Apparently, the miracle of flight is not enough for some people – they have to build airports that defy the laws of physics and nature, as well! Human innovation and engineering has led to some spectacular airports in the unlikeliest of places around the globe. Here are ten of the weirdest, wackiest and downright craziest runways and airports found worldwide today.
Madeira Airport, Madeira, Portugal
At the time of opening in 1964, Madeira used to have one of the shortest runways worldwide, coming in at just under a mile long. A horrific crash in 1977, in which a Boeing 727 careered off the edge of the runway onto the beach and exploded, caused it to be lengthened in 1986. Then in 2000, a further increase was reached by extending it onto ramparts built 70ft above the sand. When you fly into Madeira these days, you land directly on the boardwalk!
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport – Saba, Dutch Antilles
Landing in Saba (island in the Dutch Antilles) was spectacular. This is the world’s shortest runway… 396m (1.299 ft)! And the world’s lowest altitude airport. The runway is surrounded by mountains on one side and the sea on the other. Pilots must be extremely careful as both ends of the runway have a little cliff… And sea. Precision is key! #runway #shortest #Yrausquinairport #Winair #Saba #island #UnspoiledQueen #Carribean #Antilles #Dutch #jetplane #airplane #landing #takeoff #precision #detail #spectacular #instacool #crazy #islandvacations #wanderlust #beautifuldestinations #traveladdict A photo posted by Nath (@tireless_traveler) on
Juancho E. Yrausquin airport also suffers from a lack of space close to the water’s edge. Surrounded on three sides by the ocean’s unforgiving waves, and on the fourth by an imposing hillside, the Dutch island airport remains one of the trickiest landings anywhere.
Princess Julianna International Airport – St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
There’s no place like home. Missing my fam #sxm #mahobeach #stmaarten #stmartin #princessjuliannaairport #sunshinecity A photo posted by Nea (@nene_sxm) on
Those Dutch Antilles really like their risqué airports, right? This idyllic getaway (just one of many vibrant gems in the Caribbean crown) sits literally right next to the beach, so you can breeze through customs and throw yourself into the cool waters immediately! In fact, it’s in such close proximity that incoming planes fly over the strip at alarmingly-low elevations.
Barra International Airport – Barra, Scotland
The Barra International Airport gives a whole new meaning to having an airport on the beach – the runway quite literally doubles up as a sunbathing stretch of sand for tourists during off-airport hours! Of course, during high tides landings are impossible, and the headlights from nearby traffic are used to help pilots in the dark. NB. Airport buffs will be quick to spot the similarities between Barra and Copalis State Airport in Washington… but unlike Copalis, its Scottish counterpart is actually classified as an international landing zone! We have no idea why, either.
Courchevel Airport – Courchevel, France
#courchevelairport A photo posted by miguelcascara (@miguelcascara) on
If this daring runway pitched only 537m long at a gradient of almost 20% at an elevation of 2000m looks familiar, that’s because James Bond successfully circumnavigated it in Tomorrow Never Dies. Are you as skilled as 007? Thought not. Let’s hope your pilot is.
Gibraltar International Airport – Gibraltar, GB
Let’s see, what to do when you’re running out of room on your tiny diminutive Mediterranean peninsula? Ah, yes: build the airport astride the largest thoroughfare for automotive traffic in the territory. Not only is Gibraltar’s runway notoriously short at only 1,800m, it also bisects the busiest road in the city. Wow.
Kansai International Airport – Osaka, Japan
✈️🍑成田☞関空🍑✈️ただいま〜#関空 ✈️🍑 また#東京 行きます👍🏻👍🏻#成田空港 #快晴 #KansaiAirport #NaritaAirport #関西空港 #ピーチ #peach 🍑#誕生日 #6月4日 A photo posted by tomoko☆666 (@10m0k0x666) on
Japan faced a similar problem of space constriction on their cluster of islands, but they took the novel approach of solving it by simply building another one. The Kansai International Airport was built in the late 80s on an entirely manmade stretch of land in the sea… which is slowly sinking under the weight of its own ambition. See this one while you can!
Antarctic Ice Runway – Antarctica
We might think we’ve got it bad when it comes to icy airport conditions – just think how the staff at the Antarctic Ice Runway feel! In stark contrast to some of those airports mentioned above, space is in abundance down in Antarctica – with no other buildings or infrastructure to worry about, planes could theoretically land wherever they pleased. However, sinking through the ice or getting stuck in soft snow could pose hiccups for the pilot, so the ground team alternative between three thoroughly-groomed runways, constructed entirely from ice.
Spaceport America – New Mexico, USA
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So we’ve conquered land travel, water travel and air travel – the final frontier is space travel! Spaceport America in the middle of the New Mexican desert is the world’s first commercial spaceport. By late 2014, 21 suborbital missions had launched from the site; the first holiday to the moon is bound to take off in the not-too-distant future.
Castellón-Costa Azahar Airport – Vilanova, Spain
This bizarre airport, which has never been used for commercial flights, was opened in 2011. The grotesque statue which stands guard at its gates has been synonymous with the failed enterprise – and with the foolhardy spending which has cost the Spanish economy dearly in recent years.
What’s the strangest airport you’ve ever flown into – or run away from? Share it in the comments below!