Home » Blog »Pilot_Posts » Currently Reading:


September 3, 2014 Blog, Pilot_Posts No Comments

TOPIC: Airports: Current interesting ones, and futuristic plans

GOAL: To learn about airports of interest and their future plans

Level: Easy

Exercise #1: Read about airports, and then proceed to Exercise #2

Of course, the life of a pilot is based around the airport environment. He/she will often spend a cumulative of many hours waiting for the next flight or preparing for the next one. While there are so many interesting airports in the World today, we thought you might appreciate a quick look at some of the most dangerous airfields on the planet. These are classified as dangerous based on runway size and elevation, surrounding geography and their unique approach and departures procedures.

For example, Princess Juliana International Airport serves Saint Maarten, the Dutch part of the island of Saint Martin. It is the second busiest airport in the Eastern Caribbean. The airport is famous for its relatively short runway — only 2,180 meters/7,152 ft, which is barely enough for heavy jets. Because of this, the planes approach the island flying extremely low, right over the famed Maho Beach. Countless photos of large jets flying at 10–20 m/30-60 ft over relaxing tourists at the beach have been posted in magazines and on the Internet. Some people even post videos of the eye-catching approaches. For this reason, it has become a favorite for plane spotters. Despite the difficulties in approach, there has been no record of major aviation incidents at the airport.

Madeira Airport also known as Funchal Airport and Santa Catarina Airport is an international airport located near Funchal, Madeira. The facility controls national and international air traffic to/from the island of Madeira. The airport was once infamous for its short runway which, surrounded by high mountains and the ocean, made it a tricky landing for even the most experienced of pilots. The original runway was only 1,400 meters/4593 ft in length, but was extended by 400 meters /1312 ft after the incident of TAP Air Portugal Flight 425 in 1977. It was subsequently rebuilt in 2003, almost doubling the size of the runway, with an expansion built stretching out over the ocean. Instead of using landfill, the extension was built on a series of 180 columns, each being about 70m/230 ft tall.

Tegucigalpa is the capital city of Honduras. The international airport there (TGU) – the second smallest international airport in the world – is one of interest because of its difficult approach and surprisingly short runway. Toncontín International Airport is more commonly known as Tegucigalpa airport. The Tegucigalpa name is actually a misnomer in the essence that the airport is actually located in the capital’s sister city, Comayaguela. The airport was built on a plateau in the city near a basin between several tall mountains. This unique location allows for some spectacular approaches and interesting landings. The runway at TGU is only 1869 m/6,132 ft long and has a displaced threshold leaving only 1657 m/ 5,436 ft of useable landing runway. That limitation, coupled with a 1.06º downhill slope on runway 01, allows for little braking time. Many accidents have occurred at Toncontín airport. The most notable one was that of a TAN (Transportes Aereos Nacionales)/SAHSA (Servicíos Aereos de Honduras S.A.) Boeing 727-200 (N88705) into a mountain in 1989. The Boeing 727 had drifted from its VOR/DME to Runway 01. It crashed into Cerro de Hule (Translated into “rubber hill”) some 5,000 ft (1524 m) from the runway. This crashed killed 123 of the 138 passengers on board and half of the 8-member crew. Back in June of 1999, an American Airlines 757 struck the fence that separates the highway and the runway.

Hong Kong International Airport (VHHH) is the main airport in Hong Kong. It is also known as Chek Lap Kok Airport because it was built on the island of Chek Lap Kok. This airport does not offer any serious challenges to the experienced pilot, however, its predecessor the closed Kai Tak Airport certainly did.

The Kai Tak location is surrounded by rugged mountains. Less than 10 km to the north and northeast is a range of hills reaching an altitude of 610 m/2,000 ft. To the east of the runway, the hills are less than 5 km away. Immediately to the south of the airport is Victoria Harbour, and further south is Hong Kong Island with hills up to 640 m/2,100 ft. At the northern end of the runway, buildings rose up to six stories just across the road. The other three sides of the runway were surrounded by Victoria Harbour. The low altitude maneuvering required to line up with the runway was impressive as it was challenging. Pilot had to fly an IGS approach that led to a visual "checkerboard" checkpoint located on a hill. If the checkerboard was spotted, then pilots would proceed with a visual approach (including a relatively steep turn) and landing to the only one runway in use, numbered 13/31. This video will provide you with a pilot’s perspective of the approach, including view of the famous checkerboard.  The new award-winning airport opened for commercial operations in 1998, replacing Kai Tak.

Exercise #2: Watch video:

1.      Impressive footage of an American Airlines B757 landing at the Toncontin airport.

Exercise #3: Based on the information contained in the reading material above, match the airport name with the corresponding image.


Vocabulary: Label the following pictures

Princess Juliana International Airport  _____         

Madeira/Funchal Airport _______                   

Kai Tak  (former Hong Kong Int’l )         _____

Chek Lap Kok (Hong Kong Int’l)_____

Toncontín International Airport            _____



a)    ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­








Contact Us

We would love to hear from you! Please fill out this form and we will get in touch with you shortly.

Connect to Us

Facebook Twitter Youtube Linkedin

Featured Posts

Announcement: Aviation English – Inglês para Aviação

Damon Freeman Aviation English

Welcome to Global Aviation English’s Blog. Here we will release up to date information about what is happening in the world of Aviation English. We will also share some of our videos, mini lessons, videos and tips for tests and interviews. We have FREE online courses for Pilots, Flight Attendants, Mechanics, …

Cabin crew procedures


[Audio clip: view full post to listen] Cabin crew procedures Aim Practice English skills in an aviation context Revise some typical procedures and test yourself on knowledge you not only need to know but may be tested on during interviews Have fun! The list of cabin crew procedures can be …

Santos Dumont, Pioneer Aviator

Santos Dumont

[Audio clip: view full post to listen] Alberto Santos Dumont, Pioneer Aviator   Santos Dumont, born in 1873, grew up in a coffee plantation owned by his family but spent most of his adult life in Paris. He was so fascinated by machinery that even as a child he learned …

Airline vs. Executive Aviation


  TOPIC: Airline vs. executive aviation Listen to the audio GOAL: To compare airline flying versus working in executive aviation Level: Easy Exercise #1: Read about the differences between airline flying and executive aviation and then proceed to Exercise #2 The physical aspects of flying an airplane are fairly similar in …

Crew Resource Management (CRM)

English for Pilots

  [Audio clip: view full post to listen]TOPIC: Crew Resource Management (CRM) Exercise #1: Read about CRM and then proceed to Exercise #2 Crew Resource Management (CRM) training originated from a NASA workshop in 1979 that focused on improving air safety. The NASA research presented at this meeting found that …

Parts of an Aircraft

Parts of Plane

[Audio clip: view full post to listen] 1. Read about the various major parts of an airplane, then proceed to Step 2 Although there are many aircraft designs flying today, most of them share a common assembly of major parts that all pilots should be thoroughly aware of. Ever since …