Chapman Freeborn blog


The World’s most unusual runways

There are some airports in the world where, instead of landing on a conventional runway, passengers will have a rather different experience. Not every location has the ample space and flat terrain required to build the long flat runways that we are used to seeing. On these occasions, clever engineering and a little ingenuity is required in order to create some truly remarkable landing strips.

Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar


Landing at Gibraltar International Airport seems no different from landing at any other airport. Even once the aircraft has touched down, it will taxi to the terminal as usual. However to get there, it will have to cross the busiest road in Gibraltar, stopping all traffic until it passes.

Barra Airport, Scotland


Barra Airport, situated on the Island of Barra in the North West of Scotland, is a short runway airport where passengers will experience taking off and landing on a beach. It is the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use a beach as a runway. Flight times vary with the tide, as at hide tide, each of the three beach runways are submerged.

Gisborne Airport, New Zealand


Gisborne Airport, located on the North Island of New Zealand, is unique in that it is one of few airports around the world that has a railway line crossing the main runway. The railway track splits the runway almost in the middle, meaning that aircraft take-offs and landings are coordinated around the passing trains.

Courchevel Airport, France


Courchevel Airport in the French Alps serves the ski resort of the same name. It has a very short runway at only 537 metres and is on an upslope. There is no specific procedure for landings at Courchevel Airport, and in bad weather, landing is almost impossible due to there being no lighting aids.

Princess Juliana International Airport, Saint Martin

Princess Juliana International Airport

Princess Juliana International Airport sees aircraft fly just metres over the heads of tourists on the sandy beach below. The airport is the second busiest in the Eastern Caribbean, and attracts plane spotters from all over the world to come and sit on the beach and marvel at aircraft flying overhead in such close proximity.

Kansai International Airport, Japan


To cope with lack of land space in Osaka, engineers designed and constructed an airport three miles off the coast of the on the Japanese island of Honshu. Building the airport took around seven years, and according to experts, global warming could see it submerged into the sea within a few decades.

Don Mueang International Airport, Thailand


At first glance Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok doesn’t look all that special, but on closer inspection you’ll find that an 18 hole golf course lies between the two runways. The airport and the golf course were originally for military use only, however Do Mueang has recently opened to commercial air traffic, and the number of visitors to the golf course has had to be reduced.


Images courtesy of damian entwistleDaniel GarlandDavid StanleyHugues MittonAero IcarusNASA Earth ObservatoryKaren Blumberg