Top 10 airport touchdowns
A tiny airstrip in the Outer Hebrides topped a list of the most stunning airport landings in a poll out today
The survey* of 1,000 travel fans and pilots, conducted by the private jet hire booking network, PrivateFly.com, asked voters to choose from a shortlist of 28 or nominate an airport of their choice.
Winner Barra airport received just over 22% of the vote. Licensed as an airfield in 1936, planes touch down on the beach at Traigh Mhor at the northern end of the island. These days, according to media reports, Barra welcomes around 10,000 air arrivals a year.
Commenting on the results, Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly.com and an experienced pilot, said: “A thrilling view on approach is a huge part of the joy of flying – for passengers and pilots alike. It’s interesting to note that most of the airports on the list are smaller ones rather than major international airline hubs.”
Michael Galbraith, station manager for Barra airport, agrees: “It goes to show that when it comes to a stunning landing, small can definitely be more beautiful,” he said in a statement.
Here’s the top 10; click on the links to view footage of the air approaches:
1. Barra airport (Scotland, UK)
Tiny Barra airport in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides has a unique beach runway – the only one in the world for scheduled aircraft – with flight times varying according to the tide as the runway is literally washed away once a day. The beach is also open to foot visitors who must observe the windsock to see if the airport is in operation. One voter commented “Beautiful scenery and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to land on a beach”.
2. London City Airport (London, UK)
As the closest airport to London’s city centre, the approach to London City airport provides a highly scenic approach over iconic landmarks including Big Ben, the London Eye and the 2012 Olympic park. The approach is unique as the glide path is set at a steep 5.8 degrees as opposed to the usual 3, with one voter calling it “a thrilling descent with panoramic London views”.
3. Jackson Hole Airport (Wyoming, USA)
Set against a backdrop of the Teton Mountains and entirely surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole airport was declared a USA national monument in the 1940s. One voter commented: “The beauty of the Grand Tetons is amazing as you are approaching Jackson Hole, especially at the beginning of sunset! Awesome is the only word”.
4. Aruba Airport (Dutch Caribbean)
Queen Beatrix International Airport is the gateway to the Caribbean island of Aruba. Located on the island’s west coast, the runway approach gives stunning incoming views of the island as you fly over the ocean. It was originally a US airbase, and was developed into an international airport in the 1950s. One voter commented: “You can see the island ocean to ocean, outlined in white. Just nature at its best”.
5. Malé Airport (Maldives)
Surrounded by the Indian Ocean and offering highly scenic views of the archipelago of the Maldives, Malé airport (officially called Ibrahim Nasir International Airport) is situated on Hulhulé island, one of the twenty-six Maldivian atolls closest to the capital island Malé. It was originally built by a workforce of 2250 local volunteers in the 1960s. One fan commented that “you often see turtles and dolphins on approach”.
6. St Barts Airport (French Caribbean)
With a runway length of just 650 metres, Gustaf III Airport on the Caribbean island of St Barthelemy does not cater to international flights – only scheduled and private charter propeller services. With very tight angles, hills, unusual wind conditions and the short landing strip to negotiate, it is a very challenging descent, with only the most qualified and highly-trained pilots able to land there. One voter likened it to “landing on an aircraft carrier”.
7. Queenstown Airport (New Zealand)
Situated on the South Island of New Zealand, a landing at Queenstown offers birds-eye views of New Zealand’s famously beautiful scenery, including Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps and Remarkables mountain ranges. The airport is particularly busy in the winter when these turn into some of the world’s finest skiing slopes. One fan commented: “The stunning low level approach brushes past the great Southern Alps, you are able to see people skiing as you fly in. Simply beautiful”.
8. Gibraltar (British overseas territory)
Gibraltar airport, owned by the Ministry of Defence as RAF Gibraltar, is the world’s closest to the city that it serves, being just 500 metres from Gibraltar’s city centre. The runway is actually intersected by a main road which closes every time a plane lands or departs. The rock of Gibraltar looms large on the stunning approach, causing unusual wind patterns and turbulence. One voter commented “Challenging winds and a great view – not to mention a slight feeling of superiority when you cross the closed road!”
9. Narvik Airport (Norway)
Narvik Airport is located within the Arctic Circle in northern Norway, and is one of the world’s most northerly airports. It was built in 1972 and originally used as a military airport. The approach offers stunning views of the wintery landscape with one voter describing its location as “surrounded by arctic landscape, mountains, lakes and fjords”.
10. St Maarten (French/Dutch Caribbean)
The Princess Juliana airport on the Caribbean island of St Maarten (Saint Martin) is exceptionally close to the beach, with low-flying aircraft skimming the heads of holidaymakers below. The sunset bar area at the end of the runway is the ultimate plane-spotter’s viewing spot: In a local ritual, thrill-seekers ‘ride the fence’, hanging on during the jet blast from a 747 take off. One fan called the landing “terrifying yet brilliant”.
* The PrivateFly.com Favourite Airport Approach poll was conducted from October 11 to November 25, 2011 on PrivateFly.com. Results were generated by PrivateFly website users and from social media invitations across a range of global sites. 1018 votes were received in total, with 79 different airports receiving a nomination.
(Caption on blog landing page: Barra beach landing. Image courtesy of PrivateFly.com)