Most people have seen images of airports and runways in exotic locations, where pilots and flight crew are expected to navigate mountainous passes, short runways, or treacherous looking approaches, sometimes without even having the benefit of a flight tower. The following landing strips are not in far-off, exotic locations; however, they are extremely difficult to land and are all located within the United States.
Aspen/Pitkin County Airport in Colorado
Any pilot attempting a takeoff or landing from this ski-lover’s haven outside Aspen will be required to go through special training in order to navigate the airport’s steep approach and mountainous surroundings. As if that wasn’t daunting enough, pilots must take off and land from opposite directions – using a single runway.
Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Montana
This airport, situated between two national parks – Yellowstone and Glacier – throws several obstacles in the way of approaching pilots. Deer that wander on or near the runways are a constant threat, and the extreme temperature swings in the area present another challenge. The fact that this airport doesn’t have a control tower only compounds all of these potential dangers.
Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody, Wyoming
Just fifty-three miles from Yellowstone National Park, the natural beauty that surrounds this airport can be misleading. Not only is this location another one that lacks a control tower, but there is also no approach control facility to this airstrip. This means that pilots landing here must rely on their training and determine the rate of their plane’s descent without the benefit of any vertical guidance.
LaGuardia Airport in New York City
Just a few miles from two other airports, JFK and Newark, the area that surrounds LaGuardia is some of the busiest airspace on the planet. While other airports must contend with mountainous terrain and wild animals, other aircraft combined with ever-changing weather conditions present most of the dangers when approaching or leaving the largest airport system in the United States.
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Virginia
Similar to LaGuardia, the problem areas with this airport are mostly man-made. However, instead of airspace that is filled to capacity, the pilots who approach Reagan National Airport must navigate the many no-fly zones and other restricted areas around the nation’s capital. To further complicate landings, pilots must perform a sharp forty degree turn and then visually line the airplane up with the Potomac River before approaching the runway.