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The Most Extraordinary Airports in the World

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There are tens of thousands of airports operating in different countries across the world, and this number is growing continuously. Find out about the oddest of them in Sputnik’s photo gallery.

From the Caribbean to the Himalayas, here are some of the strangest airports around the world.

© Fotolia / SolarisysPrincess Juliana International Airport is located on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin divided between France and Netherlands. It is not equipped with an automatic landing system, which is why pilots have to land planes manually. In addition, the airport runway is very short – its length is 2,130 meters. Therefore, very low-altitude flyover landing approaches (right over the holidaymakers’ heads on Maho Beach) is a common thing here.
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Princess Juliana International Airport is located on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin divided between France and Netherlands. It is not equipped with an automatic landing system, which is why pilots have to land planes manually. In addition, the airport runway is very short – its length is 2,130 meters. Therefore, very low-altitude flyover landing approaches (right over the holidaymakers’ heads on Maho Beach) is a common thing here.
CC BY-SA 2.5 / Hugues Mitton / Courchevel aeroportThe runway at Courchevel Airport surrounded by the French Alps is even more extreme: it is only 525 meters long and has a gradient of 18.5%. In addition, there is a vertical drop at the end. Only very experienced pilots can cope with landing here.
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The runway at Courchevel Airport surrounded by the French Alps is even more extreme: it is only 525 meters long and has a gradient of 18.5%. In addition, there is a vertical drop at the end. Only very experienced pilots can cope with landing here.
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Julio / Agatti AirstripIndia’s Agatti Aerodrome is located on a narrow island and is surrounded by the Indian Ocean on all sides. It has a single asphalt runway, 1,204 meters long and 30 meters wide, while its terminal building can handle 50 passengers during peak hours.
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India’s Agatti Aerodrome is located on a narrow island and is surrounded by the Indian Ocean on all sides. It has a single asphalt runway, 1,204 meters long and 30 meters wide, while its terminal building can handle 50 passengers during peak hours.
© AFP 2021 / Manuel CenetaKai Tak Airport, previously known as Hong Kong International Airport, is famous for its heart-stopping approach extremely low over Hong Kong. It was built in a very inconvenient location, surrounded by high hills and residential buildings. In 1998, the 73-year-old scary airport was closed. The end of the Kai Tak Airport was even celebrated with a small ceremony held inside the control tower after the last flight took off.
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Kai Tak Airport, previously known as Hong Kong International Airport, is famous for its heart-stopping approach extremely low over Hong Kong. It was built in a very inconvenient location, surrounded by high hills and residential buildings. In 1998, the 73-year-old scary airport was closed. The end of the Kai Tak Airport was even celebrated with a small ceremony held inside the control tower after the last flight took off.
© Sputnik / Olga Golovko / Go to the photo bankNorth Front Airport in Gibraltar is built between a city and a mountain on a tiny peninsula with an area of 6.8 square kilometers. Therefore, it has only one short runway that crosses the Winston Churchill Avenue, leading to the land border with Spain. It is Gibraltar's busiest highway, which has to be closed every time a plane lands or departs.
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North Front Airport in Gibraltar is built between a city and a mountain on a tiny peninsula with an area of 6.8 square kilometers. Therefore, it has only one short runway that crosses the Winston Churchill Avenue, leading to the land border with Spain. It is Gibraltar's busiest highway, which has to be closed every time a plane lands or departs.
CC BY 3.0 / Subhi / Barra Airport In Scotland, there is a unique airport situated in the wide shallow bay operating during low tide. Barra Airport is the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use a beach for take-off and landing.
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In Scotland, there is a unique airport situated in the wide shallow bay operating during low tide. Barra Airport is the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use a beach for take-off and landing.
CC BY 2.0 / Sian_meade / _MG_2331Surrounded by the icy sea and high mountains, Svalbard Airport is situated three kilometers from Longyearbyen, the largest settlement and administrative center of the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard. This is the world’s most northern airport with regular public flights.
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Surrounded by the icy sea and high mountains, Svalbard Airport is situated three kilometers from Longyearbyen, the largest settlement and administrative center of the Norwegian archipelago Svalbard. This is the world’s most northern airport with regular public flights.
© AFP 2021 / Mauricio LimaBrazil’s Congonhas Airport is located in the middle of the business district of Sao Paulo. Approaching this airport is highly challenging for pilots. In the 1930s, when the airport was constructed, it was outside the urban area, but the growing infrastructure of the city “swallowed” the airport, leaving very little space for planes to take-off and land.
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Brazil’s Congonhas Airport is located in the middle of the business district of Sao Paulo. Approaching this airport is highly challenging for pilots. In the 1930s, when the airport was constructed, it was outside the urban area, but the growing infrastructure of the city “swallowed” the airport, leaving very little space for planes to take-off and land.
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Josepabloply / Aeropuerto de la isla de SabaJust 46 kilometers to the southwest of Saint Martin, there is another extreme international airport – Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, situated on the Caribbean island of Saba (Netherlands). It has one of the shortest commercial runways in the world, only 400 meters long, flanked on one side by high hills, with cliffs that drop into the sea at both ends. Only small aircraft or helicopters can land here.
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Just 46 kilometers to the southwest of Saint Martin, there is another extreme international airport – Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, situated on the Caribbean island of Saba (Netherlands). It has one of the shortest commercial runways in the world, only 400 meters long, flanked on one side by high hills, with cliffs that drop into the sea at both ends. Only small aircraft or helicopters can land here.
© Sputnik / Mihail Mokrushin / Go to the photo bankApproaching Sochi Airport in the Russian resort city of Sochi allows enjoying a spectacular view. But in terms of landing it is quite tricky. Due to the natural obstacles (mountains) to the north and north-east of the airport, landing is carried out only from the seaside and take-off is always conducted in the opposite direction.
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Approaching Sochi Airport in the Russian resort city of Sochi allows enjoying a spectacular view. But in terms of landing it is quite tricky. Due to the natural obstacles (mountains) to the north and north-east of the airport, landing is carried out only from the seaside and take-off is always conducted in the opposite direction.
© Fotolia / Vadim PetrakovThe runway of Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal’s Himalayas, which is 527-meter-long, has a slope of 12%. Planes land here only in the daylight and only when there is good visibility. Due to unfavorable weather conditions, the airport usually serves aircraft with short take-off and landing.
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The runway of Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Nepal’s Himalayas, which is 527-meter-long, has a slope of 12%. Planes land here only in the daylight and only when there is good visibility. Due to unfavorable weather conditions, the airport usually serves aircraft with short take-off and landing.
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Richard Bartz / Madeira Airport Runway RBMadeira Airport a.k.a. Funchal Airport, which has recently received a new name after renowned football player – Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport – is a Portuguese airport located between mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, on the island cliffs. It has a frightening "suspended" runway, constructed on 180 reinforced concrete pillars with a 5-meter diameter. Sometimes the towers rise 50 meters above sea level.
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Madeira Airport a.k.a. Funchal Airport, which has recently received a new name after renowned football player – Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport – is a Portuguese airport located between mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, on the island cliffs. It has a frightening "suspended" runway, constructed on 180 reinforced concrete pillars with a 5-meter diameter. Sometimes the towers rise 50 meters above sea level.
© Fotolia / CharuspornProbably, one of the oddest airports in the world, Kansai International Airport in Japan, is located on two completely artificial islands connected to the land with the only three-kilometer-long bridge. Approaching this airport feels like the pilot is about to land on water. The Osaka Bay, where the airport is located, is one of the most seismically active areas in the world, so it took a lot of money to strengthen the terminal and runway structures.
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Probably, one of the oddest airports in the world, Kansai International Airport in Japan, is located on two completely artificial islands connected to the land with the only three-kilometer-long bridge. Approaching this airport feels like the pilot is about to land on water. The Osaka Bay, where the airport is located, is one of the most seismically active areas in the world, so it took a lot of money to strengthen the terminal and runway structures.
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