Madeira Airport amongst world’s ‘Top-10 most stunning aerial approaches’

in News · 27-11-2010 00:00:00 · 0 Comments
Madeira Airport amongst world’s ‘Top-10 most stunning aerial approaches’

Portugal’s Funchal Airport, on the autonomous island of Madeira, was voted sixth on a list of the top-10 ‘most stunning aerial approaches’, compiled by private jet hire network

Topping PrivateFly’s top-10 most “stunning and inspirational airport approaches” was Sion, in Switzerland, a country that was featured twice on the list.
Second and third on the list were the Caribbean Islands St. Maarten (who’s Princess Juliana Airport is described as “exceptionally close to the beach, with private jet aircraft and airliners literally skimming over the heads of holidaymakers (…) the ultimate plane-spotter’s viewing spot.”) and St. Barts, Airport respectively. At Saint Barts, “with very tight angles, hills, unusual wind conditions and the short runway to negotiate, there’s little margin for error and only the most qualified and highly-trained pilots can land there”. International flights do not land at St. Barts.
In fourth place was Gibraltar, which “has the distinction of being the closest to the city it serves, being only 500 metres from Gibraltar’s city centre.
“The runway is actually intersected by a main road which has to be closed every time a plane lands or departs. The rock of Gibraltar looms large on the stunning approach, causing unusual wind patterns and turbulence”, the listing explained.
Switzerland was featured for a second time on the list with the country’s St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport.
In sixth place was Portugal’s Funchal Airport, on the island of Madeira.
“The runway at Madeira’s Funchal Airport (also known as Santa Catarina) is bordered by water on one side and mountains on the other and was rebuilt in 2000 to include a stunning bridge-like extension, with 180 supporting pillars, over the Atlantic, providing both a dramatic view and additional car parking (underneath!)” the description explained. It elaborated “Before the rebuild, Madeira’s Airport was infamous for its short runway which, surrounded by high mountains and the ocean, made it a tricky landing for even the most experienced of pilots. The new runway now allows both airlines and private jets to land at Madeira Funchal”.
When the airport opened on 18 July, 1964, it had two runways measuring 1,600 kilometres. The original runway was later extended by 200 metres built over a series of columns, following an incident with a TAP flight – Portugal’s national flag carrier – eight years earlier in 1977.
The incident involved TAP Flight 425, a Boeing 727 en-route from Brussels on 19 November 19, 1977, which overshot the runway and plunged over a 200 feet steep bank hitting a nearby bridge and crashing onto the beach; splitting in half and bursting into flames.
Of the 164 people aboard (156 passengers and eight crew), 131 were killed (125 passengers and 6 crew).
It is believed the crew was trying to land the aircraft on the notoriously short runway in heavy rain, strong winds and poor visibility. After two unsuccessful attempts the pilot and his co-pilot reportedly decided to make one last try before diverting to the Gran Canaria Airport in the Canary Isles.
Subsequently, TAP stopped flying the Boeing 727-200 to Madeira, and started flying only the 727-100, which was six metres shorter and took 60 fewer passengers, until the extension was carried out years later.
The runway now measures 2,781 metres (9,124 feet) and is capable of accommodating wide-body commercial jets like the Boeing 747 or the Airbus A340.
Following Madeira is London City Airport, in seventh place, singled out from the city’s other airports for its “highly scenic approach over world-famous London landmarks” such as Big Ben and The Gherkin.
Lukla Airport, Napal ranked 8th – “an exhilarating experience” – with Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport being voted 9th due to its approach, which “is a truly spectacular one, offering the contrast of desert with a sudden metropolis, unrivalled for sheer size and glamour.”
Rounding off the list, in 10th place, is Barra Airport, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, which is in fact situated on the beach.
Adam Twidell, CEO of, an experienced pilot and author of the Top-10 listing said on their website: “Over the years, I have experienced many different airports, but the ones I have selected here are highly memorable.”


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