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Pilots reveal Europe's toughest runways
Posted on 14/04/2017

TransportAustria

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Relaxing in the back, we as passengers may often forget that flying is not as easy as it seems, especially when trying to land one of Europe's toughest runways.

innsbruck, austria, voted europe's toughest runway

innsbruck, austria, voted europe's toughest runway
©Nikkytok /123RF

Ever wondered which of Europe's runways are the toughest to land? If you thought the same level of preparation went into each one, you'd be categorically wrong. Easyjet pilots have revealed that European airport runways are rated from Category A to C - C being the trickiest to land - and which airports belong to which category.

In the past 22 years no accidents have been recorded on any British passenger jet flights. This fantastic safety record reflects accurately the hard work, preparation and training that all pilots go through before being allowed to fly passengers.

However from the pilot's perspective, some airport landings can be particularly challenging. Airport runways are categorised into three categories:

Category A - landing with no special procedures needed
Category B - slightly out of the ordinary circumstances when landing
Category C - runways which can only be landed on by experienced pilots who have had specific simulator training

One example of a Category C airport in the UK is City Airport. Dave Thomas, the chief training pilot for British Airways, says: "It's a relatively short runway in a very tight area, surrounded by buildings - it's got Canary Wharf at one end. With the buildings being so close to the airport you have a steeper-than-normal approach. So we do additional training over what we would do for a normal airport."

"Pilots love Cat C airports, it's what we are paid to do"

©Violin /123RF


These are the six toughest runways that pilots have the pleasure (or challenge) of landing in Europe, along with Easyjet's assessment:

Innsbruck, Austria - Valley location with high terrain on all sides. Complex non-standard instrument approaches with performance-limited missed approach procedures. Challenging visual manoeuvring within the valley. Low-level wind shear and turbulence associated with high winds and the terrain, notably in Foehn conditions.

Gibraltar - Performance-limited landing and take-off weights due to short runway. Abnormal wind effects, turbulence and wind shear due to "rock". Critical, non-standard visual approaches due to proximity of terrain.

Salzburg, Austria - High terrain, particularly in the missed approach area. Performance-limited missed approach procedures. Critical, non-standard visual approaches due to the proximity of terrain.

Madeira - Proximity of the airfield to high terrain leads to potentially severe turbulence and wind shear up to and including the final stages of the approach. Complex wind limitations. Critical, non-standard visual approaches due to proximity of terrain. Critical missed approach procedures due to proximity of terrain. Critical, non-standard departure procedures due to the proximity of terrain.

Ajaccio, Corsica - A terrain-rich island environment. Performance-limited missed approach procedures. Critical, non-standard visual approaches due to proximity of terrain. Night-time restrictions. Turbulence due to terrain, particularly in Mistral conditions.

Mykonos, Greece - A short and narrow runway. A terrain-rich island environment. Limited/basic instrument approach procedures. Some reliance on visual procedures. Wind shear and turbulence due to terrain and high summer temperatures.

Santorini, Greece - A narrow, sloped runway. A terrain-rich island environment. Limited/basic instrument approach procedures. Some reliance on visual procedures. Wind shear and turbulence due to terrain and high temperatures.

They may be challenging for pilots but British Airways Captain Prior reassured passengers: "Pilots love Cat C airports, it's what we are paid to do. A challenging airport has a lot more going for it from a pilot perspective. The aeroplanes are superbly designed, the crew are trained to the very highest standards. Relax and enjoy yourself - it's a great and safe experience."

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