Even in excellent conditions with the most gentle of approaches, landing an airliner full of passengers is more than enough responsibility for most pilots. Now think about the determination it takes to safely land in adverse conditions, with torrential rains, brutal crosswinds, mountains, cliffs, and sometimes even taxiing planes to contend with.
That's just daily life at these six airports, each possessing the most treacherous runways in the United States.
1. LaGuardia Airport, New York City
Between LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark International, it’s safe to say there’s just a lil' bit of air traffic in the area. Look past all the potential near-collisions (if the air traffic controller happened to sleep anywhere other than a Holiday Inn Express), and you’re still contending with lots of water right next to the occasionally icy runway, ensuring you certainly won’t survive a crash.
2. Aspen/Pitkin Airport, Aspen
Aspen/Pitkin Airport is—as you might suspect—a high-altitude runway. Planes can handle the altitude of course, but because the air is less dense, landing speed is increased. Combine that with an unusually steep approach dictated by the fact that you’re in the Rockies, and you’ve never had a more legitimate excuse to shell out unreasonable sums for those in-flight cocktails.
3. Logan Airport, Boston
Logan used to be set up so poorly that officials spent big bucks developing a new taxiing system, complete with fancy lights and radar—but only after numerous close calls on runways, and at least one major incident where two planes hit each other on the taxiway.
4. Telluride Regional Airport, Telluride
At over 9,000 feet, Telluride was the highest airport in the U.S. to offer regularly scheduled flights up until last year. It’s still open as a general aviation airport, although it’s estimated that as much as one in five flights diverts at the last second because of rapidly changing weather conditions. Apparently landing on the narrow plateau with a 1,000 foot drop at the end of the runway is just a little too much risk. Fun fact: landing at this airport was actually a mission in an old version of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
5. Catalina Airport, Santa Catalina
Sitting 1,600 feet up isn't the actual problem here. Rather, it's the steep cliffs on three sides and virtually zero runoff that makes for a pretty difficult landing on your way to the wine mixer.
6. Reagan National Airport, D.C.
Washington, D.C. has a lot of very secure buildings with strictly enforced no-fly zones over them—the Pentagon and the White House are some of them. Consequently, depending on the runway used, pilots have to follow the Potomac River at relatively low altitude, using lights on bridges as guiding points. There are also very sharp turns at very low altitude just after takeoff and immediately before landing. Combine that with a short runway that has water on both ends and, well, you get the picture.
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