4:31 PM

White Knuckle
"E-Ticket" Approaches

I get lots of story suggestions here at World of Flying, some worth a look, some worthy of routing direct to the round file. And once in a while, one comes in that simply rocks my world. Yes, it seems some of my readers know me too well, and can predict whan Av8rdan thinks will be seriously great blog fodder.

Last week, Dee Barizo, from a site called ProTraveller, sent me a page on their site that lists the "Top 10 Most Dangerous Aircraft Landings in the World" and when I visited, it turned out to be a must read. I will excerpt some of it below, but you HAVE to go there and watch the many videos that accompany the descriptions:

Kai Tak Airport (China): The Kai Tak Airport served as Hong Kong's international airport from 1925 to 1998, and was notoriously hard to land at because of the maze of skyscrapers and mountains in the vicinity. The approach to the world-famous runway 13 at Kai Tak involved grazing skyscrapers and then making a sharp right-handed turn immediately before the runway. The crosswinds made it even more difficult to keep the plane steady during, and after, the final 47° right-handed turn towards the runway.

Funchal Airport (Portugal): This small island was once infamous for the short runway at Madeira Airport, which was surrounded by the ocean and mountains, making it difficult to land a plane. In November, 1977, TAP Portugal Flight 425 – a Boeing 727 – was landing on the relatively short 4,593 ft long airstrip during a heavy rain storm, skidded onto the beach, and burst into flames. The runway was eventually almost doubled in length, and 180 columns, each about 210 feet high, were added to support the runway over the ocean. Today, the runway is still one of the more difficult airstrips to land in the world.

Gustaf III Airport (St, Barts): This small airport on the island of St. Barts is only accessible by small planes because of the short 2,100ft long and narrow landing strip. There is no room for error when landing a plane at this beautiful island. The pilot must navigate a very steep approach down a hill, grazing cars and people at the top, while making sure to get the plane down in time so that it doesn't end-up in the ocean at the end of runway. There are signs posted on the beach at the end of the runway warning people not to lie directly at the end of the runway.

Courchevel Airport (France): This small airport is located high in the French Alps, and thus the runway sits 6,588ft above sea level. It features an extremely short 1,722ft long uphill runway. Not only is the runway short, but you also have to navigate through mountains to get to it. If you're brave enough to actually fly into this airport, you can take advantage of the awesome skiing and snowboarding that the French Alps has to offer.

Princess Juliana International Airport (St. Maarten): This airport features a world-famous landing strip that leads airplanes directly over Maho Beach and all of its sun-bathing tourists. Some planes fly as low as 30-60ft above the beach on their approach! The landing strip is relatively short for larger airplanes at 7,152ft long, so planes must approach the runway at a low angle to compensate.

Wellington International Airport (New Zealand): This airport in the capital of New Zealand can be dangerous for two reasons: a short runway and constant windy conditions. The runway at Wellington is relatively short at 6,647ft, which means that there is little room for error for larger planes. Also a problem are the strong crosswinds caused by nearby Cook Strait.

Paro Airport (Bhutan): Flying through the Himalayan valley to get to the landing strip can be a bit hair-raising, and the airplane's final hard-banking turn to get to the runway is very reminiscent of Kai Tak's approach. It is rather like flying into Happy Valley as far as the foot of Blue Pool Road, doing a u-turn, and then landing on Queen's Road East using a runway about one-quarter as wide as Kai Tak's was." The video shows a view from the cockpit of a plane making its descent into Paro – the last hill that they fly over to get to the landing strip is quite a maneuver to behold!

Narsarsuaq Airport (Greenland): The approach to Narsarsuaq Airport is no easy task to navigate – even for expert pilots. To land a plane at Narsarsuaq you must navigate a 90 degree turn through a U-shaped fjord and land on the 6,004ft long runway. This landing has been described as similar to flying down a city street with high rises on both sides with severe turbulence at all times except on the brightest of days; down-drafts are everywhere. There's even the real risk of icebergs drifting into the flight path.

Saba Island Airport: This small Caribbean island is a somewhat popular honeymoon destination, but flying into the beautiful Island isn't a vacation – to say the least. Landing an aircraft on one of the world's shortest landing strips (1,300ft long), on a peninsula surrounded by 200ft tall sheer cliffs that fall into the ocean, is easier said than done. Needless to say, larger planes aren't able to fly into Saba Island Airport because of the short runway.

Lugano Airport (Switzerland): The landing strip isn't necessarily the toughest part about landing a plane at Lugano Airport. The approach of the landing is what makes landing a plane here so difficult and potentially dangerous. This area of Switzerland is very mountainous, and there's always strong alpine crosswinds for pilots to deal with. On top of that, the approach to Lugano Airport is steeper than it is at most airports. Lugano's approach is 6.65°, whereas most airport approaches are at angles of about 3° over a flat area.
Jeez Louise, when you watch these videos end-to-end, it makes one's heart rate climb like doing the Jitterbug on a Pilates machine! So go over to their site and enjoy.

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