Most Exciting Places to Land an Aircraft

Piloting a plane gives you the opportunity to visit far-flung corners of the Earth, to experience travel in a truly unique way, and to become independent from the usual crowded public transport. As if flying wasn’t exciting enough already, there are often further challenges presented by the airport or landing strip of your final destination. Whilst testing conditions can arise anywhere – from animals on the runway to unpredictable weather – there are a few places in the world that are guaranteed to be more problematic than others.

Shortest runway: Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba Island, Eastern Caribbean

It’s official: the shortest runway in the world is on Saba Island in the Caribbean. It belongs to the tiny Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport and is mostly used by pilots ferrying people between this island and the nearby one of Saint Martin. Landing on a runway just 400 metres long is not for the faint-hearted, but the pilots of local airline Winair are used to it. There are four flights from Saba Island every day of the year, connecting the local community with those of the neighbouring St Kitts and the Virgin Islands. With steep cliff faces at either end of the runway, you wouldn’t want to misjudge this particular landing.

Most remote: Mataveri International or Isla de Pascua Airport, Easter Island

If you want to really get away from it all, then you can’t get much more remote than the Mataveri International Airport on Easter Island. Slap bang in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the only airline that operates here is LATAM Chile with flights to and from Santiago, Chile scheduled throughout the day. Whilst you might be, literally, miles away from anyone, it’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy some solitary activities. After exploring the island, snuggle down in your hotel room to brush up on that second language at Busuu, keep your hand in at PokerStarsCasino and find your word of the day in the New York Times crossword. Before you know it, it’ll be time for that next flight out of there!

Most dangerous: Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Lukla, Nepal

Hailed by many people as the most dangerous airport on the globe is Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, Nepal. Situated in a country which is home to some of the most impressive mountain ranges on the planet, you can guess why this particular landing comes fraught with so many risks. The main problem is the weather; whilst it’s all sunshine and smiles in nearby Kathmandu, it can be a completely different story less than 85 miles away in Lukla. Tricky weather fronts can close in quickly and have caused several fatal accidents over the years. A potentially fraught start to all those who flock to the airport in order to start the climb to Everest Base Camp.

Highest altitude: Daocheng Yading Airport, Sichuan, China

Despite its proximity to Everest, Tenzing-Hillary doesn’t hold the title of highest altitude airport in the world; that title falls to Daocheng Yading Airport in the Sichuan province of China. At 4411m above sea level, this airport’s runway sits higher than Mont Blanc in the Alps. This is a fairly new airport with a modern design, evocative of the traditional ‘flying saucer’ or ‘UFO’ shape – and you’ll certainly feel like you’re close to outer space when landing at this vertigo-inducing destination. Temperatures can drop to below -30°C and weather can be unpredictable, with fog and clouds sometimes forcing pilots to abandon flight paths and return to their airport of origin.

Busiest: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Georgia, USA

The opposite of these remote and isolated airports is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the state of Georgia, USA. It’s earned the title of busiest airport in the world for several years running and, with nearly 200 gates and almost a million flights per year, you can easily believe it to be true. Over 100 million passengers are served by this airport every twelve months, with three quarters of those choosing to fly with Delta Airlines. Landing at this airport means waiting your turn and being prepared to fit into a tightly controlled schedule of landings, take-offs and manoeuvres. This place is five times busier than Disney World and is the largest employer in the entire state.

Most famous: Los Angeles International (LAX), USA

It might not be the biggest, busiest, most dangerous or most isolated, but Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX as it’s commonly known, must be the most famous airport in the world. It’s appeared in more movies than any other airport on the planet, and even if you’ve never visited, you would probably recognise its arrivals gate as the quintessential airport setting. This is where celebrities are always being papped by the press, leading to the building of a private terminal for the airports more distinguished visitors. Whilst you may never make it onto this hallowed ground, you can certainly get the full American airport experience out in the public terminal.