February 01, 2016

Struth! World's scariest airport

WHEN their Dutch administrators told them that an airstrip on their tiny Caribbean Island of Saba was "an impossibility," the locals took-to and hand-built this one themselves. (Wikipedia)
IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that those who have done it say that landing by plane on the tiny Netherlands Antilles island of Saba in the Caribbean is the most-hair-raising you'll encounter anywhere, somewhat akin they'll tell you, to landing on an aircraft carrier.

Because at just under 400 metres the airstrip is the shortest commercial landing field in the world, it's got steep cliffs dropping immediately into the sea at both ends, an equally deep and sheer drop close to one side, and a towering mountain near to the other side.

And then there's the wind…

And bizarrely when the Dutch government said it couldn't build them an airstrip the 1,850 Sabans decided to do the job themselves, hand clearing the only level spot on the tiny 13sq km blob (5sq miles) – just as they'd hand-built their own road around the island when Dutch engineers told them a road through that mountainous terrain was "an impossibility" too.

Just one aircraft flies the 12-minute route from neighbouring St Maarten Island several times a day, Winair's little 16-seat Twin Otter whose pilots agree that landing and coming to an abrupt stop on Saba so as not to run off the other end, is "something of an art form."

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