The “world’s most useless” airport was the first moniker given to the airport that was constructed on the mid-Atlantic island of St. Helena (above). That’s because landing at first was hazardous due to wind shear on the cliffside runway.
Although the airport is now operational, landing there requires specific training because it is a category C airport. It’s not the only one; listed here are some of the most beautiful (but terrifying) airports in the entire globe.
Visitors to Madeira are aware that there are frequently no landings or only hazardous landings on the island. Because to the nearby high terrain, the airport experiences turbulence and wind shear, sometimes severe, during final approach. The runway ends at cliff edges on both sides, but thankfully they are low and have a road running underneath them. Madeira is so beloved by aviators that the airport constructed a platform next to the runway where spectators can watch pilots give it their all.
When you consider that Leh Airport is located 10,682 feet above sea level, the 23rd highest airport in the world doesn’t seem all that high. With a short runway, it is surrounded by mountains and is frequently plagued by strong winds in the afternoon, therefore flights are only permitted in the mornings. All pilots landing here receive specific training, and widebody and heavy aircraft are not permitted.
Videos of aircraft landing at Sint Maarten are widely available on social media, so you don’t need to be an aviation geek to have seen them. This is due to the runway’s direct backing onto a beach, which causes planes to arrive and land directly overhead. A woman was murdered by a jet engine blast in 2017 while hanging onto the airport fence with other visitors wearing swimsuits, despite the fact that it may look pleasant. Given that you are heading directly for the peak rising behind the airport, taking off is a little bit more frightful for people on board than landing.
Bhutan’s only international airport, Paro, is cantilevered 7,364 feet above sea level; nevertheless, due to the challenging approach, very few pilots are authorized to land there. Since there is no radar, planes must perform a manual approach, which is only permitted under good visibility situations (for example, daylight). Before bending onto the runway, they must also navigate around hills and over residences.
London city UK
Nowadays, it’s unusual to land directly over a major metropolis, but when you land in London City, you’ll bank around Canary Wharf and glide past the skyscrapers of the City of London before coming in at such a steep angle that you’ll feel like you’re in a helicopter. Both landing and taking off are energizing.
Reagan National Airport, USA
One passenger thought it was “a little bit alarming” in June 2021 when a Frontier Airlines plane went off the runway at Ronald Reagan airport in Washington, DC. However, you don’t need to be a part of an incident to feel uneasy here. Pilots find this to be challenging because of the sharp turn planes must make near the Potomac River to line up with the runway and the need to avoid no-fly zones all over the city.
The capital of Tyrol, which is enveloped by mountains, is a top skiing resort with a gorgeous flight in. Alternatively, it’s the vistas. In a unique sense, the challenge facing pilots is magnificent. Aircraft must navigate around a roughly 8,000-foot peak, contend with wind shear from the mountains, and, depending on the wind’s direction, may even need to bank severely to land in the valley.
The domestic airport in So Paulo once experienced drainage issues, one of which was so severe that it resulted in a deadly accident in 2007. The runway was resurfaced to fix the issue after that, however landing here can still be rather risky. The single runway, which opened in the 1930s, is surrounded by urban sprawl and is only a few miles from downtown, which in So Paulo means it’s still in the middle of the city. As a result, you’ll be flying over apartment buildings and rooftops up until the very last second.
Mountain ranges, strong winds, and a short runway are all present in Lukla. The gateway to Everest in the Himalayas of Nepal is frequently referred to as the most dangerous airport in the world because its runway, which is only 1,729 feet long and ends abruptly in an abyss, is built on a cliffside between mountains. It is even inclined upward to aid in the slowing of aircraft. Additionally, there is no room for go-arounds; if a plane is in final descent, it must land. Even so, the descent offers stunning vistas of the mountains.
You’ll probably have a rough landing in St. Helena. The planes experience a significant buffeting as they approach the airport for landing due to wind shear and the cliffside location. Focus your gaze on the Longwood plain, where Napoleon was exiled, and the little capital Jamestown, which is situated in a canyon crevice and has just one harbor. The runway was expanded to make room for a 757 even though it was originally only intended for light aircraft.