Fear of flying is considered by most psychologists one of the most complex psychological issues and because of the intense fear some people experience even at the thought of flying, they are condemned to never see many beautiful places even though they would love to. According to various studies, this fear becomes even worse when other security concerns are involved, and this list of 25 nightmarish airports perfectly justifies the fear of flying, which might not be as irrational as members of psychology circles suggest it is.
Dammam King Fahd International Airport, Saudi Arabia
King Fahd International is the largest airport in the world in terms of landmass, sprawling over three hundred square miles of desert. The airport is so enormous that, believe it or not, it often makes it difficult for the pilots to predict with any accuracy where the airport begins and ends since from a distance it all looks like it blends in seamlessly with the surrounding desert.
Cleveland Hopkins International, USA
Technically there’s nothing wrong with the location or construction of this airport but the dangers in this case mainly have to do with the irresponsible staff working there. A controller working an overnight shift was once suspended for watching a DVD while he was supposed to be directing air traffic. And if that wasn’t bad enough for the airport’s reputation, a supervisor once complained about the controllers on night shifts routinely taking naps during breaks and playing electronic games when traffic was light.
Wellington International Airport, New Zealand
Landings in this airport can be really hazardous and how couldn’t they when all this airport has to offer is a single and very short runway that begins and ends in crystal blue waters. Despite being a very dangerous place to land a plane, its scenic, rare beauty makes it one of the most beautiful, as well as dangerous, airports in the world.
Los Angeles International, USA
According to Travel + Leisure, Los Angeles International is the venue for what the FAA calls an “ongoing intensive outreach program” to educate pilots, controllers, and vehicle operators on best practices, proper procedures, situational awareness, and other aspects of runway safety. Additionally, Los Angeles International has been ranked multiple times throughout the years as the most dangerous airport in the US.
Agatti Aerodrome, Lakshadweep, India
This airport is surrounded by nothing but the Indian Ocean which, of course, makes you wonder what will happen if something goes wrong during landing or if the pilot needs more space to take off. The 4,000-foot-long Agatti Aerodrome is so arbitrary and small that it literally looks like a piece of a larger runway that was lost at sea somehow.
Because of the danger the short runway presents, there have been many suggestions and proposals to extend it, but in the meantime, flights continue to operate normally since this airport is the only one in Lakshadweep, an Indian Union Territory consisting of thirty-six gorgeous exotic islands.
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Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, USA
We will admit that in this case we might be cheating a bit since this airport is nowhere near as dangerous as the rest on this list but something really macabre and bizarre happens there. If you ever find yourself taxiing along Runway 10 at Savannah/Hilton Head you may catch a glimpse of something so spooky that it will definitely give you the chills.
See, embedded in Runway 10’s tarmac you will find a pair of grave markers that belong to the previous owners of the land upon which the airport now sits, as to be buried there was their wish before they died.
Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Landing at this naturally beautiful airport and one of the most remote on the planet, can be either an amazing or horrific experience—unforgettable in any case. For the pilots, however, it is doubtless a bit of a nightmarish experience since the approach for landing there involves flying up a fjord while the threat of severe turbulence and wind shear makes things worse, even on the seemingly calmest days of the year.
Kansai International Airport, Japan
Kansai’s artificial island is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide, so large that it’s rumored that it is visible from space. From an engineering point of view the airport there is one of the most impressive in the world but unfortunately the frequent earthquakes, powerful cyclones, and unstable seabed make this engineering masterpiece one of the most dangerous airports as well.
Don Mueang International Airport, Thailand
This is a “deceiving” airport where, on a first look, you see nothing unusual about it since it appears just like every other midsize, safe airport in the world. However, if you pay closer attention you will notice the weirdest thing ever: right in the middle of the two runways someone had the brilliant idea to set an eighteen-hole golf course, a fact that makes this airport not only a dangerous place for golfers, but one of the most bizarre airports out there, too.
Paro Airport, Bhutan
The fact that only eight pilots out of thousands globally are qualified to land there should tell you the story about this Himalayan airport. However, if you’re not impressed by the aforementioned fact you might be impressed learning that Paro Airport is 1.5 miles above sea level and surrounded by sharp peaks of up to 18,000 feet, while the runway is just 6,500 feet long.
Lastly, it’s rumored that the passengers flying to this tiny airport, which is literally nestled among the steep mountains of the Himalayas, usually take anti-anxiety meds before the flight to steady their nerves.
Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong
This place was considered by many pilots as the planet’s scariest airport and for that reason it finally closed in 1998. The strong crosswinds and the surrounding mountains only added to the difficulties of landing there and at one time this destination was one of the most avoided for local travelers. They didn’t call it “the mother of all scary airports” for nothing.
Barra International Airport, Scotland
Barra International Airport is truly unique for being the only airport on the planet where scheduled flights use a beach as the runway. Yep, you read that right; the beach is set out with three runways making a triangle, marked by permanent wooden poles at their ends which almost always allows Twin Otters to land into the wind.
Congonhas Airport, Brazil
The dangerous and simultaneously odd thing about this airport is the fact that it is located only five miles from the city’s downtown. As every experienced traveler knows, the most populous and big cities in the world usually construct their airports several miles away from the city’s center for safety reasons but apparently the people of São Paulo didn’t get the memo. As a result, every landing at this airport becomes a challenge in terms of safety while the pilots need strong doses of alcohol after the flight to calm themselves down.
Gisborne Airport, New Zealand
It might sound like an overstatement to some but this might be the craziest and most strangely dangerous airport in the world. Why? See, the Palmerston North–Gisborne railway line cuts straight across the airport’s main runway. Yep, you read that correctly: the air traffic controllers must coordinate takeoffs and landings with train arrivals among other things and even though the rail line has recently closed because of storm damage, the airport is still open and functional but it only carries freight not people since 2001.
Lukla Airport, Nepal
This tiny airport in the town of Lukla, Nepal, is also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport, and was rated the most dangerous airport in the world in 2010 by the History Channel. It is located at an immense height of 2,900 meters, while its landing strip has a high mountain on one end and over a thousand meter drop on the other. Ideal for your landing, right?
Courchevel Altiport, France
Courchevel Altiport is one of the most dangerous airports in the world despite serving the rich who want to ski in the French Alps. Getting to the iconic ski resort of the same name requires navigating the formidable French Alps before making a hair-raising landing at Courchevel Airport. The runway is about 1,700 feet long, but the real surprise is the large hill toward the middle of the strip.
Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Ecuador
The Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport was the worst nightmare for pilots, even for the most experienced. To begin with, it was a high-altitude airport that lay right in the heart of Ecuador’s densely populated capital, a fact that dramatically increased the risk factors. Furthermore, the mountainous terrain, the many active volcanoes, and a valley prone to fog made landing there a mission impossible, while the icing on the cake was the horrible runway that was known for being notoriously bumpy. Fortunately, it finally closed and was replaced by the new Mariscal Sucre International Airport last year.
Toncontin International Airport, Honduras
The History Channel’s Most Extreme Airports ranked this airport as the second most dangerous airport in the world and for a good reason. Its runway is located in a valley surrounded by mountains and the way in is also the way out for the planes, which of course increases the risk for tragedy. Surprisingly, and despite all these extremely high-risk factors, planes as enormous as Boeing 757s land and take off from this airport daily.
Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
After taking a quick look this airport might look perfectly normal to you but if you take the time to look a little closer, you will notice a couple of unusual features about the international airport of Gibraltar. Undoubtedly, the most exceptional thing about this airport is that the main landing strip passes through the city’s main street. Yep, you guessed right. Every time an aircraft has to land or take off, the vehicles in the city have to stop for the train to pass . . . oops, for the plane to fly we meant.
Madeira Airport, Portugal
This small, international airport, which takes you to the beautiful island of Madeira, Portugal, has a very short runway even though its size was doubled back in 2003. Additionally, the ocean surrounds it on one side and high, rough mountains on the other. It is widely considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world and after looking at a picture of it we’re sure you can immediately understand why.
Princess Juliana International Airport, Saint Martin
There wouldn’t be much of an issue if this airport was in an isolated location but Princess Juliana International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean. To land at Princess Juliana, pilots have to fly over a little part of the beach, cross over the fence, pass over the road, and then, finally, land on the runway, which makes it a candidate for the title of the most dangerous airport in the world.
Ice Runway, Antarctica
Ice Runway is one of three major airstrips used to haul supplies and researchers to Antarctica’s McMurdo Station. It was developed to allow Boeing 757s to bring passengers there, freeing up space on incoming C17s for greater cargo capacity. As you can probably imagine by now the real dangers with this airport have more to do with the extreme weather conditions, rather than the design or position of the airport itself.
Gustaf III Airport, Saint Barthélemy
This airport has an impossible-to-believe short runway that usually accommodates small aircraft carrying fewer than twenty passengers. The runway is at the base of a slope that ends on the beach. Additionally, planes exercise caution during the approach because of the hilltop traffic, while taking off literally occurs over the heads of all the people who are sunbathing on the sand or swimming in the water.
Qamdo Bamda Airport, Tibet
Tibet is located in the world’s highest mountains, the Himalayas, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Qamdo Bamda Airport is one of the world’s highest, perched more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Another extraordinary and extreme feature of this airport is its 3.5-mile-long runway, which is considered to be the longest in the world.
The lower concentration of oxygen at such altitude may cause some discomfort to newcomers and it also lowers the aircraft engines’ performance, making landing there a nightmarish experience for everyone on the plane.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba Island
To get to this naturally beautiful Caribbean island can be quite an experience, since this airport is really nothing more than a 1,300-foot-long runway. Surrounded by high cliffs, this dangerously short runway, which would make an amazing spot for BMX or skateboard competitions, comes dangerously close to a steep slope that leads directly to the ocean. As one can easily understand large planes aren’t landing there for a reason, but the small runway is difficult even for Cessnas’ aircraft and others.