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The World’s Most Extreme Runways
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Breath-taking runways in more ways than one

Most airports offer the same facilities: waiting areas, security machines, luggage services, ticketing counters and perhaps a little café where you can buy some chips and pick up some last-minute souvenirs.

Most times, we are happy to leave the airport as quickly as possible so that we can simply get on with our adventure.

There are, however, a handful of airports around the world where landing and taking-off is an adventure in itself.

Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal

Rated as the most dangerous airport in the world, Nepal’s Tenzing-Hillary Airport is not for the faint-hearted. Tucked away in the Himalayas, the airport’s runway is only 460m long (the length of 4 football pitches) with a steep incline. Mountains loom north of the runway while the south is a steep 600m drop. Named after the first people to reach Mt. Everest’s summit, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, this airport is the gateway for climbers keen to climb Everest.

Barra Airport, Scotland 

At high tide, the runway of Barra Airport is nowhere to be seen. This is because it is the only airport in the world to use the beach as the runway for scheduled flights. With a runway that is literally under the water, it is little surprise that flight times are dictated by the tide. Instead of runway lights, Barra Airport uses wooden poles along its runway to guide planes onto the sand.

Male International Airport, Maldives 

The lone runway of Male International Airport takes up the entire length of an island, the Hulhule Island. The runway itself, at almost 2800m long, is not particularly short. What makes it so special is that it sits just 2m above sea level and is completely surrounded by water. A slight miscalculation by the pilot could send the plane right into the Indian Ocean.

Juancho E Yrausquin Airport, Saba (Caribbean) 

On the sunny Caribbean island of Saba, you will find the world’s shortest runway for commercial planes. At just 396m long, only small aircraft which can quickly decrease speed can land here. As if the short runway was not enough, it is also located on a cliff that drops into the Caribbean Sea on three sides and is flanked by high hills on the other.

Telluride Regional Airport, Colorado (USA) 

You will need nerves of steel to land on this runway. Perched on a plateau 2,767m above sea level in the Rocky Mountains, Telluride’s single runway is next to a heart-stopping, 300m drop to the San Miguel River below. Prior to a renovation in 2009, it also had a giant dip in the centre.

(All images - credit: Wikimedia Commons under creative commons licence)

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