Over the course of human history, there has been a multitude of technological advancements that have helped to improve our way of life, and in the past 100 years especially, we have seen major technological leaps in things like transportation. At one point in time, human beings used horses and makeshift rafts to travel relatively short distances, but when we built steam-powered ships and trains, we were able to travel between countries and continents, but the travel times were ridiculous. Everything changed in 1903 though, when the Wright brothers flew the first airplane because most people now use air travel as their preferred mode of travel, which is not all that surprising considering how relatively short travel times are, and how safe the planes are.
It does not matter how big a plane is, and it does not matter what it is carrying, whether it be people, supplies, or packages, because every single one of those planes needs to land at an airport, all of which have some kind of landing strip known as a runway. In most cases, a runway is made using asphalt or concrete, or some combination of both, but there are several runways around the world that are covered in things like grass, gravel, sand, and ice. It is true that a runway's composition matters when it comes to safety, but what also matters is its location, length, and positioning, and there are a couple of runways out there that would give passengers anxiety because of some combination of these factors, and this list will identify 20 of those runways.
20 Toncontin International Airport
Honduras may have its problems, but they have not kept people from visiting the country, and if you were to be one of those visitors, then you will likely be landing in Toncontin International Airport. This airport can be found 4 miles from the center of the country's largest city, and the fact that Boeing 757's are allowed to land and takeoff from it is quite astounding, especially given the additional surrounding geography. The runway is located in the middle of a valley that is surrounded by mountains, and in order to land properly, planes need to make a quick 45 degree turn into the valley, which is often subjected to strong winds.
19 Narsarsuaq Airport
It is true that much of Greenland is covered in ice and snow, but that does not mean that it is not a beautiful place, but because of its geography, there are only 2 airports capable of servicing large planes. Narsarsuaq Airport is one of them, and it can be found near the southern tip of the country, and aside from the runway being relatively short, it is difficult to get to. In order to reach the runway, pilots need to fly up a fjord, which is a narrow shoreline lined with steep cliffs and sides, and this fjord is known for its wind gusts and turbulence.
18 Madeira Airport
Madeira is an archipelago that is officially recognized as an autonomous region of Portugal, and even though it is home to less than 300,000 people, it possesses one of the world's more dangerous runways. This runway is part of Madeira Airport, and it is dangerous because of the relatively thin landing strip, which is bordered by mountains on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Believe it or not, the runway used to be even thinner, but in 2003, the government decided to extend it, which is why there are now over 100 columns supporting a good chunk of it.
17 Gibraltar International Airport
Gibraltar may be located off the coast of Spain, but it is actually recognized as a British territory, and although less than 35,000 people live there, it is still home to a truly outrageous airport that mainly carries people to and from Spain and England. The airport's runway possesses some really crazy features, as a good chunk of it is bordered by water, but the truly surprising part about it is the fact that it crosses the territory's main street. When a plane needs to land or take off, drivers have to stop at a red light and wait for the massive planes to go by.
16 Barra International Airport
As this list has already proven, the world is home to some very unique airports, and believe it or not, Scotland's Barra International Airport is near the top of the list in terms of its layout. This airport can be found on an island in northern Scotland, and as of right now, it is the only airport in the world that uses a beach for its runways, which are meant to accommodate only small planes. Seeing as this airport is on a beach, it means that it has to deal with high tide every day, and this naturally occurring event leads to parts of all 3 runways becoming temporarily submerged under water.
15 Gustaf III Airport
You can find many French territories in the Caribbean, including Saint-Barthelemy, which is the epitome of a tropical destination, and in order to get there, you will need to land at Gustaf III Airport. This airport has an insanely small runway, one which is located on a slope that ends at a beach, meaning that there is chance that the plane could end up in the water. Due to the size of the runway, the only planes that are allowed to land here are those that can carry a maximum of 20 people, which is smart seeing as the planes either need to fly over a crowded beach, or over a hill lined with traffic.
14 Agatti Aerodrome
People love the idea of visiting tropical and exotic locations, mainly because of the great temperatures and amazing scenery that they offer, and India has a good 3 dozen exotic islands for people to visit. These islands are located in the territory of Lakshadweep, but in order to reach these islands, tourists will have to land at the Agatti Aerodrome, which looks like a beautiful island in its own right. The problem with this runway though is the fact that it is completely surrounded by the Indian Ocean, which would be somewhat more acceptable if the runway was not just 4,000-feet-long.
13 Qamdo Bam Airport
Tibet is essentially surrounded by the Himalayas, meaning that the entire region is fairy mountainous, and as you might have guessed, someone had the smart idea to build an airport in the region. Qambo Bam Airport is roughly 14,000 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest airports in the world, but at 3.5-miles-long, it is also home to one of the world's longest runways. From a structural perspective, the runway is fine, but getting there is problematic, and that would be because of the altitude, which causes plane engines to falter a bit due to the low air pressure.
12 Ice Runway
Antarctica is incredibly cold and comes with its fair share of harsh weather, but that has not stopped a small number of people from living there, and as sparsely populated as the continent is, it still has 3 runways. All 3 are part of the US Antarctic Program, and they are each used to deliver supplies to researchers, but there is one that is used more than the others, and it is known as the Ice Runway. This runway is located near McMurdo Station, and it is capable of accommodating Boeing 757's, as well as C17 cargo planes, and aside from the entire runway being covered in ice, the entire area is frequently subjected to extreme weather.
11 Princess Juliana International Airport
Most of the runways in this article found themselves on this list because of how difficult and dangerous they are to land on, but when it comes to the runways of Princess Juliana International Airport, it is not the passengers that need to be worried. The airport is on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, and it is located directly across the street from Maho Beach, which makes the landing process very stressful for pilots. The reason for this is quite simple, as the runway requires pilots to land while performing an extremely low-altitude flyover, one that sees the plane pass directly over the public beach, a fence, and a road.
10 Paro Airport
Bhutan is a relatively small country in South Asia, and although it is small and completely landlocked, it still has multiple airports, including Paro Airport, which is incredibly difficult and dangerous to get to. This airport is just 1.5 miles above sea level, which sounds impressive at first, until you realize that the entire airport is surrounded by peaks, the largest of which is roughly 18,000 feet high. To give you an idea of how difficult it is to get onto this runway, less than 10 pilots in the world have the credentials to make this landing, and even they have difficulty sometimes.
9 Gisborne Airport
Earlier we talked about New Zealand's Wellington International Airport, but believe it or not, it is not the only airport in the country with a scary runway, in ,fact Gisborne Airport is even scarier. This airport can be found on the country's North Island, and it is one of the only airports in the world that has an active railway line running across its runway. Unlike other airports, air traffic controllers need to coordinate passing trains with airplane takeoffs and landings, and as a passenger, it would be a really scary sight to look out of your plane's window to see a moving train in your plane's path.
8 Courchevel Altiport
Millions of people visit France on an annual basis, and although many of those tourists end up in Paris, there is still a segment of the population that chooses to visit the country's luxury ski resorts in the French Alps. One of the ways to get to these resorts is to take a small plane to Courchevel Altiport, which is home to a truly dangerous runway that is only 1,700 feet long. This runway is located on a mountaintop, and aside from pilots having to deal with ice, fog, snow, and low clouds, they have to deal with a relatively large natural hill that can be found in the middle of the runway itself.
7 Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport
It is pretty safe to assume that most people reading this, have never heard of Saba, which is a small island in the Caribbean that still belongs to the Netherlands, and although you can reach the island via boat, you can also use Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport. The word 'airport' is being used very loosely here, as the entire venue is essentially made up of a single runway, a runway that is just 1,300-feet-long. Aside from it being incredibly short, this runway is awfully close to several cliffs, and it is located next to a slope that leads straight into the ocean, which is why only small planes can use it.
6 Tenzing-Hillary Airport
Nepal is home to many of the world's tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, which explains why so many thrill seekers visit the country, but it is also home to the world's most bizarre runway. The runway in question belongs to Tenzing-Hillary Airport, and it only accommodates small planes, and for good reason, because it has an obscenely small runway that is located on the cliff of a mountain that has a 9,334-foot-drop. The only way to reach this runway safely, is to fly there during daylight hours, and even then, planes will only be able to land as long as the weather is pristine.
5 Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport
Most of the airport runways on this list are located outside of North America, but there are indeed several runways on the continent that induce some form of anxiety amongst passengers, and Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport is one of them. This airport is located in South Carolina, and for the most part, its runways are fine, but runway 10 sports a unique feature that is a tad spooky. The airport's land used to belong to a couple, and it was their wish to be buried on that land, which is why there are 2 grave markers on the tarmac, which can be considered to be a bad omen.
4 Kansai International Airport
Japan has a long and rich history, as well as an amazing culture, which is why so many people visit it every single year, and if you plan on starting your trip in or around Osaka, then you will probably be landing at Kansai International Airport. This airport was built on top of an artificial island, and although the entire structure is well built, the fact that it is located in the middle of the water has led to several issues. The entire airport is susceptible to cyclones, earthquakes, and storm surges, all of which damage the runway, and if that were not bad enough, the entire island is slowly sinking due to the airport's weight.
3 Wellington International Airport
If you are a fan of the The Lord of the Rings movies, then visiting New Zealand definitely needs to be on your bucket list, but the country offers a lot more than just movie scenery. If you were to visit New Zealand, there is a good chance that you will end up landing at Wellington International Airport, which is actually one of the world's more visually appealing airports. As great as the scenery is though, approaching the airport's runway is bound to give some people anxiety, as the short runway is bordered by water on both sides, and wind gusts sometimes cause planes to go slightly off course.
2 Congonhas Airport
Brazil is a big country with a rich culture, so it makes sense that it attracts a lot of tourists every year, so it is not surprising that the country has multiple airports, including the Congonhas Airport in Sao Paulo. Now, most airports are built a relatively safe distance from a city's downtown area, for obvious safety reasons, but when it comes to this airport, that logic was thrown straight out the window. The airport has multiple runways, all of which are difficult to land on, and that would be because pilots need to make sure to avoid large metropolitan buildings.
1 Don Mueang International Airport
For the most part, the game of golf provides very little action, which is why it can be considered more of a popular niche sport, and aside from endorsement deals, airports and golf do not really come together all that often. In Thailand though, these two things have joined forces, and it is all thanks to Don Mueang International Airport, which is the oldest operating airport in Asia. This airport comes equipped with 2 runways, but between them, there is a complete 18-hole golf course, so if anything were to go wrong, trying to get a hole in one would be the least of a person's worries.
References: destinationtips.com, list25.com, interestingengineering.com