I just read a great article on Travel & Leisure on the world’s scariest runways (check out the slideshow) and it’s brought back quite a few harrowing memories. 🙂
I remember a landing once in the days when Hong Kong had its Kai Tak airport. It was during the monsoon and the plane was shuddering continuously and jerking left and right as cross-winds had the plane in its grip. Kai Tak had one of the scariest runways in the world: the runway stuck out into the harbour like a lone finger with water on three sides. The approach into the airport was absolutely nerve-wracking as pilots had to perform almost acrobatic manoeuvres to negotiate mountains and skyscrapers to get to the runway.
That day, bad weather didn’t make it easier. I was sitting at the window and had a blurred vision of the city lights through the heavy rain when I suddenly saw the runway beneath us. Seconds before the touchdown, a strong gale-force wind hit us from the right causing the plane (a DC-10) to bank to the left. In a split-second, the plane was no longer perfectly aligned with the runway and as I looked out, I noticed the murky darkness of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour, instead of the runway lights. Before we knew it, the plane’s three engines were on full thrust and we were heading back up into the sky. The pilots had to make a steep bank to the left to avoid the buildings and surrounding mountains. I sat, frozen, and held my breath. I heard some screams and gasps but I didn’t dare look around. We circled around a few times before the pilot made a successful landing. I always wondered what the pilots were going through during that first hellish, aborted landing. Check out the landing below to get an idea of the harrowing landing I experienced. Add the fact that it was a stormy night and the rain was pouring down in buckets and the picture is complete!
If you have some harrowing landing stories to tell, you’re most welcome to share them!