It is 10:45 a.m. on a cloudy day and the crew of the Druk Air KB205 flight is preparing to land at Paro Airport, Bhutan. They make a series of unconventional inclines to the right and left through a narrow passage between slopes before centering the plane and hitting the tarmac.
The surprising thing is that this is not an emergency situation, but rather the usual description of a landing at Paro airport, 7,300 feet above sea level. Due to the closely populated valley in which the airport is located, surrounded by the jagged peaks of the Himalayas 16,000 feet high, this drama is repeated over and over again on each flight.
Another difficult-to-access airport is Toncontìn, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Like the one in Paro, it is surrounded by mountains and, in addition, that of Toncontìn has one of the shortest runways for international flights in the world; hence both require a series of twists at the last minute.
Although Bhutan is the most extreme example (only 8 pilots are qualified to land in Paro) there are a number of airports around the world, from St. Maarten in the Caribbean to Madeira in Funchal, which can present difficulties for pilots. "Many of these airports require additional training and a period of familiarization with the route," notes a commercial pilot.
According to aviation experts, the main factors include the truncated length of the runway, rare weather and atmospheric conditions, dangerous geographical locations, too much air traffic or a combination of the above.
Another delicate airport: Reagan International Airport, in Washington, D.C. And not because of the strange winds from the Potomac River or the pressure of being watched by the statues of former U.S. presidents, but because of the excess of government buildings and restricted airspace, which makes landing there like threading a needle through a needle. 200 ton chunk of metal.
In fact, cities are often complicated: For 73 years Hong Kong's Kai Tak airport was considered the most terrifying in the world. Their only track was between Victoria Harbor and the densely populated Kowloon. The pilots had to cope with the strong cross winds and make a difficult approach curve, avoiding, at the same time, mountains and skyscrapers. Kai Tak was closed in 1998 and replaced by a large modern airport located on an artificial island in the South China Sea. However, not all cities have so many possible, and they continue to operate with existing facilities.
The Matekane airstrip, in the small African kingdom of Lesotho, features a rickety 1,312-foot-long runway at the edge of a corridor at 7,550 feet. According to the famous pilot Tom Claytor, depending on the wind you make during takeoff, it is perfectly possible that the plane is not still in the air when it reaches the end of the runway.
Source: Travel and Leisure