Friday, October 3, 2008

World's scariest runways

I ran into this article on CNN which linked to a compilation of the ten scariest runways in the world. I went to the list and saw that I have landed at two of the airports on the list: St. Maarten and JKF. Coincidentally, I flew from JFK to St. Maarten, so two birds one stone as they say.

For the record, I did not think that either one of those airports was scary. But, that got me thinking about which airport I would consider the scariest that I've ever landed at. Hands down, it would be Aeroparque Jorge Newberry in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Aeroparque, as it is colloquially known in Argentina, handles all domestic and Uruguayan air traffic in Buenos Aires. It is downtown, adjacent to the Rio de la Plata, which, coincidentally, is the widest river in the world.

Although I am technically no longer afraid of Aeroparque, it was nonetheless the site of my most terrifying landing experience. During our immigration to America in 1990, my family traveled from Mendoza to Aeroparque on the first leg of our trip. Although I had flown before, that was the first flight that I was really aware of what was happening.

The final approach into Aeroparque from the south takes you over the river prior to touching down. Although it is by no means a St. Maartin-like approach, at the time that was still a little too much for me to handle.

I was sitting by the window and my dad was sitting next to me. I had the window open, and we were both looking outside as we approached BA. When the river below us got to be too much for me, I panicked, slammed the window shade down, and clutched on to my dad for dear life.

It was terrifying.

What made this worse was that the next leg of the trip was Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro. I assumed that the word Rio in the name of the city meant that we were flying to another place with a river. As we approached Rio at night and I could not make out anything on the ground, I deduced that we were flying over the city's huge river and proceeded to panic once again.

What about you? What airports would you add to the list? By the way, my honorable mentions went to Denver International (where the altitude always makes landings interesting) and Mendoza (where you never know if they have a working radar).

Aeroparque has now become one of my favorite airports because of its great setting in downtown BA.
You also get a great view of the city known as the "Paris of South America" on the ascent. Last time I was there, I had the pleasure of showing off the aerial view of my country's capital city to a first time visitor and I think she appreciated Aeroparque's charm as well.


adb said...

I concur, that is the scariest runway I have ever encountered. Although I didn't know it was the scariest until I was safely on the ground in Mendoza when the Argentineans asked "did you see the tornado?"

J. Eric Smith said...

I was glad to see Reagan National on the list, since that's my winner: the river approach from the northwest is terrifying, especially as you are looking straight at the Washington Monument as you begin a last minute bank to the south. Watching the planes from the ground along that stretch of the river was riveting. It didn't help that the last thing you see below you before the runway is the 14th Street Bridge, into which a plane crashed while we were there.

Sparticus said...

adb- it was very good to hear about that tornado after we were safely on the ground. but: 1) remember all those planes taking off anyways and B) remember that turbulance bounce that nearly caused you to fling your alfajor into the overhead compartment?

eric- i have not flown into Reagan. from your description, it sounds very Aeroparque-esque. remember Hong Kong's Kai Tak? that would top this list hands down if it were still open.

Anonymous said...

Pobrecito, Nico. No sabia que te habia dado tanto miedo. Tampoco puedo creer que te gustaran tanto los aviones despues de esos dos momentos de panico.