We've all seen our fair share of landing strips: big rugged ones, skinny, barely-there ones and some that just look too dangerous to approach. OTP's List of the 10 Most Dangerous Landing Strips presents some plane-eating, monstrous bitch strips around the world. Maybe it's best you slap on a rubber prior to landing; this is going to be a rough ride.
Greenland, despite the confusing name, is super icy and full of icebergs. Iceland is also pretty damn icy so we have no idea where the name switch debate even started. In any case, landing a plane between a couple towering icebergs is like sticking your hand in a meat grinder and hoping for the best. The air around the landing strip is cold, windy and full of air pockets (the kind that make you crash). As such, all flights are scheduled to take-off during the day. Even with the lights on, this landing strip is vengefully unsightly.
Matekane seamlessly integrates a landing strip and a 2000 ft cliff that hangs right at the edge (the best combination next to a nose bleed in a cage with hungry Great Whites). Since this strip isn't very long, sometimes airplanes aren't quite airborne at the edge of the cliff and instead drop for a while (no biggie), until their wings flap into flight. Getting to the ground Wile E. Coyote style is mostly reserved for pilots delivering charity aid to the area. Should you feel like giving your nerves a rattle, hook up with bush pilots, who occasionally try their shaky hand at wrangling this death trap air strip.
This little ditty isn't too comfortable if you're a full-sized carrier. Only 1,722 ft long, this tiny runway sits atop the French Alps and services Courchevel, the surrounding ski resort. The snowy drapes in fact match her carpet, with wind and ice conditions lowering the chances of a smooth landing. To compensate for her stubby-ness, pilots must take off at a decline to gain speed and land at an incline to avoid becoming a pile of Alps plane rubbish. Courchevel only accommodates specially certified pilots and Pierce Brosnan. If you are neither of those, snowboarding in would be your best bet.
Not only will this baby rock you back and forth until your barf bag reaches capacity, the big bump in the middle throws in some great up and down action as well. Situated right in the middle of Ecuador's traffic-packed capital (meaning there is no shortage of shit you can crash into), this strip is also prone to a lot of slip and sliding due to tropical weather conditions. If all of that doesn't make her one unruly demon, there are active volcanoes that surround the area and on the (not so rare) occasion that they erupt, the air becomes saturated with thick ash making it difficult to distinguish the landing strip from say, a row of preschools and cute puppy farms. The fire crotch of landing strips, this runway is packed with turbulent heat.
If you've ever wanted to reenact Super Mario Bros 3 while inside an airplane and without the turtles and coins, this is your strip. Carved into the cliff of 2855 ft cleverly named Mt. Scenery, this dominatrix of a landing strip is tough but beautiful. At 1300 ft long, with cliff drop-offs on either end, a pilot must first directly aim at the massive cliff (which will be like a game of chicken..with a cliff..at really high speeds...and out of your control) before muscling a quick left to align with the runway. On the spotty decent, if you can pry your tear-ridden eyes open long enough, the incredible sights include hobbit-approved grassy knolls, jagged cliff faces, rolling mountains and crashing waves.
There has to be a reason why landing strips are paved, right? Our sources tell us there is definitely a correlation to safety. Well, Scotland didn't give a shit when they built Barra Airport, which uses a stretch of soft sandy beach as a makeshift landing strip. Pilots constantly adjust their landing strategies based on the level of the ocean tides and change their diapers accordingly. Once you're on the ground, enjoy this beautiful island by picking cockles and absorbing the sunshine. What's that? A bird, a plane? Run or die.
This poor strip is just plain accident prone. Kind of like grooming your down-belows without your glasses on, it's not uncommon to find the nearby parking lot with a car, car, plane, car “parked” alongside each other. Pilots are essentially running through an obstacle course each time they land here. A mixed bag of dangers ranging from sharp turns to avoid mountains, unpredictable weather patterns and a too-short stretch for a too-big plane (that's what she said), this crash landing site is more than a runway; it's also a fun way to gamble with your life.
If being up in the air for however many odd hours wasn't elevated enough for you, continue to hang out in altitude migraine territory at this high-in-the-sky strip. Hovering in the middle of the Himalayas, at 14,000 feet above sea level, the strip is about 61 football fields long to accommodate the stop and take-off time differences of high-altitude landings. Upon landing, you will be visually stunned with the snowy peaks and cloud forests but save some courage for the ride to town; actual civilization is over 2 hours away along winding, steep, hazardous mountain roads.
Landing here is like a game of Bop the Gopher, except with golfers (close). There's an 18 hole golf course in the middle of this airport's two runways and (non-evil) pilots must make sure not to drop in on tee time. Originally built as a military airport (and later opened to commercial planes), the golf course was installed to keep soldiers entertained once they got sick of all the hookers. A little red light goes on to let golfers know a plane is approaching. If you're colorblind, we suggest taking your clubs elsewhere.
If you stuck binoculars from the window of your aircraft and pointed them at this strip, you would find a sign that says “Beware of pot holes in the landing strip” (not to mention the airplane carcasses that line the outer banks of the runway). A beat-up old landing strip, Mwanza is lumpy and even driving over the runway would put a good dent in your hubcap. This is the one flight where a helmet might come in handy.
The purpose of this information isn't to deter you from going to these destinations. None of these places are Jurassic Park and you'll very likely set foot on the ground unscathed. Just make a visual note of where the barf bag is located, take a nice deep breath and hope the strip you're landing on isn't feeling too cranky.
Andy MacTaggart. Scottish playboy, jet-setter extraordinaire for suggesting the topic of this article - we love you!!