The 12 most dangerous runways in the world

It is considered one of the most dangerous in the world, but if you want to climb Mount Everest, there is no alternative to Lukla Airport. It is considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world, fatal accidents occur here again and again.

Lukla Airport is served by Nepal’s capital Kathmandu and is of particular importance for mountaineers and trekking tourists. This is also indicated by its official name: Tenzing-Hillary-Airport. Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary were the first people to climb Mount Everest in 1953 . The airport itself is famous and notorious for its special location at 2843 meters altitude and the sloping runway that is only 527 meters long. At the end it goes down 600 meters steeply. Lukla is one of the most dangerous airports in the world.

But there are still a few others that scare the pilots, for example because they are on an artificial island in the sea or the runway is so short that you have to brake quickly. For example, the Icelandic Airport Isafjördur is a real challenge for pilots. Reason: Before landing on the 1400 meter long runway, a tight curve has to be flown inside the fjord.

Lukla, Nepal

If you want to climb Mount Everest, you have to land here – and experience your first adventure. Aside from the short and sloping runway and the drop at the end of the runway, there is more to worry about. Although there is only one common runway, take-offs and landings sometimes take place a few minutes apart – with the aircraft taking off initially staying at a lower altitude and thus meeting the aircraft landing at a slight altitude difference in the opposite direction. Photo: dpa picture alliance

St Maarten, Caribbean

Sint Maarten runway
Runway 10 of the airport on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten separates only a few meters from Maho Beach, which is why the planes fly in about 10 to 20 meters above the beach – under the curious gaze of numerous onlookers

Courchevel, Switzerland

St Maarten, Caribbean
Located at an altitude of 2000 meters and with an extremely short runway: Courchevel Airport is not for the faint of heart – much more for calibers like James Bond. This airport in the middle of the Rhone-Alpes has already been the setting for 007 twice.

Male, Maldives

As soon as you look out the window of the plane and have a look at the runway, you immediately believe that the Maldives are in danger of sinking into the sea. Because it is almost completely surrounded by turquoise water. Hulhulé International Airport is located on an artificial island about two kilometers from the capital Malé. At a good three kilometers, the runway is not one of the shortest, but it is not without danger: there is no safety zone, it ends directly in the Indian

Corfu, Greece

Corfu, Greece
The runway lies precariously between two hills, the sea bay and Lake Halikiopoulou. But that’s not all: there is a main road right behind the runway, and traffic lights stop traffic during take-offs and landings.

Saba, Caribbean

Saba, Caribbean

Airport of Saba Saba 14-11-2013, Queen Maxima and King Willem-Alexander at 2nd Day of their visit to the dutch Antills, Saba for the 10 day visit to the Dutch Antills Photo: RPE/ Albert Nieboer [ Rechtehinweis: (c) dp ]

With its mountainous profile without major flat areas, the island of Saba was long considered unsuitable for the construction of an airport. But after the later mayor of St. Barth, Rémy de Haenen, made a spectacular landing on a temporary runway in February 1959, the airport was simply built on that spot: with a runway just 400 meters long right on the cliff. If you don’t brake in time here, you end up in the sea – which is why you can only approach the runway with a special permit.

Funchal, Portugal

Funchal, Portugal
If you want to land here, you need special training: Not only does the direct location on a steep coast slope require a lot of skill from the pilot, he also has to compensate for downdrafts and fly a sharp right turn. After all, the length of the runway in Funchal on Madeira no longer poses an additional risk: In 2000, the originally short runway of 1781 meters was extended to 2777 meters – via a bay with a complex supporting structure and at a cost of 520 million euros . 

Sao Paulo, Brazil

This airport is located in the middle of the sea of ​​houses in São Paulo – meanwhile. When it opened in 1936, the city wasn’t that big. But with the growth into a mega-city and the concentration around the airport, the danger also grew: for residents and passengers alike. In 1985, São Paulo got another airport, today only domestic flights take off and land on Congonhas.

Also, read our article on 8 travel destinations off the beaten path 

Paro, Bhutan


Paro Airport is Bhutan’s only international airport. It is located at an altitude of 2236 meters in a deep valley, which is why take-offs and landings are only possible in good weather. Up until 1990, they were made even more difficult because the runway was initially just 1,400 meters long. It was then lengthened to 1964 meters.

St. Barth, Caribbean

A holiday in the Caribbean is certainly one of those events that you never forget – especially when you land on St. Barth, because that alone is an experience. The piste, which is picturesque but dangerous between the sea and the mountains, is just 640 meters long. Landing in particular is extremely difficult on the short runway: if the pilot does not press the brakes in time, the machine slides into the sea. 

JFK, New York

JFK, New York
Attention, oncoming traffic: JFK Airport in New York is located exactly between two other airports: La Guardia and Newark. So the challenge for the pilots here is not to get in the way of other aircraft and vice versa.


It’s a bit cramped on Gibraltar, and space is at a premium, so it couldn’t have been prevented that the airport’s runway crossed the only road link with Spain. Such an intersection is unique in the world for an international airport. Similar to a railroad crossing, the road is blocked for every take-off and every landing.
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