If you thought that your vacation officially starts after you de-board the plane, then you surely haven’t heard about these airport runways! Some are thrilling (to say the least) and some are simply gorgeous, but one thing is for sure — none of these counts in one of your many mundane airport experiences. By Shubhanjana Das
1. Paro Airport, Bhutan
You may have your detailed itinerary for Bhutan ready, and every detail about the pristine and picturesque Paro Valley memorised, but even the most frequent of flyers will get a bit of an adrenaline rush when the flight navigates its way amidst towering 18,000 ft. mountains. In Bhutan, only 17 pilots are authorised to land on the Paro runway, a meagre 6,500 ft. The aeroplane comes breathtakingly close to the homes situated on the mountains. A particular red Cliffside home serves as a focal point for pilots before the approaching the landing.
2. McMurdo Station, Antarctica
We admit that it isn’t every day one takes a flight to Antarctica, but the McMurdo Station airport is worth every mention. The Ice Runway is constructed on the volcanic rock of Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island. Used by the US Antarctic programme, this runway is four inches of compacted snow and is the only major airport in the continent. If that doesn’t give you goosebumps already, imagine the pilots attempting a blind landing during winters when it is dark 24×7. Scary!
3. Lukla Airport, Nepal
The abode of the Himalayas is bound to have an impressive amount of thrill in store, even when it comes to landings. The Lukla Airport in Nepal is the base airport for everyone visiting Mt. Everest. Not only is the altitude a challenging factor for pilots but the short runway also makes it difficult to land. The lack of electricity at the airport also leaves little option for the pilots to be in constant communication with air controllers for a safe landing. However, the views from the flight are worth every bit of anxiety in anticipation of the landing.
4. Tioman Airport, Malaysia
We are a bit confused as to whether this is a runway or the climax point of an extreme video game! The pilots landing at Tioman Island head straight for the mountain before making a sharp 90-degree turn, only to head towards a cliff with a deadly fall into the waters below awaiting at the end. Needless to say, there’s only one shot when it comes to this landing!
5. Barra International Airport, Scotland
Landings here are highly dependent on the tidal waves. Only five feet above the water, the runway here is a beach located in the shallow bay of Traigh Mhòr. During high tides, the runway gets entirely submerged. Like we said, who said your vacation starts after you de-board your plane?