Rumble: The World's 10 Most Dangerous Landing Strips

hamburg near crash

Landing at Rome's Fiumicino airport tonight, I wondered how on earth pilots succeed in landing a plane if their top technology does not even allow them to keep the lights from flickering on and off in the passenger area. I thought about my last weekend's post on the near-crash at Hamburg's airport (picture above). That post spurred quite some reactions from frequent travellers.

Well, if you are in fear of flying, don't visit Top 10 Most Dangerous Aircraft Landings in the World. This site describes and shows videos from the world's most dangerous air strips, listed as:
Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong
Funchal Airport, Madeira (*)
Gustaf III Airport, St. Barts (*)
Courchevel Airport, France
Princess Juliana International Airport, Saint Maarten (*)
Wellington International Airport, New Zealand
Paro Airport, Bhutan (*)
Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland
Saba Island Airport, Netherlands Antilles (*)
Lugano Airport, Switzerland (*)

Those indicated with (*) I have seen or landed at.

I would definitively add Tegucigalpa airport to this list:

I landed there at least ten times in three weeks, during the Hurricane Mitch emergency. I remember each time we approached, it seemed like we barely missed the top of the trees right before the final drop to the strip. Except for one time where it was raining that hard, we could not see a thing.

Talking about scary: try Kathmandu airport in a thunderstorm. On a PIA flight!

Or, now that we are talking about Nepal: how about Lukla? I remember so many passengers got sick on that flight, the vomit was running under the seats from the front to the back. Check out this video, and you will see why. A pity you can not feel the turbulence!

It amazes me not more accidents happen. And at the same time, I have the more admiration for the pilots.

PS: Oh, almost forgot to mention Mwanza airport in Tanzania. During an approach in 1996, I saw a sign "Beware of potholes on the landing strip". It was only AFTER landing I noticed all the wrecks besides the strip. I did not see those while landing, as I had my eyes closed. :-)

More stories about flying as an aidworker in the world's most remote locations in the short story Italians, the art of flying and the laws of probability.

Update: Sometimes it looks like some of the things I write about become reality. Within months after writing this post, a plane crashed in Tegucigalpa, and one crashed at Lukla airport.

Picture courtesy


Anonymous,  05 March, 2008 21:29  

What about Khorog (Tajikistan) (*).
Yeah, I know, I'm bragging a bit, there. But it's really scary...

Anonymous,  05 March, 2008 21:31  

I love your blog - great entries and great links as

Peter 05 March, 2008 21:37  

Hi Klari!

I did not land in Khorog.. But from what you say, I am not looking forward to it neither, hahaha!


Voegtli 06 March, 2008 04:57  

Well what to say? :-)

I am flying since years now in UNHAS MI8 with Bulgarian pilots, Beech 1900 with Kenyan pilots, Caravans with South African pilots, Dash 8's with all sorts of pilots. And I always trust them. And we never had an indcident. ANd of course, someone up there will decide when the day comes, "my" day.

But I am scared of flying. Not because of your stories. I love them, they made me chuckle. I am simply scared of flying, since years. I don't know why, it just came like that. Before I was not scared.

And something very stupid. I am not scared when I am flying with an A330 of Lufthansa. I don't why either. Is it because I love the A330 and I love Lufthansa? I simply feel that "in there" nothing can happen to me. Famous last words..............?

Peter 06 March, 2008 20:55  

Hey Peter -the Worldman!

In the office, I am sitting next to the UNHAS crowd. I know they are very maticulous in selecting the right operator, and crew, and monitor them well, all in function of course of the amount of $$ we can pay for relief flight operations! I am proud of them. They fly in the most adverse circumstances, and with a very high safety record. Despite many of the planes and helicopters being from the USSR times...

Stay safe!!!


Anonymous,  07 March, 2008 19:06  

i've never had a bad experience in flying, and I hope not to have any in the future. I loved your article, I never knew about those dangerous landing at least i can have a heads up, and try to avoid those landing areas.

Anonymous,  08 March, 2008 04:08  

I have landed in Paro (Bhutan) twice in Indian Air Force AN-32s but it never occurred to me that it was considered so dangerous. I would think that the Patna Airport in Bihar, India is a very dangerous strip because the busy airport is within the city near residential areas and not outside. There was an accident a few years back when a plane crashed on a residential area while landing with around 60 people dead. Another possible dangerous landing strip is Dibrugarh Airport in upper Assam state. It holds the record for the most lightning strikes and often livestock stray into it. :-)

Anonymous,  24 June, 2008 12:09  

Hi there,thirty years ago I used to fly in and out of the Wellington International Airport in NZ in friendship airplanes, that was a real experience I can tell you, Wellington harbour at one end of the runway and open ocean at the other.
More often than not due to heavy winds blowing (for which Wellington is famous)the plane would appear to be coming into the runway terribly out of shape lurching upwards one moment then dropping violently seconds later, a truly nerve wracking experience, needless to say I hold the pilots and their skills in high esteem.
PS, loved you article.

McKay 15 August, 2009 06:05  

Yeah, I'm sure Lukla isn't the safest airport and is shut down regularly due to weather socking them in (or Kathmandu). But what was weirdest to get used to was that you didn't come down for a landing on the strip so much as fly up to it level and park. When the pilot informed us we were about to land, we all craned our necks below looking for the airport, only to realise it was directly level in front of it visible through the cockpit doors.

But you missed on your article two other disconcerting elements of the Lukla flight: the complete lack of any passenger safety check or mandating you wear your seatbeat upon boarding (unless you count them giving you cotton balls for your ears) and two, the large, looming, sheer rock wall backing the very short, uphill runway.

The scariest of Lukla thought is not the landing, but taking off as you drive downhill on a very short runway hoping to making flight before plummetting off the end.

I've no fear of flying at all and quite enjoyed all of this, but Lukla certainly isn't for the faint of heart! :)

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