 600 meter drop.

Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport in Madeira, Portugal

The island of Madeira is located about 500 km. north of Tenerife. Its location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean often makes it suffer strong winds that affect its airport in a special way.

The mountainous orography of Madeira and its coastline (it only has two sandy beaches and both are artificial) forced the airport to be located on a 1,600-meter-long runway, built on 180 concrete pillars, in the 1960s. on land reclaimed from the sea. The increase in tourism caused the runway to be extended to 1,800 meters in 1986 and 2,781 meters in 2000, works that received an award from the International Association of Bridges and Structural Engineering (IABSE).

The airport gained notably in security, but the winds are unstoppable and continue to test pilots who must have a special permit that proves their expertise.

Gibraltar International Airport (United Kingdom)

It is located on the isthmus that joins the British territory of Gibraltar with Spain, an area in dispute between the two countries. Its danger does not lie in the length of the track (1,520 meters) or in inclement weather, but in the unique circumstance in the world that this track is crossed at the same level by a road, Winston Churchill Avenue, which has forced to install red lights when an aircraft is about to land or take off.

Just 500 meters from the city center and as many from La Línea de la Concepción, the approach of the flights must be done flying over the sea leaving the Rock of Gibraltar on the left, 426 meters high, and on the right an area highly urbanized.

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