The World's Most Unusual Airports and Runways

When it comes to airports and runways, most people think of long stretches of concrete or tarmac, bustling with planes taking off and landing. However, there are some airports around the world that defy convention and offer unique and unconventional landing experiences.

One such airport is the Courchevel Airport in the French Alps. Situated at an altitude of 2,008 meters, this airport features a runway that is only 525 meters long. Pilots have to navigate through a steep hill on one end and a sheer drop on the other. It is not for the faint of heart.

Another strange airport is the Gibraltar International Airport. What makes it unique is that its runway intersects with a major road, the Winston Churchill Avenue. Whenever a plane is about to land or take off, traffic on the road has to be stopped and the barriers come down. It's a sight to behold!

The Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in Saba, a tiny island in the Caribbean, is another airport that stands out. With a runway that is only 400 meters long, it is one of the shortest commercial runways in the world. Surrounded by steep cliffs and the ocean, landing here requires precision and skill.

These are just a few examples of the world's strangest airports and runways. Whether it's due to challenging topography or unconventional design, these airports offer a unique and unforgettable experience for pilots and passengers alike.

Unique Locations

When it comes to airports and runways, some locations around the world are truly one-of-a-kind. From airports built on floating platforms to runways located on the edge of cliffs, these unique locations offer a thrilling and unforgettable experience for travelers.

One of the most extraordinary airports is the Princess Juliana International Airport located in St. Maarten, in the Caribbean. This airport's runway is situated just a few meters from Maho Beach, allowing beachgoers to witness planes landing and taking off at an incredibly close distance. It's a sight that attracts visitors from all around the world.

Another remarkable location is the Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan. This airport is built on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, making it one of the few airports in the world that is entirely surrounded by water. Its stunning architecture and panoramic views of the bay make it a remarkable destination in itself.

In the heart of the Swiss Alps, you'll find the Courchevel Airport, renowned for its incredibly short runway. With a length of only 525 meters and a steep gradient, landing at this airport requires a skilled pilot. It's an airport that offers an adrenaline-filled experience for those seeking an adventure in the mountains.

Lastly, we have the Gibraltar International Airport, which is famous for its unique runway crossing. The airport's runway intersects with a road, and whenever a plane is scheduled to land or take off, the traffic is stopped to allow the aircraft to pass. It's a sight that captures the attention of both locals and tourists alike.

These airports and runways are just a few examples of the unique locations that exist around the world. They not only serve as transportation hubs but also offer a sense of wonder and excitement for those who visit them.

Unconventional Designs

When it comes to airports and runways, some designs are truly out of the ordinary. These unconventional designs not only challenge the traditional norms but also push the boundaries of engineering and architecture. Let's take a look at some of the world's strangest airports and runways:




Princess Juliana International Airport

Sint Maarten

This airport is famous for its close proximity to Maho Beach. Planes fly extremely low over the beach, creating a thrilling experience for beachgoers.

Kansai International Airport

Osaka, Japan

Located on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, this airport is designed to withstand earthquakes and typhoons. Its unique construction required tons of soil and rock to be brought in.

Courchevel Altiport

Courchevel, France

This airport is nestled in the French Alps and is famous for its extremely short runway and steep gradient. It requires skilled pilots to land and take off safely.

Gibraltar International Airport


The runway of this airport intersects with a major road, which has to be closed every time a plane lands or takes off. This unique design makes for an interesting traffic situation.

These unconventional airport designs not only offer unique experiences for travelers but also showcase the innovative spirit of engineering and architecture. They prove that airports can be more than just functional structures and can become iconic landmarks in their own right.

Challenging Conditions

Some airports and runways around the world pose unique challenges to pilots due to their unusual geographic features or weather conditions. These challenging conditions require pilots to have exceptional skills and experience in order to safely navigate and land their aircraft.

High Altitude Airports

High altitude airports, such as the Daocheng Yading Airport in China, are located at elevations that can reach over 4,400 meters (14,500 feet) above sea level. The thin air at these altitudes makes it more difficult for aircraft to generate lift, which can affect takeoff and landing distances. Pilots must carefully calculate the aircraft's performance capabilities and adjust their approach accordingly.

Another high altitude airport known for its challenging conditions is the El Alto International Airport in Bolivia. Located at an elevation of 4,061 meters (13,325 feet), the airport's thin air and strong winds create a demanding environment for pilots. The airport's runway is also shorter than average, further increasing the difficulty of landing safely.

Short and Narrow Runways

The Tenzing-Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, in Nepal is famous for having one of the most dangerous runways in the world. The runway is only 527 meters (1,729 feet) long and is situated on a steep slope, making it challenging for pilots to land safely. Additionally, the airport's location in the Himalayas means that it is often subject to unpredictable weather conditions, including strong winds and low visibility.

The Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in Saba, a small island in the Caribbean, features an extremely short runway that is only 396 meters (1,299 feet) long. The runway is surrounded by cliffs and ends with a steep drop into the ocean, leaving no room for error during landing or takeoff. Pilots must carefully navigate the challenging terrain and ensure precise control of the aircraft.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Some airports, such as the McMurdo Station Ice Runway in Antarctica, face extreme weather conditions that pose significant challenges to pilots. The runway is constructed on sea ice and is only operational during the Antarctic summer. Pilots must contend with freezing temperatures, strong winds, and limited visibility, making every landing and takeoff a high-stakes operation.

The Gibraltar International Airport in Gibraltar is another airport known for its challenging weather conditions. The airport's runway intersects with a major road, which has to be closed during aircraft movements. Additionally, strong crosswinds caused by the surrounding mountains and the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea can make landing and takeoff more difficult for pilots.

  • High altitude airports, such as Daocheng Yading Airport in China and El Alto International Airport in Bolivia, present challenges due to thin air and strong winds.

  • The Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal and Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in Saba have short and narrow runways, requiring precise control and navigation.

  • The McMurdo Station Ice Runway in Antarctica and Gibraltar International Airport face extreme weather conditions, including freezing temperatures and strong crosswinds.