Criminal Justice Degrees Guide

10 Most Dangerous Airports in the World

Some of the most-visited and beautiful places in the world just so happen to have the most dangerous airports. From mountain ranges and oceans to less than half a mile runways, pilots around the world have to go to great lengths to avoid the natural and unnatural obstructions surrounding these busy airports. Here are the 10 most dangerous airports in the world:

  1. Kai Tak Airport: Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong may no longer exist, but it will forever be remembered as one of the most dangerous airports for its technically challenging landings and low-flying routes through the city. Kai Tak Airport was surrounded by skyscrapers and mountains, which made it extra difficult for pilots to maneuver towards the airport’s only runway into Victoria Harbour. Even though it was a challenging airport to fly in and out of, Kai Tak had a relatively small number of accidents, but was closed in 1998 and replaced by the new Hong Kong International Airport nearby.
  2. Princess Juliana International Airport: The famous Princess Juliana International Airport, also known as Saint Maarten International Airport, is located on the Dutch side of Saint Martin Island. The airport is located within walking distance to Maho Beach, where planespotters and tourists love to gaze up at jet airliners as they descend 50 feet above them. Although a wonderful sight to see, the Princess Juliana International Airport is dangerously close to the beach, which makes for a difficult approach. The short runway on water can also cause problems in pilots’ altitude perception, as well as the high terrain that can be troublesome on departure.
  3. Tenzing-Hillary Airport: Tenzing-Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, is located in Khumbu, Solukhumbu district in eastern Nepal. This tiny airport serves those who are looking to climb Mount Everest, or make the short flight from Lukla to Kathmandu. Tenzing-Hillary Airport may be a highly traveled airport, but landing and departing here is no easy task. The high altitude, thin air and mountainous terrain make for very difficult landings. Pilots also have to battle constantly changing weather, accompanied by high winds and cloud cover. Another major factor of airline accidents here is the short, sloping runway that’s challenging to land on.
  4. Gustaf III Airport: The Gustaf III Airport in St. Jean is located on the Caribbean island of Saint Barthelemy, and has a reputation of being a very dangerous airport. The airport’s short, sloping runway ends directly on the beach and is difficult to maneuver to because of a dangerously low descent over sunbathers and a steep hilltop. There have been several close-calls at the Gustaf III Airport and some serious accidents along the notorious runway.
  5. Madeira Airport: Madeira Airport, located in Santa Cruz, Madeira in Portugal, is known for its beautiful, but dangerous island location. Madeira Airport’s infamous runway stands between the ocean and mountains, jutting out over the water and held up by columns. Even the best pilots have had difficulty making smooth landings here with the unexpected wind conditions and single approach to the runway. After a tragic crash landing in 1977, the mere 1,600-meter runway was extended by 200 meters, and eventually doubled in size by 2000.
  6. Santos Dumont Airport: Santos Dumont Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, may be one of the busiest airports in the world, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. One look at the Santos Dumont’s short runway that’s surrounded by water and you’ll know why it’s on the list. This island airport has one of the most difficult approaches in the world, which has played a major role in the number of major accidents that have happened here. There have been several cases of pilots overrunning the runway, crashing into nearby mountains and colliding with other planes in air.
  7. Eagle County Airport: Eagle County Airport near Vail, Colorado, may be the second busiest airport in Colorado, but it’s also one of the most dangerous places to land and depart. Every winter, skiers fly in and out of Eagle County Airport because of its proximity to Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts. Eagle County’s high altitude, mountainous terrain and inclement weather make it a challenge for pilots to safely land and depart on the single runway.
  8. Toncontin International Airport: Toncontin International Airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, is one of the most dangerous airports in the world. The nearby mountains and short runway have made landings and takeoffs technically challenging. The elevated, asphalt runway used to be only 1,863 meters long and was difficult to see because of a hillside that stood before the threshold. In 2007, the hillside was partially removed and the runway was extended two years later. Despite some of the structural improvements, Toncontin has continued to experience deadly crashes, such as the one on Feb. 14, 2011, where a 14-passenger plane crashed on approach about 20 km from the airport.
  9. San Diego International Airport: San Diego International Airport in San Diego, California, may be the busiest single-runway airport in the United States, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The airports’ only runway is located at the base of a hill where several obstructions block pilots’ views of the ground. Visibility is often hindered during strong Santa Ana wind conditions, therefore, causing landings and takeoffs to go east to west. High terrain and weight limits can also cause flight risks and traffic problems in the air and on the ground.
  10. Courchevel Airport: Courchevel Airport in Courchevel, France, serves the ski resort located in the French Alps. This vacationer’s airport also happens to be one of the most dangerous airports because of the altitude, high terrain and extremely short and sloping runway that’s only 525 meters long. Pilots often have a hard time navigating to and from Courchevel Airport because of the deep valleys and high elevation. Only specially certified pilots are even allowed to fly into Courchevel Airport, and, unlike most airports, there is no go-around procedure for landings because of a very steep hill that has seen some accidents in the past.