The world's scariest runways

Lukla Airport in Nepal is a nail-biting experience with a cliff at the end of the runway. Photo / Jim Eagles
Lukla Airport in Nepal is a nail-biting experience with a cliff at the end of the runway. Photo / Jim Eagles

Jaw-dropping footage showing dramatic landing conditions at Princess Juliana International Airport in St Maarten spread around the world today.

Planes flying low over the nearby Maho Beach are a common sight on the Caribbean island, with thousands of brave tourists flocking to see just how low they can go.

It's one of several other unbelievable runways around the world - here are five of the scariest:

1. Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal

Also known as Lukla Airport, Tenzing-Hillary Airport is known as the most dangerous airport in the world. The facilities consist of a single landing strip perched precariously on the edge of a mountain ridge.

The sloped runway is just 20 metres wide and 460 metres long - less than a tenth of the standard international runway length of 5500m.

With no control tower, radar or navigation, pilots must rely on view and use their own judgment in order to land safely - there's a 2.8 km drop if they get it wrong. And there's been a fair few accidents before.

2. Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar

Due a lack of flat space in the small British territory of Gibraltar, the runway at this airport intersects with its busiest road.

The runway at Gibraltar Airport intersects with a busy road. Photo / 123RF
The runway at Gibraltar Airport intersects with a busy road. Photo / 123RF

When a flight is due to arrive or depart, a pair of barriers close off the road, with traffic kept at a standstill for about 10 minutes.

Luckily, it's not a very busy airport - there's only around 30 flights a week, all heading to and from the United Kingdom.

3. Barra Airport, Scotland

Located in Barra Island in the Outer Hebrides, this is the only airport in the world where planes must negotiate a beach landing.

At high tide, the runway disappears into the sea. As a result, flight times are dictated by the ebb and flow of the tide.

4. Madeira Airport, Portugal

Part of the runway at Madeira Airport in Portugal is an extension built on concrete pillars over the sea. Known as the most dangerous airport in Europe, the runway has been extended several times since a plane slipped off the runway in 1977, killing 131 people.

And if the runway itself wasn't enough to deal with, planes landing here are susceptible to strong winds and turbulence due to the exposed nature of the airport.

5. Wellington Airport, New Zealand

Our very own Wellington Airport is often named on lists of the world's scariest airports - which domestic travellers can certainly confirm.

The Telegraph newspaper described a number of conditions that contributed to the airport's scare-factor.

"Conditions here are exceptionally difficult owing to the short runway, a tricky approach through hilly landscape and frighteningly strong crosswinds that can make for a terrifyingly turbulent landing."

- nzherald.co.nz

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