15 of the world's most terrifying airport runways

Even the most jaded jetsetter might find their nails embedded in the armrest when landing at these airports.

From a Caribbean island where the runway ends right at a popular beach to a runway made entirely of ice in Antarctica, here are 15 of the most terrifying airport runways around the world.

Also known as 'The Ice,' Sea Ice Runway in Antarctica is unpaved. And if that wasn't scary enough, it is literally made of ice, which, on top of it all, could crack under the weight of a plane. And when temperatures rise and the ice melts, there's essentially no runway to land on at all.

Josh Landis, Wikimedia Commons

The Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten might be scarier for sunbathers than passengers, as its insanely short runway ends right on the beach. This means that planes have to fly really low, frazzling beach-goers with strong winds and loud noise.

Wikimedia/Lawrence Lansing

Aside from the fact that planes at Barra Airport in Scotland land on an actual sandy beach, they have to time their landing according to the tide, lest the 'runway' disappears completely.


Surrounded by fjords, turbulence and wind is so common and so gruelling at Greenland's Narsarsuaq Airport that takeoffs and landings are only allowed during the day. Pilots here also need to make a 90 degree turn to line up with the runway -- extra tough when it's windy -- and occasionally avoid drifting icebergs.

Wikimedia Commons

Besides ending in a harbour and being tightly flanked by a bustling city and a massive mountain, the runway at Gibraltar International Airport is intersected by Winston Churchill Avenue, one of Gibraltar's busiest streets (it has to be closed every time a plane lands).

Dick Elbers, Wikimedia Commons

While Tibet's Qamdo Bamda Airport is no longer the world's highest airport (China's Daocheng Yading Airport took that honour), it's still pretty darn high, and the thin air at 14,219 feet above sea level makes landings extra difficult. And because high altitude landings are so challenging, Qamdo Bamda has the longest paved runway that's open to the public in the world, at 3.4 miles.

Youtube/Mr. Gultekin

The runway at Matekane Air Strip in Lesotho, Africa is only 1,300 feet long, but the drop at its end is 2,000 feet. Flying from Lesotho's airport is essentially the same as when a bird is pushed out of the nest in order to learn to fly.

Tom Claytor, Wikimedia Commons

In France, Courchevel's 1,788-foot runway is not only incredibly short, but also incredibly steep, with a gradient of 18.5%. And did we mention the sheer rock face drop the runway ends on?


NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.