With air travel having become the order of the day, there’re few places in the world that cannot be reached by airplanes. Here is a list of a few airports in the world that were built in the most precarious locations, leaving a lot to the skills of the pilots.
Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Japan
Built in the manmade island 3 miles into the Osaka Bay, this colossal airport was constructed amidst deep waters owing to Japan’s lack of land resource. Earthquakes, dangerous cyclones, an unstable seabed, and sabotage attempts from protestors are just some of the variables that the engineers were forced to account for.
As impressive as the airport is, experts caution that in 50 years or so, the whole island might be underwater, owing to global warming and rising sea levels.
Gibraltar Airport, Gibraltar
Sitting pretty between a mountain on one side and busy roads on the other is the airport of Gibraltar. The Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar’s busiest road, cuts directly across the runway, with railroad-style crossing gates holding vehicles back every time a plane lands or departs. Such a risky location was chosen for the construction, as it was the only bit of flat space available in the entire island.
Madeira International Airport, Madeira, Portugal
The MIA’s original runway was only about 5000 feet long, posing a huge risk to even the most experienced pilots and limiting imports and tourism. Later, it was extended to more than 9000 feet by building a massive girder atop 200 pillars. The bridge, that is strong enough to handle the weight of 747s and similar jets, won the Outstanding Structure Award in 2004.
Don Mueang International Airport, Bangkok, Thailand
The Don Mueang International Airport is just another midsize airport, if you ignore the 18-hole golf course that’s built bang in middle of the two runways. The airport and the course were originally an all-military operation, but are now open to commercial traffic as well. The public, however, are not allowed to access the golf course, owing to the security threats.
Ice Runway, Antarctica
As the name implies, there are no paved runways here – just long stretches of ice and snow that are meticulously groomed. The continent has no space constraints, so super-sized aircrafts like the C-130 Hercules and the C-17 Globemaster III can land with relative ease. However, the real challenge is making sure that the weight of the aircraft and cargo doesn’t break the ice or get the plane stuck in soft snow.
Congonhas Airport, Sao Paulo, Brazil
The Congonhas airport at Sao Paulo is constructed just 5 miles off the city centre. Such a close proximity to the busy parts of the city can be attributed to the fact that the construction was completed in 1936, with the city experiencing rapid development much later. While it might be convenient to have the airport so close to the city, it is a huge strain on the pilots and the air traffic control crews. The planes need to land exactly in there, and throw in the noise levels that need to be kept under control.
Courchevel International Airport, Courchevel, France
Planes take off downhill and land going uphill at Courchevel International Airport, thanks to the 1700 feet long runway that has a large hill toward the middle of the strip.
The hill, which has an 18.5 percent grade, is so steep that small planes could probably gain enough momentum rolling down it with no engines to safely glide off the edge. Pilots are required to be certified for the task before attempting to land a plane here.
Princess Juliana International Airport, Simpson Bay, Saint Maarten
Pilots need to fly over a small strip of beach, clear a fairly big fence and pass over a road before hitting the runway at this Caribbean island. While the tourists on the beach are not really in any kind of danger, the challenge is to make sure there’s not a big semi truck coming through when the plane is landing. It becomes a vertical obstacle, and, if the truck is light, the jet blast could blow it over.
Svalbard Airport, Svalbard, Norway
Svalbard Airport located in the Norwegian archipelago is the world’s northernmost airport that tourists can book tickets to. The runway was built on a layer of permafrost, exploiting the region’s brutally cold climatic conditions. However, due to recent warming in the global temperature, the engineers have had to repave the runway several times to fix any uneven spots and it is said that conditions will be worse in the upcoming years.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba, Netherlands Antilles
The 1300-foot-long runway in this tourist hot spot makes getting here that much harder for pilots. Slightly longer than most aircraft carrier runways, the airport is too small even for Cessnas and similar aircraft. Given the space constraint and the rugged topography of the island, this is the only option for people to have access to basic facilities like mail.