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Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sat Jun 26, 1999 1:57 pm

I'm not a pilot ( at times wish I could have been), but am fascinated with jets, planes and flying. I am wondering if there are any commercial pilots who would be willing to share which, if any, airports in the U.S. they least like to land/depart at? Am curious because I have heard that alot don't like to land here in Missoula, MT (valley surrounded by mountains). I just got to thinking about this and am interested in hearing a pilot's perspective.

RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sat Jun 26, 1999 2:08 pm

Im not a commercial pilot (though I do fly). I visited the Washington National Airport Control Tower and spoke with the controllers who said that the pilots either love it or hate it. Landing on runway 18, pilots are forced to follow the Potomac River for noise abatement and security, before finally squaring off and turning a very short final. This prompted curiousity as to how the ILS system worked there. Interestingly enough, the ILS is ponted off to the side, so once seeing the approach lights or runway itself, Pilots are forced to make the significant turn to short final one the transition from instrument to visual is made. Also, the runway is not too long. 6,000 something I think??I can understand why some pilots would not like this. Just a factoid. All of DCA can fit between the two parallels at Dulles.
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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sat Jun 26, 1999 2:46 pm

Airports in the U.S. are cake. I't down in central and south America where you have problems. Airports like Guatemala City. This is probably the worst runway int the world. If there is anything worse I would love to hear about it.

Guatemala city is a downsloping runway only 8000 feet long. The landing zone is coated in rubber, and has a layer of algae covering it. The foggy nights are conducive to the Algae, and makes it EXTREMELY slippery when it's wet which is all the time.

The down hill slope makes it harder to stop a 280,000 pound airplane. If you land long and It's wet your going of the cliff at the end and into the village below. A friend of mine did and went through a dozen houses killing six people. The Aircraft was the Millon Air DC8.

Bogata Columbia is nice place to have all engines operating. At 9000 feet aircraft performance is greatly reduced. If you lose an engine at max gross weight you will never make it over the mountains. That is one airport where the takeoff run uses up all availble runway. At the far end you might be 50 feet in the air when crossing the threshold. A 727 crashed into the mountains on departure last year killing all.

Americas worst is better than most airports in 3rd world countries.

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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sat Jun 26, 1999 6:30 pm

Try the African airports, like Oagadougou or Yaounde, where controllers don't know english have never heard of seperations. No ILS, the worst runways...
But pilots love it (Most Sabena pilots I know) for these are the places where one can really show some flying skills.
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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sat Jun 26, 1999 9:40 pm

New York, LaGuardia
Washington DCA
Binghamton, NY
Wilkesbarre, PA
Johnstown, PA
Altoona, PA
(The top 4 now that I work at a major...)
(The bottom 2 when I worked for a commuter)
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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sun Jun 27, 1999 8:34 am

Flying in Colombia is for real pilots, I mean pilots with guts, BogOta Airport is Cake for Colombian pilots, I have to admit that in my country are very dangerous airports, but if anyone is afraid from landing or departing at Bogota, Colombia, don't try Capurgana or Cucuta.

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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sun Jun 27, 1999 10:35 am

Beirut is difficult, surrounded by mountains, weaving approach over downtown, finals over high rise buildings. In the US one of the most hair-raising experiences has to be the Canarsie Approach at JFK in a 747. Easily as difficult as Kai Tak, similar profile with steep turn on (very) short finals over very bult-up real estate. Did it on Virgin Atlantic on a stormy evening, and for them and any pro crew it was a smooth non-event. But it's stuff like that they're trained for and the challenge and stylish execution must be a buzz. I'm not surprised Sabena crews enjoy aspects of Burkina Faso, Chad et al. Generally flying in Africa is not easy and pilots have to communicate between themselves to ensure separation. Lots of autopilots set to FL347, 354. This constant worry must grind one's nerves after a while but an MD80 pilot landing during a quiet hour at DFW in severe clear would probably trade.
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RE: How Hard Is It To Land In Reno (RNO)?

Sun Jun 27, 1999 11:07 am

For all of the pilots who fly in to Reno/Tahoe
International Airport, how hard is it to land there? It is my home airport and I have seen planes fly over my house (which is about 4 and a half miles parallel to the runway), make a U-turn and land. Regularly, pilots have to make a big turn from about 10 miles away to land on the runway. I have heard that it is hard because Reno is surrounded by 5,000 to 10,000 ft. high mountains on all sides and there is almost constant wind coming from the west.

Adam Beauchamp
Reno, NV

RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sun Jun 27, 1999 12:28 pm

Washington National

John Wayne in Orange County, CA
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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Sun Jun 27, 1999 1:12 pm

Though they will never say this,the pilots enjoy it,why? Because it takes real flying of a plane,not an autopilot set on CAT 111 automatic landing. The sucidal approach from the north at DCA,lets not forget La Guadia,it has a lovely crosswind, the much missed Hong Kong Kai Tak,and airports that have noise abatement procedures. Since we rarely hear of a plane crashes here in the states,I guess it could be said that these "dangerous" airports really do make for better pilots.


Sun Jun 27, 1999 2:41 pm

My parents live close to SNA and that is not a hard airport to land at I have done it many times!!
I had the hardest time at catalina that place is hard and the runway has holes all over it so you have to avoid them. All have to do is think and then you will be fine!
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RE: Jetpilot And Central/South America Airports

Mon Jun 28, 1999 5:55 am

Jetpilot--Yes, you are right on the ball! I was hoping someone would say that.

In addition to Guatelmala City, another airport is "Toncontin" at Tegucialpa, Honduras. The airport literally sits in a valley, surrounded by mountains on every side. On approach, the plane approaches with the airport on the left. It goes as far as he can go w/o hitting another mountain, banks sharply to the left, aligns himself just to the left of the runway and then once he passes a small hill to the right, banks right and his on target for the runway which is also VERY short. On takeoff, it's a little easier, but the plane really has to pull up and bank left so as not to hit the mountain in front of it.

The largest plane that lands there is an AA 757 (some of which which are configured to land at such airfields I think), a CO 735/733 flies there, as well as Grupo Taca planes (732's and possibly the A320)

FYI - Last week an AA 757 hit its main landing gears on the fence that separates the road and the runway. Surprisingly, the airplane landed safely and no one was injured.

When the plane lands successfully, the entire plane erupts in clapping and cheers. It is truly an awesome landing to experience.
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Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Mon Jun 28, 1999 6:50 am

Funchal (FNC) - Madeira Island is between the top hardest airports in the world to land in. Any pilot who needs to land there must have a special qualification for that airport.
The runway is very short with no safety areas in the end of each one. The largest plane to go there is the 757 but the runway is being increased.
Because my english is not very good, here's a picture (some of you have already seen it but like they say, one picture is worth more than 1000 words).

Luis, Faro, Portugal
Philly Phlyer
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Mirage, Don't Worry About Your English.

Mon Jun 28, 1999 10:27 am

It's better than that of most of the posters to this board who grew up speaking it!
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Mirage,is That Platform Suppose To Be The Runway?

Mon Jun 28, 1999 10:33 am

Is that platform they are building suppose to be the runway extension? I know la guadia in New York,has built the ends of the runway over the water by concrete supports,but building half of the runway on a "bridge"? I must say,you Europeans do have intiative.

RE: Which Airports ...questions!

Mon Jun 28, 1999 11:32 am

Thanks, all, for the great replies, and Mirage, that great picture! I cannot believe that runway! Truly amazing.
Hating water, there is no way I will EVER land there! I can't stand banking over Lake Michigan flying into Milwaukee!
In that picture, I don't see another runway. Is that the only one? I don't mean to sound morbid, but have any jets gone over that edge?

Another question for anyone who may know. A guest speaker I listened to a few months ago, who grew up in the Netherlands, was saying that because they are running out of land there, they are in the process of building runways out into the water. Does anyone know about this, and if so, could you please tell about it in more detail?

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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Mon Jun 28, 1999 2:22 pm

From what my airline pilot friends have
told me Burbank Airport in So. California is
hard when your landing from the North
do the wedding cake like airspace that
decorates that area of the valley. The
pilot's call it bonzai alley! The hardest
airport for me to land at is Catalina on
a windy day and at Fallbrook with a
slight morning land tailwind breeze.

RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Mon Jun 28, 1999 10:12 pm

What about the European airports?
I have heard that the Faro airport is not a pilots favorite?
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RE: Madeira (to Sontag)

Mon Jun 28, 1999 11:09 pm

Madeira is a nightmare. Yes, there have been a number of incidents and one very bad crash, unsurprisingly. Incidents first: there was a Brittania 767 landing, but overshot and went off the aircraft carrier-like end like a fighter and diverted to somewhere else. The Portugese authorities called the airline and described this incident, and the chief pilot said, "It was me flying the plane - and we're cancelling the route." I don't think widebodies land there anymore, but 757s do, and Air 2000 (I think it was) actually wrote off a 757 (apparently it's still there) in the process of landing. No-one was seriously injured but there was severe structural damage and it'll never fly again. The crash was sometime in the late 70s, a TAP Air Portugal 727 did two missed approaches in very poor weather and on the third, tried to stop, initated another go-around, then tried to stop again (exactly like that AA 727 at St Thomas) and went off the end, dropped 100 ft onto the beach and exploded. A TAP employee friend of mine who lived nearby saw the immediate aftermath and said she still occasionally has nightmares about the smell of the fire. I'll never forget her description of it.
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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Mon Jun 28, 1999 11:45 pm

Malaga, coming in from the mountains is tricky, London City is also a guaranteed adrenalin giving Airport, Florence has a very short runway and steep approach (like LCY), Lugano can prove horrific for people afraid of mountains, as is Innsbruck.
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William And Trijet

Tue Jun 29, 1999 3:22 am

Yes, the runway will be supported by those pillars. When ready it will have 2800m (9200ft) and will be able to receive any aircraft (imagine a 747 landing there!!!).

About Faro airport as you asked, at first sight don't seems to be hard to land at, but I've heard from a private pilot my friend that sometimes during Summer calm days, strange winds can make an unwelcome surprise when in short final. Also windshear can be a pilots enemy in this airport.
In 1992 a Martinair DC-10 crashed here. It was almost touching the runway in bad weather when a microbust made it land very hard crashing one of the wheel gears. The pilot loose control of the aircraft and it broked in 2 or 3 parts. About 54 people were killed in the only accident in FAO until now.
This is Faro

Thanks for your stories about Funchal, yes that TAP 727 was horrible.
Philly phlyer, thanks also.

Luis, Faro, Portugal
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RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Tue Jun 29, 1999 5:55 am


Samos in Greece is a very difficult approach... you have to make a 180 deg. turn about 1-2 miles away from the runway... coming from west as of the mountains, coming from east as of Turkey, which is not allowed to be overflown. Approaching from east, the runway is only about 50 meters away from the mediterean sea, of course a beach can be found at this small area...


RE: Which Airports Do Pilots Really Dislike Landing At

Wed Jun 30, 1999 2:56 am

Washinton National (DCA) is at the top of that list. I've flown in there 4 times since I started on the 57/67 last August. Trips with DCA don't even make it into my bids . LGA is also an ugly airport to fly into, its very similar to DCA, as they both have short runway(s) and tricky approaches. ORD is a great airport to fly into, but as all UAL pilots know, if your stuck on the C concourse and your next trip departs in 10 min from gate B1, your in trouble. As far as my favorites SFO, PDX, SEA, BWI, and LAX stick out as places I like to see every month.

Eric Baker
United Airlines
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RE: Which Airports ...questions!

Wed Jun 30, 1999 3:51 am

First post
Reading the postings about runways over water reminded me of an incident my brother, a civil engineer, experienced. His firm was hired to inspect the "pier" end of the runway at LGA in New York. He and a co-worker took a 16 foot boat under the runway, which was closed at the time, and started photagraphing the structure from underneath using a video camera and a large spot light. From their position under the runway, they could not see any sky, only water out past the end of the runway. About halfway through the inspection, he noticed a disturbance on the surface of the water about 1/4 mile away from the end of the runway, moving rapidly towards the runway, but he couldn't see what was causing it. About 5-10 seconds later, there was a tremendous impact on the runway as a DC-10 touched down. The airport had opened the runway and failed to notify him!! The disturbance he saw was the effect of the DC-10 over the water as it approached the runway. He stayed and finished the inspection, but couldn't stop the reflex to duck everytime a plane touched down.
David L
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RE: Mirage,is That Platform Suppose To Be The Runway?

Wed Jun 30, 1999 5:12 am

You say a picture's worth 1000 words. Well, I've seen that photo before, Mirage, and every time I see it I can think of 1000 words but 325 of them are unprintable :)

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