Whether they fly private or commercial airlines, pilots are obligated to fly the passengers wherever they need to go. Though given how big the world is, this can mean a wide number of places. From the mundane to the exotic, a pilot’s daily routine not only comes with certain perks but also a few challenges. However, this largely depends on where they’re flying to. For instance, a pilot would probably be more inclined to fly a plane to someplace that they would like to visit themselves as opposed to somewhere that’s less inviting. Then there’s also the issue of safety, as some places in the world are less safe to fly to than others.
In fact, there are locations that are so dangerous that they require special training on the pilot’s part to be able to fly there, let alone land. As a result, only the bravest and most skilled pilots usually fly to these places. So more often than not, a pilot will either choose to fly an airline that takes them to a place that they like personally or have the least difficulty flying to. While it all certainly depends on the pilot’s preferences, the places discussed in this article are universally considered to be either the most dangerous to fly to or the most preferred at best.
25 Barra - Landing on a Beach
Up in the Hebrides archipelago, which is located on the northwestern coast of Scotland, there is one island called Barra. On it, there is a vast stretch of beach which happens to be the location of the island’s only airport. So as one might imagine, the pilot for an incoming plane not only has to deal with landing on rough sand but also consider the risk of the tide coming in. According to Travel + Leisure, “The roughness of the landings is determined by how the tide goes out to sea” which could completely cover the area, making it even more difficult.
24 Kai Tak - Over Skyscrapers and Mountains
This place no longer exists as an airport and there’s a good reason for it. Located in Hong Kong, China, it consisted of a long runway that jutted out into the bay area of the city (as the above picture clearly shows). Since there was only one runway, the air traffic was pretty busy at this place which was also hindered by environmental factors such as “Skyscrapers and jagged mountains” Travel + Leisure states. So planes would be literally flying inches away from six-story buildings while also navigating through the various mountains that lie to the north of the bay.
23 Tioman Island - Sleeping Dragon
Of the various volcanic islands in the country of Malaysia, this one is considered to be the largest. Described as a “Giant sleeping dragon,” Travel + Leisure says, it has made many pilots nervous when flying to this place despite the island not having an active volcano. In actuality, this description ties into the island’s mythology as it was believed to have been a powerful dragon that fell into a deep sleep after being turned to stone which then became the island itself. It’s also a way of describing the island’s “Emerald ridges and misty plumes” according to Travel + Leisure.
22 JFK International - Too Much Traffic
Named after one of America’s former leaders, it was established in the 1960s on the Brooklyn side of New York City facing toward the Jamaica Bay (not to be confused with the bay of the actual country of the same name). Ironically created to reduce the amount of noise that was complained about by various residents, this airport now stands near two other airports. Namely, “LaGuardia and Newark” as stated by Travel + Leisure. So the air traffic in this area is pretty intense, forcing pilots to navigate around the other planes coming and going from the other airports in turn.
21 St. Maarten - Big Planes in a Small Space
On the island of St. Maarten that lies within the Caribbean, there is one airport known as Princess Juliana International. Named after a former queen of the Netherlands, who hadn’t been coronated at the time of the airport’s establishment, this place is infamous among commercial airliners for one thing: having too small of a runway. Measuring at 7,152 feet, Travel + Leisure states, it’s good for small planes but not for the bigger ones. But because this airport is pretty busy, there are a lot of big planes that come and go on this small runway next to a beach.
20 Salzburg - Just a Shortcut
Packed with a lot of history, this city is famous for a number of reasons. Not only was it the place where the famous composer Mozart was born, but also the city’s airport is known for providing a flight that serves as an alternative route to the Central Eastern Alps (aka the Central Austrian Alps). As a result, this airport has become a popular place for skiers to go and hitch a ride up to the resorts. But for the pilots, it’s a flight that is considerably challenging due to mountainous terrain in the southern area according to The Telegraph.
19 Chambéry - It’s Tricky
On the French side of the Alps, this airport allows one to access them pretty easily. However, the flight itself is referred to as a Category C which means that special preparations are necessary to fly this route. The main factors for why this is the case have to not only do with the mountainous terrain, but also the method of landing the plane. What pilots typically use is circling, which The Telegraph describes as when the “Pilot has to bring the aircraft into position for landing on a runway that isn't suitably located for the standard, straight-in approach”.
18 Tegucigalpa - Sharp Left Turn
Within the country of Honduras in Central America, its capital city Tegucigalpa can be accessed via the Toncontín Airport. However, this is not an easy airport to fly to. Not only does the pilot have to navigate around the various mountains that surround the city, but they also have to pull off a certain maneuver in order to land. This maneuver, as described by Travel + Leisure, is basically a “45-degree, last-minute bank to the left” which they must execute before landing the plane on the runway. Also, the runway is smaller than the one at Princess Juliana International.
17 Madeira - Runway on the Right
Named after the island it’s on, this airport is located in the city of Funchal which is the capital of the whole Madeira archipelago of islands that are under the governance of Portugal. Here, there is a particularly nerve-wracking runway that also requires a special maneuver in order to land. According to Travel + Leisure, the pilot first must steer the plane towards the mountains and then “At the last minute, bank right to align with the fast-approaching runway”. Fortunately, an extension was made to the runway (as shown in the picture above) making this difficult landing slightly easier.
16 Sion - Steep Drop
Within the southern part of Switzerland, there is one particular region that consists of several mountains surrounding a large valley. Collectively referred to as the Canton of Valais, there is a town there called Sion which also has an airport of the same name. However, this airport has been labeled a Category C according to The Telegram which is largely due to the “Alpine peaks and the descent is steep” as well. So as the picture above aptly demonstrates, a pilot not only has to navigate the plane around several tall mountains but also descend at a steep incline.
15 Yrausquin - Lots of Wind
Located on the island of Saba, which is part of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean, lies the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport. With a runway resting on the island’s northeast corner, as the picture above shows, this is not an easy airport to fly to. On top of that, pilots have “To tackle blustery trade winds, occasional spindrift, and their own uneasy constitutions” because they can’t afford to miss the runway according to Travel + Leisure. Because the runway is short, the pilot has to land the plane precisely. Otherwise, they’ll either hit the cliffs or have to go back around.
14 Gibraltar - Unusual Weather
On Spain’s southern coast, there is a territory owned by the British which is primarily dominated by limestone cliffs. So as one might imagine, that makes access to the airport somewhat difficult for pilots. Indeed, that is the case though not just because of the area’s topography. Because the runway is only 6,000 feet in length, Travel + Leisure says, it requires not only pinpoint accuracy on the pilot’s part but also they have to “Quickly and fully engage the auto-brakes” upon landing so the plane doesn’t run off the runway. In addition, there is Gibraltar’s mixed-up weather conditions.
13 Innsbruck - Flight Simulator Training Required
Yet another city in Austria, this one is especially famous among fans of winter sports and those who participate in them. The main reason for this, as the picture above demonstrates, is that one can get an impressive view of the mountains from above via a plane. However, in order to be able to fly over the place, pilots are required to undertake simulator training according to The Telegraph as well as sit “In the jumpseat for landing and take-off”. On top of that, only the experienced pilots are allowed to take this flight and not just any pilot.
12 Paro - Surrounded by the Himalayas
Like the mythical paradise of Shangri-La, this small pristine town that lies in Bhutan is considered “The world's most forbidding airport to fly into” according to Travel + Leisure. Why this is the case largely has to do with the fact that Bhutan resides in the same region as the Himalayas which also occupy the majority of Nepal, Bhutan’s neighbor. As a result, pilots have to get special training to fly into it since they have to, not only deal with the world’s highest mountains, but also land “Through a narrow channel of vertiginous tree-covered hillsides” Travel + Leisure says.
11 Courchevel - Highest Runway
Labeled as “Europe's highest tarmacked runway” according to The Telegraph, this is arguably the most intimidating and trickiest place to fly to compared to all the others covered thus far. In fact, only the smallest aircraft are able to navigate to this place due to the runway’s short length (as the picture above clearly shows). Also, beyond the runway is “A vertical mountainside drop” Travel + Leisure states, which makes the whole thing more harrowing when this area also has “Ice and unpredictable winds” making it every pilot’s nightmare. Like Chambéry, this is another airport that’s located within the French Alps.
10 They love: Aspen - Snow Angels
Though one does have to get the proper training in order to fly here, Aspen is not nearly as bad compared to places like Chambéry and Sion. In fact, it’s considered to be “A once in a lifetime experience for pilots flying into the region” as stated by Inflight Pilot Training. Considering how bold of a statement that is, there must be a good reason for it. Indeed, it’s as stunning as the picture above which shows that the area around Aspen is really pretty with the snow-covered mountains. So it might be worth getting that training after all.
9 They love: Jackson Hole - Relatively Easy
For those pilots who don’t feel confident enough to fly to Aspen but still want to fly near the mountains, the next best place is Jackson Hole, Wyoming. According to Inflight Pilot Training, it’s “A little less challenging to fly into due to the proximity of the mountain ranges to the airport”. So one doesn’t necessarily have to fly into the mountains in order to reach the airport, but fly alongside them instead. With that said, special training is still required on the pilot’s part since the mountains-in-question are the Rockies, which Aspen is close to as well.
8 First Flight Airport - Where It All Began
Though the idea of flight is an old concept that dates back to ancient myths like Icarus and DaVinci’s encrypted notebooks that were full of inventions he conceived but never realized, it didn’t become a reality until the turn of the Twentieth century. The men responsible for this were none other than the Wright Brothers, who flew the first successful aircraft within Dare County, North Carolina. Now, there’s an airport there that has a museum that’s dedicated to their monumental achievement which changed the course of transportation in the centuries that followed. So what pilot wouldn’t want to come here?
7 They love: Dickinson - Plains and Badlands
While the above picture doesn’t make Dickinson, North Dakota, seem appealing as far as the landscape is concerned, it is close to a place that is even more spectacular. Namely, the Theodore Roosevelt National Park which is where “The Great Plains meet the rugged badlands” as described by Inflight Pilot Training. So as one might imagine, that would make for an incredible sight as the flat terrain that’s apparent in the above picture get broken up by low canyons in the western part of North Dakota. As Inflight Pilot Training says, it would make for “A great view from above”.
6 They love: Sky Harbor - Nice Shores
In the northwestern part of Michigan, this particular airport stands along the shores of Lake Superior. So it’s perfect for seaplanes (like the one in the above picture) as well as any other small aircraft. Though what makes this place special is not just the shorelines but also the trees themselves. This is especially true during the fall, according to Inflight Pilot Training, as “The unique climatic effect of the region creates a truly beautiful landscape to view from the air”. In other words, the combination of the autumn leaves and lake is a treat for any pilot to see.
5 They love: Camden - Seaside Wonders
This small town in Maine is not only located along the coast but it’s also known for having many historic buildings that date back to the Nineteenth century, making it a perfect location for any would-be tourist. The same applies to pilots, who can access this place via Bald Mountain Airport which is located near a nature preserve a few miles from the town. Though that may not sound convenient, the view of the town as shown in the above picture is marvelous enough to excuse the distance. Plus, Inflight Pilot Training claims Camden has “The best seafood around”.
4 Key West - Caribbean Adventure
At the southernmost part in the Florida Keys, this island is a perfect place for a pilot who’s looking for a tropical paradise to fly to. Apart from having “Pristine white sand beaches” and “Clear Caribbean waters” according to Inflight Pilot Training, it’s also known for having coral reefs that are popular among divers. Then due to its close proximity to other Caribbean countries such as Cuba, there is a significant number of people from them on this island, including Jamaicans. So due to the Jamaican culture that’s present, “Various local grills” are present, as stated by Inflight Pilot Training.
3 They love: Kauai - Cliffside Rainforests
While Key West Island can be nice, a true tropical paradise lies within the islands of Hawaii which are located a little ways south on the other side of the Panama Canal that connects the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. But for pilots, this place is just one flight away. The best place to start, Inflight Pilot Training says, is Kauai Island which has a “Rocky cliff side shoreline” and “Covered in tropical rainforest”. Being the main island in the whole archipelago, it’s a perfect example of what’s to come for pilots who are interested in exploring these islands.
2 They love: Grand Canyon - Amazing View
As amazing as it is to look down into the Grand Canyon from one of the two rims, wouldn’t it be even cooler to see the whole thing from above? For pilots, there’s only one airport they can go to that allows them such a view. Appropriately called the Grand Canyon National Airport, it’s located “7 miles from the South Rim” according to Inflight Pilot Training. So as the picture above clearly demonstrates, a pilot could easily fly here and get a great view of the entire canyon. However, “There are various altitude and airspace restrictions” Inflight Pilot Training says.
1 They love: Skagway - Breathtaking from Above
Considered to be one of the “Most beautiful airports in the world,” Inflight Pilot Training states, it’s easy to see why. Located on the southeastern coast of Alaska, it is a small town which is visited by multiple tourists during certain times of the year. While the most popular method to travel there is by boat (aka a cruise line), there is an airport there so one can easily go by air instead. With the combination of green snow-covered mountains and blue ocean waters, this place offers an amazing view for the lucky pilot who gets to fly here.
Resources: telegraph.co.uk, travelandleisure.com, inflighttraining.com