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Top 5 Shortest Runways In The World


Pilots could easily be considered extraordinary. Just the fact that they can lift those great birds of steel off the ground is amazing.

What is even more astounding is that these navigators of the skies can take off and land on strips of land barely longer than the off-ramps for airport parking. These are the five shortest commercial runways in the world.

5. Barra Runway, Scotland

At 2,231 feet, this is the shortest of three (not much bigger) runways at Barra, and the fifth shortest in the world. The length of this runway is not the only thing that makes it stand out. Like its two siblings at Barra Airport, this runway is made of sand. Making it the only commercial airport in the world where the pilot doesn't only have to be aware of the length of the runway, but also how the tide will affect the landing.

Barra BeachImage Courtesy of Catherine Morgan/CC BY-SA-2.0

4. Courchevel Runway, France

Courchevel runway, tucked away in the beauty of the French Alps, measures in at 1,722 feet with the added feature of a ramp. To take off and land at this airport the pilot needs to navigate the plane either up (for landing) or down (for take off) the ramped runway, while also considering the skiers on the slope right next to it. To be able to do this, they receive special training, which ensures that accidents are few and far between. Despite being considered one of the world's most dangerous airports, there has never been a fatality from the occasional accidents. Speaking of which, I have found even parking a car at the airport can be a challenge in winter. For some useful tips, check out Essential Travel Tips for Winter Airport Parking.

Courchevel RampImage Courtesy of Hugues Mitton/CC BY-SA-2.0

3. Inishmoore Runway, Ireland

1,608 feet is all the pilots at Inishmore really see as they come in to land at the world's third shortest runway. Yet as a passenger you get to take in the breathtaking views of the Irish coastline, which happens to be less than a mile away from the edge of the runway.

Coming into land at Inishmore.

2. Matekane Runway, Lesotho

The mountainous African Kingdom of Lesotho is home to one of the more elevated runways, which also happens to be only 1,312 feet long. Situated up in the mountains at 7,500 feet, the Matekane landing strip take off is an experience that should be on any and every thrill-seekers list - planes taking-off here often free fall off the edge of the runway before they are able to gather enough winder under their wings for full flight. There hasn't been an accident here in years and there has never been a fatality.

Matakane MountainsAn aerial view of Matekane runway

1. Saba Runway, Netherlands Antilles

At a teeny 1,300 feet, Saba runway in the Netherlands' Antilles is officially the shortest commercial runway in the world, a whooping 16,745 feet shorter than the longest runway in the world (situated in Qamdo, China). The runway juts out the side of the island's mountain and there is ocean on either side, making it quite the task to navigate. Throw in some wind and the prospect of both take off and landing seems like an almost impossible task to pull off safely. However, there has never been an accident at Saba.

Saba AntillesImage Courtesy of Photocapy/CC BY-SA-2.0
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