- BBC News World
Even the most experienced pilots are put to the test.
The conditions to be part of this fearsome list of airports are various: having short runways, being located at an excessive altitude, in a place with difficult weather conditions, registering a high density of air traffic and being in the middle of mountains or buildings.
Each and every one of them requires nerves of steel from the pilots, who must perform arduous landing and take-off maneuvers.
Although there is no single list that lists these dangerous airports, the names of several of them are repeated in blogs and specialized pages.
The most named in Latin America, for example, is the International Airport Toncontin, in Tegucigalpa, which since 1934 has received at least a 800,000 travelers per year. It is next to the mountains and has a narrow runway that complicates landings.
To these physical conditions are added the meteorological.
To land at this airport, pilots have to circumvent slopes sometimes covered in mist. Then a steep descent begins on the roofs of the houses and very close to an avenue until finally reaching the track of just 1,900 meters.
Landing must be made with precision. If the plane does not brake when it hits the ground, it may overshoot the runway and fall off a cliff leading to a road full of vehicles.
The same happens when taking off. The planes have to ascend immediately so as not to crash into the populated hills.
Among the more than 10 accidents recorded in Toncontin, the most serious occurred in October 1985, when a commercial flight crashed into a mountain before starting the descent, leaving as a result 131 dead.
A new and safer airport
“Honduras is at the forefront in air connectivity”said Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández during the inauguration ceremony of the new Pa International Airportlmerola, which will serve the capital of the Central American country.
The new air terminal, which shares space with a base of US soldiers and is located 75 kilometers north of Tegucigalpa, was suitable to replace the dreaded Toncontin airport.
Palmerola has a track 2,800 meters, seven boarding gates and a terminal building 39,000 square meters. The total cost of the construction of the airport, which will be ready to operate from next month, was about US$200 millones.
“We are going to maintain the civil terminal and our joint task force (military with the United States) because that is good for Honduras,” Hernández added, referring to the US military base that has operated there since 1985 and has about 500 men.
The United States built the Palmerola base during the Cold War as part of its strategy to combat guerrilla movements in Central America.
According to the web Aviation Global Incident Map (Map of Global Aviation Incidents), so far this year, there have been some 3,000 air emergencies in the world, including a thousand crashes, most of which occurred in the United States, one of the countries with the most high air traffic in the world.
In addition to Toncontin, in the lists of the most dangerous airports of the world usually appear those of:
- Tenzin-Hillary, en Lukla, Nepal, which is located at 2,845 meters high and surrounded by sloping and mountainous terrain. The short runway (526 meters) is on the top of a mountain, with a wall at one end and a chasm at the other.
- At the airport Unemployment, in bhutan, only 17 pilots are qualified and authorized to land on the runway surrounded by severe mountain peaks of 5,486 meters high. The 2,000 meter track only allows arrivals and departures during the day.
- The Altipuerto of Courchevel, in France, it is built on a mountain plateau and has just 518 meters of track that includes a downward slope.
- Airport Madeira, in Santa Cruz, Portugal, has a reputation for guaranteeing a difficult landing. The runway is surrounded by cliffs and its proximity to high ground produces a dangerous variation in the speed of the air currents that exert a turning force on the aircraft.
- The airport Juancho E. Yrausquin, on the island of Saba, in the Dutch Caribbean, it is known for having one of the shortest commercial runways in the world at just 396 meters in length.
- Airport Wellington, in New Zealand, has a 2,500-meter single-lane runway that appears to start and end in the water. The complicated approach through a mountainous area is known for strong gusts of wind.
- The airport Princess juliana, On the island of San Martín, it is next to the public beach of Maho, where bathers have to withstand enormous gusts of wind and sand during the passage of planes, which must fly over the water at really low altitudes.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.