Skip to comments.Readers Weigh in on World's Scariest Airports
Posted on 08/10/2010 9:55:21 AM PDT by smokingfrog
Our recent report on the world's scariest airports sure got you talking! While many of you agreed with our top 10 choices, there were lots of frightening airports you thought should have been included on the list. Check out these hair-raising reader alternatives that will have you clutching the armrest!
Princess Juliana International Airport is at the top of helenor's list, who writes, "One comes in just over a beach and heads toward a water landing at the end of the runway. 'Interesting' is a good way to describe it." Upon approach, planes pass over a public beach, and it's hard to say who should be more afraid--airplane passengers, or innocent beachgoers.
The Gustaf III airport in St. Barthelemy ranks high on a number of readers' lists. "The plane has to drop immediately after flying a few feet above a mountain and road," says jaylkay, and "the pilot must make an immediate drop to hit the runway, which is short and ends in the ocean." The aptly-named whitekunckle agrees, saying, "It is like coming off a ski jump." If you're a true adventure-seeker, you may want to book your next flight here since, as Cotatikid says, "Most St. Barts flights connect with St. Marten/Maarten for a real thrill ride at both ends."
The 49th state has more than its share of scary airports, according to readers. Ketchikan International Airport, located on Gravina Island, made an impact on tygar: "The ocean is just feet from the side and each end, and the mountain is very close to the runway with only the terminal between them. It rains 150 to 190 inches a year and it blows the rain sideways most of the time ... On top of all that, the runway is very very short and the pilot has to really reverse hard and hit the breaks to keep from running off the runway. [Plus], if you do go in the water, hypothermia will kill you in a matter of minutes."
Allakaket Airport left an impression on SailGirl, who went there in the 1990s. "In winter, you landed on the frozen river. We went there in early November [and] flew along with a bush pilot delivering mail ... The river wasn't wide, and the straight section not very long so it was a good thing we were in a little single-engine Piper ... Don't know if they still do this, now that they have a new airport, but it was quite a thrill."
Even Juneau International Airport makes several readers' lists. "Juneau has a relatively short runway," says rpmschevy, "and has to have a sharp right hand turn, or risk running into a glacier. You go through mountains on the ascent, and the winds buffeted the airplane." Breathtaking landings are par for the course in Alaska. JNUGirl says that flying is "pretty much the only way to get around in our state, and certainly not for the faint of heart, which is why if you get an Alaska Airlines pilot you know you are getting a good one!"
Although the notorious Kai Tak airport is now closed, it was once among the world's most electrifying runways. Reader cho10 writes, "A memento of the past was Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong with its scary 90 degree left turn to land." The airport's location in the midst of the city provided some terrifying moments, as 4whlr recounts: "Dropping very steeply, seemingly only meters above the roofs of surrounding skyscrapers onto a short runway was an experience I won't forget." And thomas7331 remembers one particularly frightening touchdown: "One night, arriving during a monsoon, the 747 was being tossed by the winds right up to the end. Just as the wheels touched the runway, a gust of wind hit the plane and the whole plane skidded sideways on the runway. The plane shook and some of the luggage bins came open, but we came to a safe stop. I never looked forward to landing at that airport."
Closer to home, the San Diego International Airport's proximity to office buildings gives many of our readers pause. JCinDC sums it up by saying that "big planes need to drop down quickly between office buildings from the Old Town approach to land on a white knuckle short swatch of runway conjoined by Harbor and Shelter Islands. I can recall many a descent where I could actually see into my office before landing incredibly hard with a thump and a bounce. Then the brakes are slammed on and the jet pivots at ridiculous speeds to the terminal."
Tenzing Hillary Airport in Nepal, named after the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, is a challenge in and of itself, according to mikeact. "Lukla Airport ... on the way up to the Everest National Park takes a lot of beating ... landing uphill to be greeted by a stone wall. Takeoff is even more exciting, rushing downhill." Reader rbyrne3 agrees, saying that "Although [it's] not an international airport, flying in or out of Lukla in Nepal is an amazing experience ... Only twin otter planes land there and at the top there is still the wreckage of a plane that did not stop quick enough." If you're an intrepid traveler looking to conquer the highest mountain in the world, your adventure will begin before you even step off the plane.
Saba, Netherlands Antilles
The Caribbean island of Saba makes the lists of several readers. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport "is like landing on an aircraft carrier," says iroman71. And one2fish says "the runway requires a sharp turn just before approach and is said to be one of the shortest runways in the world ... plus it's carved out of the side of a mountain ... Thanks, but I'll take the ferry across, myself!" And while landings may seem treacherous, leaving the isle is just as frightening, according to fbutler203, who writes, "Takeoff depends on getting airborne as the runway ends at the drop-off into the ocean, unless the plane is not full."
What's the scariest airport experience you've ever had? We focused on takeoffs and landings, but there are many more criteria out there. Dubai International Airport is a pretty frightening experience, says SheGoes, who had "white knuckles on my wallet! So much shopping, such high prices. Such a long layover. Easy to find one's way around, though." Leave us a message about your worst airport in the comments section below!
Kai Tak in Hong Kong was amazing - just as this guy describes. Another is Medellin, Colombia between the mountains.
Gibraltar Airport. Pinched in by the Mediterranean on its eastern flank and the Bay of Algeciras on its western side, the airport's truncated runway stretches just 1828 metres and requires pinpoint precision
Oooh. A public beach. What BS! So if it was just a restricted strip of sand that would make landings there easier?
I’ve been in and out of Princess Juliana many times and never found it scary.
In fact, the main attraction to the small beach mentioned that the planes fly over is jsut that - that the planes fly over so low.
I think I have been through Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport a hundred or more times - I never will forget looking in people’s apartments and seeing a family watching television on the approach to the runway. A few of those little bottles of vodka always helped me get through the experience.
Guatemala City took the cake for me, but that was in the 70s. There was a burned airplane just to the side of the runway. One of those drop into a valley things.
The northern approach to Reagan National, in D.C., is usually a little exciting. The plane has to make several reverse-S turns as it navigates down the Potomac, trying to avoid flying over any notable landmarks. As you bank by the Pentagon, one hopes no automated surface-to-air missile takes the plane out.
To me the scariest one I’ve ever been on is one whose name I don’t even know.
It was a flight from Elmira NY to Cleeland years ago. It was supposed to be direct, but minutes after take off we mad an “unscheduled” landing at some little airport int he finger lakes region.
Apparently this was actually planned.
The terminal consisted of a small cement block building about the size of a modern gas station.
We were flying on a full sized jet (727?).
The landing was unexpected but fine. But the takeoff...
The pilot made his turn onto the runway as far back as he could. I’d stay the tail was hanging over grass. He gunned it and held the breaks for much longer than usual, and used every inch of pavement on the runway.
I couldnt’ believe they landed a commercial plane there.
I always heard the airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras is the most dangerous.
(Andover-Aeroflex in NW NJ)
PROPS AND ROTORS"
Words to live by.
And the first combat (corkscrew) landing I experienced when I arrived for the first time.
Now, those descents lull me and I just relax. And the airport is a bustling, thriving place with more and more flights being added and lots of shops and restaurants.
Exactly... and all the people doing their Tai Kwon Do routines on the roofs.
Most any airport can be spooky when weather threatens. I can recall taking off from Taipae in sunshine as the black wall of a major typhoon approached and leaving Tinker AFB with two tornados visible in the distance.
We have flown in and out of airports in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Brazil, Canada, Spain, England, Colorado, Calif., Okla., Florida, Va., Iowa, Texas, etc.
The most efficient one I found was a small airport in Colorado Springs. The worst one of all? TULSA! They are HORRIBLE! I hate that airport! Their TSA guys are IDIOTS, every time!
The flight was to the island of Roatan, where the DC-3 landed on the beach. It was beautiful, but a tad too primitive for my tastes.
John / Billybob
Kai Tak in Hong Kong was amazing - just as this guy describes. Another is Medellin, Colombia between the mountains
I think I have been through Hong Kongs Kai Tak airport a hundred or more times - I never will forget looking in peoples apartments and seeing a family watching television on the approach to the runway. A few of those little bottles of vodka always helped me get through the experience.
I was 22 years old on my first trip to Hong Kong for work. Our flight was delayed ~6hrs so we hit the bar at Tom Bradley Terminal in LAX to wait. We were young and famously drunk when we boarded in LAX. We continued to drink the first 4-5 hrs on the flight. This was when you could still smoke in flight.
I passed out and slept the rest of the flight.
I DID however wake up in the middle of the 90 deg turn.
I VERY clearly remember waking up, face against the window, opening my eyes, and looking out and DOWN a little old lady hanging laundry on the rooftop. She was looking at me too. This being my first trip to HK I had no idea of the approach and how low it was. I assumed that since the plane was on its side and we were so close to the buildings that we were crashing. I screamed like a little girl.
I never lived that down.
I hate Miami airport with a passion, I don’t care if it costs more, I always fly into Fort Lauderdale.
I did the “Kai Tak Heart Attack” twice.The first time I didn’t have the faintest idea what I was in for.For a minute or so I actually thought we were going down.The sharp turns...the likes of which I had never experienced before...plus looking out the window and being able to *see into* the windows of apartments made me truly believe we were gonna crash.The second time I knew what to expect but it was still darn scary.
“The northern approach to Reagan National, in D.C., is usually a little exciting.”
I’ve heard that former carrier pilots enjoy flying that approach!
Same here...except for the screaming.I was literally too scared (and too stunned) to scream out loud.But I *did* scream inside!
Someone told me once about an airport with a runway on the edge of a cliff above the sea. To land, the planes fly straight at the cliff and the constant updraft is such that it pushes up the plane at the last few seconds and positions it for a perfect landing. If you don’t do this, the updraft will make you come in too high and not have enough runway. I’ve forgotten the name but it seems it was somewhere near Africa.
I've ridden in as a passenger many times. It is interesting.
Another TACA landing at Teguc!
The runway at Banner Elk, NC scares the crap out of a lot of pilots...
Flying into Bali was interesting if for no other reason than to view the tail of a Garuda flight that didn't make it sticking out of the water near the shore.
Ditto. Worst one I've been in.
I flew from Lagos International in Nigeria to Warri Airport in Warri, Nigeria.
The law in Nigeria, after Babangida nationalized the oil rigs, was that 80 percent of all operations in Nigeria had to be STAFFED by Nigerians. That included aircraft. We were on final approach in a commuter turboprop into Warri. The pilot actually doing the flying was a Nigerian.
As we came in for a landing, you could clearly hear the British pilot screaming at the Nigerian pilot to pull up.
We hit the runway harder than I’ve ever experienced. My back and ass hurt for days after that.
We were going too fast and ran off the runway, but swerved in time to avoid crashing through the fence at the end (which was cinderblock). They let us out of the plane, and we all walked, with our luggage, back to the terminal as if that were a normal day at the airport.
Another place I hate flying into is Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. You fly this little CASA’s out of the air station in Miami, which is only 90 miles from Cuba. Nobody told us that to get to Gitmo, you couldn’t just fly over Cuba. It took nearly four hours to fly all the way around Cuba and into the naval base there.
My worst airport is Atlanta. Best? Tampa airport.
I’ve flown into St. Maarten. Wasn’t scary at all.
We flew to Orlando. Had the cutest steward, we still try to talk in his accent. He was a doll.
I spoke almost ZERO Portuguese, but a man in the seat next to me explained what was going on. When we got to Sao Paolo, I found someone who worked there, who spoke some English, and the airport ticket booths were nearly empty, I got taxi voucher for hotel, and free hotel for the night, because next flight out was the next day.
I thought the people in the Sao Paolo airport who took care of my needs were GREAT. It was kinda scary being a woman alone in a city of 23K people. My friends were on a different flight from Salvador to Sao Paolo and by the time they arrived at S P I had my taxi voucher and hotel reservation in hand. It was an experience! But it ended well.
I've only flown into Kai Tak twice, the first time was surreal, just as you have described it. The second time I knew what to expect and thought it was kinda cool to look up, out of the planes window, and realize that we were flying lower than the surrounding buildings, and that the buildings below us got progressively shorter as we got closer to the runway.
I've been into Teguch twice as well. There is a bar at the approach end of the airport with tables on the roof. From there you can count the rivets on the planes as they come in to land.
If you have the time, this is the story of an interesting landing. http://www.hmhfp.info/SG_09E.html
It is about 12 minutes. The field itself is probably not all that scary, but some things depend upon other conditions - say weather and equipment.
The cliff's at the departure end of the runway (usually), though. Those four hundred feet of instant altitude saved more than a few B-52D crews back in the day.
Dunno. I flew in to Liberty Int’l in New Jersey one day at 3am. What a shite hole. It was pretty scary after spending a couple of hours at O’Hare.
And it's bisected by the only highway between the colony and the mainland.
That’s sort of like what he was describing but it seems as though he was talking about a civilian airport. I’ll see if I can remember who it was and check, though I think it was a group of people talking on board a flight somewhere.
I can see how flying into Baghdad Intl Airport might result in a significant “pucker factor.” Of course, there’s nothing you can do about it, so you might as well kick back and enjoy the adrenaline rush.
Is that larger aircraft a Prowler?