The World’s Most Interesting Airports

It’s not always easy building an airport. Engineers often must face obstacles such as limited space, difficult terrain, and even unusual functional requirements. The result are some pretty creative, unique – and, at times, scary – airports. Here’s a look at a few of the world’s most interesting ones.

  • Tenzig-Hillary Airport, Nepal – Considered by many to be the most dangerous airport in the world, the Tenzig-Hillary Airport is more than 9,000 feet above sea level and has one of the steepest runways on the planet. With a 2,000-foot dropoff on one side of it and mountainous terrain on the other, it is quite impossible to abort a takeoff.
  • Federal Transfer Center, Oklahoma – This facility is used for holding inmates and transferring them between federal prisons. Planes are able to pull up to built-in gates that connect directly to the prison.
  • Kansai International Airport, Japan – Because available land is limited around Osaka, Japan, this airport had to be built three miles off the coast on a manmade island. The island is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide – big enough to be seen from space.
  • King Fahd International Airport, Saudi Arabia – At a size of 300 square miles, this massive airport is even larger than the neighboring country of Bahrain. It includes a mosque large enough to have thousands of people, and it has a terminal specifically for the royal family.
  • Courchevel International Airport, France – This airport in the French Alps is located 6,000 feet above sea level and has a runway that rises uphill and drops dramatically downhill, so pilots take off going downhill and land going uphill.
  • Ice Runway, Antarctica – This airport is used by Antarctic researchers. It is built annually at the start of each season, and closes before the ice breaks up in early December. It provides planes with plenty of surface area, but pilots have to be concerned with possibly breaking the ice or getting stuck in soft snow.
  • Gibraltar Airport, Gibraltar – Located on the tiny island of Gibraltar, the airport’s runway is located on the only available stretch of flat land. The problem is it intersects with the busiest road on the island, Winston Churchill Avenue. The busy four-lane road is blocked by crossing gates when a plane is taking off or landing.