Unusual Airports

Kansai International Airport – JapanWith land being scarce in Japan, engineers decided to create their own land. About 3 miles off the shore of Osaka Bay, a manmade island was created so a airport could be built there. The island is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide. Work started in 1987 and was completed by 1994. Travelers are transported to and from the airport via car, railroad or ferry.

Engineers have had to deal with earthquakes, cyclones, an unstable seabed, and sabotage attempts from protestors. However they failed to take into account Global warming and experts say in 50 or so years the manmade island could be underwater.

Gibraltar Airport
Gibralter is a tiny territory that lies between Morocco and Spain. Construction of the airport dates back to World War II. Today it serves as a base for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force as well as daily commercial flights.

Winston Churchill Avenue, which is Gibraltar’s busiest road just happens to cut right across the runway. Railroad style crossing gates come down and hold back traffic so planes can land or take off. How crazy is that?

Madeira International Airport

Madeira, Portugal

Madeira is a small island far off the coast of Portugal. The original runway was only 5000 feet long, which posed a huge risk even for the most experienced pilots and limited tourism.

Now the runway has been extended to more then 9000 feet. This was achieved by building a bridge which sits on top of 200 pillars, that serves as an extension for the runway

Don Mueang International Airport

Bangkok, Thailand
At first glance Don Mueang International airport may seem like just another airport. However if you look a little closer you will find an 18 hole golf course right smack in the middle of the two runways. Which gives the phrase “FOUR” a whole new meaning.

Ice Runway

The Ice Runway is one of three major airstrips used to haul supplies and researchers to Antarctica’s McMurdo Station. There aren’t actually any paved runways here just long stretches of ice and snow that are meticulously groomed.

There is plenty of space on the runways so even super size aircrafts can land here. The challenge is making sure that the weight of the aircraft doesn’t break the ice and get stuck in the soft snow. Once the ice on the runway starts to break up, planes are redirected to other airstrips.

Congonhas Airport
Sao Paulo, Brazil
While this airport itself is nothing special its location is, just 5 miles from the city center. This probably wasn’t the original plan but since the airport was completed in 1936, the city just sort of grew up around the airport.
Pilots and air traffic controls need to be on their toes when landing here and the awkward arrival and departure routes don’t help.

Most major cities have an airport, but rarely are they built just 5 miles from the city center, especially in metropolises like Sao Paulo. Congonhas’ close proximity to downtown can be attributed in part to the fact that it was completed in 1936, with the city experiencing rapid development in the following decades.

Courchevel International Airport
Courchevel, France
Getting to the iconic ski resort of Courchevel requires navigating the formidable French Alps before making a hair-raising landing at Courchevel International Airport. The runway is about 1700 feet long, but the real surprise is the large hill toward the middle of the strip.

You take off going downhill and land going uphill. Landing here is so difficult pilots need special certification before attempting to conquer the dangerous runway.

Princess Juliana International Airport

Simpson Bay, Saint Maarten
When landing on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, pilots must fly over a small strip of beach, clear a decent size fence and pass over a road before touching down.

This beach is a popular spot for tourist who love experiencing what its like to stand right under a landing plane. Don’t forget to cover your ears, its loud. The real challenge is to make sure a semi truck isn’t coming down the road when a plane is landing. It becomes a vertical obstacle and if the truck is light, the jet blast could blow it over.

Barra Airport

Barra, Scotland
Planes bound for the island of Barra, located off Scotland’s west coast, have used the beach as a makeshift runway since the 1930s. Despite the lack of paved runways on the island, the airport still boasts a modern control tower that’s responsible for handling more than 1000 incoming and departing flights per year.

When the tide comes in at Barra, the runway disappears, forcing flights to be scheduled around the movement of the ocean. Landing on the beach, while novel, has drawbacks. “The little pieces of sand and salt really eat up the bearings and can jam moving parts of the airplane.

Hong Kong International Airport
Chek Lap Kok, Hong Kong
What makes this island based airport unique is that it has a luxury golf course and massive expo center within walking distance from the runway.

Dammam King Fahd International Airport
Dammam, Saudi Arabia
This airport is the largest in the world in terms of landmass, over 300 square miles.

The airport includes a large mosque which is able to hold thousands of people. There is a Royal Terminal which serves the Royal Family and includes an elegant reception hall and pressroom.
Denver International Airport

Denver, Colorado

Denver International Airport is the largest airport in North America and is one of the best examples of a green airport and has a 9200 panel solar farm on the grounds. It produces enough electricity to power the terminal for 6 months a year and now has a photovoltaic system which powers the fuel storage and distribution facility.