That moment when the landing gear begins to rumble, the pilot signals for the cabin crew to strap in, and the fuselage of the plane begins to drop between the clouds towards the glowing runways in the distance, is arguably one of the most nerve-wracking of flying overall. But when that runway is perched high betwixt precipitous mountains, nestled just metres away from a rolling ocean, or strewn out across a busy roadway, then it's a whole different ball game and even the most experienced travelers will find themselves perched on the edge of their seats!
Check out this list of the world's most nail-biting, hair-raising, heart-thumping and crazy airport runways, which range from soaring strips on the edge of Mount Everest, to terrifying tarmac on the Caribbean isles. Sometimes, getting there is part of the adventure. Hopper did some research to find the world's craziest airport runways, and you may be surprised by where they are!
Travelers eager to hit the whopping 600 kilometers of powdery pistes in the Three Valleys ski area this year may just have to endure one of the most nail-biting descents on the planet before they can don their salopettes, because it's the soaring runways of Courchevel Airport that offer one of the gateways to the region. With a daunting uphill landing strip, under 600 metres in horizontal length and precipitous alpine mountains looming on all sides, it's hardly surprising that this one was the setting for the first action-packed scenes of the James Bond film, Goldeneye!
Home to arguably the most hair-raising low-altitude approach on the planet, the Princess Juliana International Airport of St Maarten draws huge crowds of onlookers to the sands of Maho Beach each day, all eager to witness the colossal fuselages of Boeing 747s and Airbus A330-200s skim just above the waters of the Caribbean Sea before touching down on the tarmac strips of runway 10. And while nerve-wracking in the extreme, passengers have plenty of opportunities to recover from the experience after landing, while lazing between the pearly white beaches of Cupecoy and pretty little Philipsburg!
Currently only a handful of pilots on the planet are qualified to land at the Paro Airport of Bhutan, so challenging is the descent to the runways from between the soaring, 5,000-metre-high peaks of the Himalayas that loom all around. However, with nearly 200,000 passengers passing through the departure lounges and arrival halls of this one each year, it looks as though the draws of the mysterious Dzong monasteries of Taktsang and Rinpung, and the dramatic vistas of the Jigme Dorji National Park, are simply too tempting to stop people coming altogether!
The runway of Gibraltar Airport is perhaps equally as scary for folk on the ground as it is for folk in the sky, because the two kilometer strip of tarmac cuts its way right across the busy lanes of Winston Churchill Avenue—the only access road connecting mainland Spain with the craggy rocks of the British enclave out at sea. That means pedestrians are often asked to wait while huge Airbuses descend from the skies, just managing to lift above the Mediterranean waters and scoot down between the cars and crowds of onlookers below.
Appropriately named after the daring duo who first scaled the summit of soaring Mount Everest back in 1953, this high-perched airport clings to the precipitous ridges of the Nepalese Himalayas more than 2,800 meters above sea level. It's famed for its unforgiving approach, shrouded by abrupt ridges on the one side and beset by steep drops on the other, making it impossible for pilots to fly around and give the landing a second try if it doesn't go quite right the first time!