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These Are the Most Dangerous Airports in the World

Welcome to the mile-high club—no, the other mile-high club. The one that leaves us white-knuckled and hyperventilating at the slightest bump of turbulence. When it gets severe? Forget about it! If you haven’t tried to keep your lukewarm, bacteria-filled airplane coffee from spilling while hysterically crying and writing your last will and testament, you haven’t lived.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.5% to 6.5% of Americans have a major phobia of flying. It’s one of the most common phobias that exist even though flying is generally safer than traveling in a car. Except is it actually safer? Sometimes, you have to wonder, especially when you’re looking at some of the most dangerous airports in the world.

From blind corners and steep mountain peaks to tiny runways and treacherous weather, these seven airports are some of the most dangerous on the planet. You might want to adjust your travel plans accordingly.


Lukla Airport, Nepal

If you’re ever planning to climb the treacherous, terrifying terrain of Mt. Everest, surviving an anxiety-inducing landing at Tenzing–Hillary Airport, known widely as Lukla Airport, is a great place to start. It’s also pretty much unavoidable since it’s the main airport used for anyone visiting the famed mountain (the alternative is a several day’s trek). According to Forbes, it’s the most dangerous airport in the world.

Once you look at the runway, it’s not surprising that Lukla Airport—which is literally carved into the Himalayan Mountains—has a list of incidents that run into double digits. It’s basically a who’s who of treachery. At an altitude of 9,383 feet, the tiny 1,729-foot runway is a point of no return. Once a plane tries to land, it has to land. There’s no go-around procedure, and only small planes and helicopters are allowed to land there.

On top of that, the runway—which is sloped to aide in the slowing-down process—is bookended by a mountain wall and a 2,000-foot drop. If your pilot navigates wrong, you can look forward to either having a head-on collision or plummeting into the valley. Because sudden rainstorms, snowstorms, and fog constantly threatens visibility, pilots have to remain in constant contact with airport controllers. This would probably give nervous flyers a piece of mind if the electricity didn’t regularly go out. Then again, if you’re climbing Everest, you’re probably not a nervous flyer.

Toncontin Airport, Honduras

Toncontin Airport is another one that’s dangerous because of its proximity to the mountains. The runway is located in a valley, and in order to land, pilots have to make a sharp, 45-degree turn and rapidly drop their altitude. On top of that, the runway is around 6,600 feet long (while the average commercial runway clocks in at around 8,000 to 13,000 feet) and the area is notorious for frequent gusts of wind and poor weather.

According to News.com.au, the airport has been host to a number of horrific crashes, the most recent of which was in 2018. The most deadly occurred in 1989 and is honestly too grotesque to even recount. Let’s just say that the morgue technician was talking about identifying casualties through dental records, and leave it at that. We can cross Honduras off our list of places to go, now.


Paro Airport, Bhutan

Bhutan’s Paro Airport is surrounded by 18,000-foot mountain peaks that make it so treacherous only 17 qualified pilots are authorized to land there. What’s worse is that the pilots can’t even see the short, 6,500-foot runway until right before they have to rapidly drop altitude and land. You can thank the mountains for obstructing their view.

Landing at Paro requires a 45-degree turn through mountain tops. The planes get so close to the cliffside homes that a particular red home is often used as a focal point to guide pilots to the runway. They are, after all, going in virtually going in blind.


Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten

Princess Juliana International Airport’s danger comes purely from tourism. The airport, which was originally built for smaller planes, never expanded for the more than 400,000 tourists that visit annually and the massive, commercial jets that carry them.

Most of the commercial jets that land at Princess Juliana need around 8,000 feet of runway, but instead, they’re only working with 7,100. They also have to approach at an extremely low altitude, which makes the planes seem like they’re only a few feet from the tourists sunbathing at Maho public beach. Beach-goers can look forward to occasional gusts of wind and some sand potentially being kicked up into their eyes from the sheer force of so many low-flying flights but does make for a pretty cool Insta photo.


Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar

Unlike the mountain airports that graced this list, Gibraltar International Airport makes for fairly smooth landings. Sure, pilots have to immediately step on the brakes to avoid plunging into the ocean at the end of the 5,500-foot landing strip, but that’s not really a huge ask. Instead, the danger comes from the fact that the runway intersects with the city’s main street, which closes every time a plane needs to land. It’s hard not to shudder at the thought of all that traffic.

Gisborne Airport, New Zealand

Gisborne Airport on the eastern edge of New Zealand’s North Island is an accident waiting to happen. The timing must be absolutely perfect to land and requires careful coordination with the national railway. Why? The train tracks intersect with all four of Gisborne’s runways, three of which are made of grass. Thankfully, the national rail doesn’t run like the New York’s subway system or there’d probably be some casualties.


Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland

Narsarsuaq Airport is smack dab in the middle of Greenland’s gorgeous Fjords, but the strong winds and short, 6,000-foot runway make it pretty dangerous. There’s also the chance that the nearby volcano will erupt, and pilots can’t exactly see in a cloud of blinding ash. Maybe check the seismic report before you stop by.

Comments are Closed.
c1ue October 9, 2019

I thought the St. Maarten airport was seriously damaged by a hurricane. As is the island, overall.

Cymbo September 22, 2019

I'm totally surprised that someone would mention Gisborne, NZ and not Rongatai airport (Wellington) which is by far the most dangerous airport in the country!

donyagf September 22, 2019

Sun Valley, Idaho airport is another bad one with the runway right between two mountains.

chaseUA September 22, 2019

Here in Kabul, the airport received some rocket fire the other day. And of course, in the past few years, the entrance to the airport has been targeted with suicide bombers a half-dozen times. While people often say that the "corkscrew" take-offs or landings are needed because of security, it's actually because the city is surrounded by high peaks.

UAPremierExec September 22, 2019

And no mention of St. Barths, where the planes land between two large hills, passing a roundabout maybe 10 feet over the roadway (and nearly hitting trucks), then nosing down the plane to land on a VERY short runway? At least at St. Maarten, you can land straight in and see the runway 30 miles out. St. Barths, you aim for the wind sock by the roundabout and can see the runway only once you are maybe a mile or two out (because the high land blocks the view).