There is no doubt that the potential of solar flights and solar powered airplanes has gained momentum with the completion of Solar Impulse 1 and 2, the outcomes of the eponymous solar airplane project. However, the usage of solar flights is not a too-recent trend in aviation. Sure, the ongoing modern global direction towards renewable and clean energy has helped accelerated its progress, but the fact of the matter is that the first successful solar powered flight to ever take place happened more than 4 decades ago. And we say successful because reports of early attempts to fly aircraft using electricity date back to the 19th century. Here, we demonstrate the history of solar aircraft from the date of the earliest known successful solar flight till today, as well as the foreseen future of this field. Mauro Solar Riser Although Mauro Solar Riser was the first manned airplane to do a solar flight, it is not the first solar powered airplane to fly in history. On 4 November 1974, AstroFlight Sunrise took off unmanned from Bicycle Lake in California state. The earliest prototype of AstroFlight successfully completed 27 flights. Four years later, on April 29, 1979, Mauro Solar Riser, manned by its eponymous designer Larry Mauro, took off from Flabob Airport in Riverside, California to become the first manned solar aircraft to ever fly. How did Mauro Solar Riser work? The aircraft was powered by a 3.5 hp Bosch motor connected to a 30V nickel-cadmium battery pack which was in turn charged by photovoltaic solar panel array installed on its top wing to provide 350 Watts. Manufactured by Ultralight Flying Machines, Solar Riser was capable of flying for 3 to 5 minutes after having its cells charged for 1.5 hours; the aircraft’s speed could reach up to 32 kilometers per hour. Solar One: Even though the first Solar One aircraft was produced in December 1978, four months before the take-off of Mauro Solar Riser, it did not take off before June 1979. With the total production cost of 16,000 euros, the most expensive component of Solar One was its 750-solar cell array whose value alone mounted up to 6,000 euros. Piloted by Ken Stewart, Solar One took off in its first successful attempt on 13 June 1979 where it flew at 65 kilometers per hour for around 1.2 kilometers. The second flight for Solar One took place on the same day, where it was manned by Bill Maidment who flew it at its maximum speed, 78 kilometers per hour. How did Solar One work? Solar One had four Bosch motors installed - each with a power of 1 hp, which were wired to a 24-cell battery pack charged by the aforementioned solar cell array. Solair 1: A made-in-Germany solar aircraft, Solair 1 utilized 2,499 solar cells with a capacity that ranges between 2.4hp and 3.0hp. The first trip of the first prototype of Solair took place on 21 August 1983, and it lasted for 5 hours and 40 minutes. The prototype is now displayed in the German Museum in Munich. ERAST: Over the 90s, NASA has launched many lesser-known solar empowered aviation ventures and projects as a part of its Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program (ERAST). With the aim of developing low-cost unmanned electric airplanes to take out science missions like communication support and atmospheric studies at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet, ERAST produced several solar-empowered aircraft. The first outcome of the program, Pathfinder, has set a record for an altitude of solar-empowered airplanes in 1995 by flying at 50,000 feet for 12 hours. Two years later, Pathfinder broke its own record by flying at 71,530 feet. In 1998, Pathfinder Plus broke the record of its predecessor by achieving an altitude of 80,000 feet. Helios, the last model developed by ERAST two years before its termination in 2003, traversed the sky at an altitude of 96,963 feet. Solar Impulse - the Present and Future: In the recent rise of and need for clean energy, the Swiss project known as Solar Impulse was launched in 2003 by Swiss engineer André Borschberg and balloonist Bertrand Piccard; the program’s objective was to develop single-seated fixed-wing solar powered airplanes that have the ability to circumnavigate the globe. Test Flights: Solar Impulse 1, the first prototype of the project, completed its first test flight in December 2009 covering a distance of 350 meters about 1 meter above the ground. The flight’s goal was to test the aircraft’s specifications. The real test for Solar Impulse 1 came around four months later, on April 2010, when Marcus Scherdel piloted it for 87 minutes at an altitude of 1,200 feet. In the following months, the prototype succeeded in making the first trip in which it charged its batteries within the flight (May 2010) as well as completing its first overnight trip which lasted for 26 straight hours at an altitude of 8,600 meters, setting the record back then as both the longest and highest manned solar powered flight to be made. First International Flight: Almost one year later, on 13 May 2011, Solar Impulse 1 took off from Switzerland towards Brussels, the capital city of Belgium, in its first international flight. The trip spanned 13 hours where the airplane traversed a distance of 630 kilometers with an average speed of 50 kilometers per hour and an average altitude of 1,800 meters. Madrid - Rabat: The first intercontinental flight for Solar Impulse 1 took place on June 2012 when the solar powered airplane flew from Madrid, Spain to Rabat, Morocco in a 19-hour flight. Specifications of Solar Impulse 1: Solar Impulse 1 utilized 4 electric motors powered by 4 Lithium-Ion batteries, each with a capacity of 7.5 kilowatts; the batteries were charged by 11,600 solar cells installed on the aircraft’s upper wing. The airplane’s speed could reach up to 70 kilometers per hour, with an endurance of 36 hours and a maximum altitude of 12,000 meters. Solar Impulse 2: In 2011, the Solar Impulse program began working on building its second eponymous aircraft and completed it in three years. Solar Impulse 2 featured many advanced technologies and specifications that were not in its predecessors like an autopilot system and an oxygen mask, enabling the airplane to fly at an altitude that can reach up to 12,000 feet. As for performance specifications, Solar Impulse 2 was considered a significant leap forward for solar powered airplanes. The aircraft has a maximum speed of 140 kilometers per hour, almost double that of Solar Impulse 1. This was made possible by the aircraft’s upgraded power plant which comprised four electric motors connected to four lithium-ion batteries charged by 17,248 solar cells installed on its 72 meters long wing. Test Flights: Solar Impulse 2’s first take-off occurred in 2014, where it reached an altitude of 1,700 meters and traveled at an average ground speed of 56 kilometers per hour. In October of the same year, Solar Impulse 2 completed both its first night flight and its first flight at maximum altitude. World Circumnavigation: Between the years 2015 and 2016, Solar Impulse 2 headlined the global aviation industry news when it embarked on a round-the-world circumnavigation which started on 9 March 2015 and concluded on 23 July 2016. Over the course of 490 days, the solar powered Solar Impulse 2 traveled an accumulated distance of 43,000 kilometers in a total flight time of 550 hours (22 days and 22 hours) during which it produced 11,000-kilowatt hours. In the tour, Solar Impulse 2 traveled across 18 cities located in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America and over two oceans (the Pacific and the Atlantic) and three seas (the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea). Sure enough, Solar Impulse’s circumnavigation has broken 19 records, including the Longest Solo Flight in an Airplane which was set by the aircraft’s flight from Japan to Hawaii, piloted by André Borschberg. Future of Solar Impulse: In 2016, the program announced its plans to develop a third Solar Impulse airplane that would be able to accomplish some of the tasks usually done by satellites. It is still unclear when we should expect to see the new prototype. Advantages of Solar Powered Airplanes: 1- Environment-friendly: Clearly, the biggest advantage of solar powered flights, and the factual main purpose of developing them is that they depend on a clean form of energy that causes zero harm to the environment. 2- Free Energy Source: Solar energy is a clean, free, and renewable source of energy, which gives it a grand advantage over fossil fuel. Disadvantages of Solar Powered Airplanes: 1- Weather Dependency: Though this is true for all types of aircraft, weather changes impact traditional flights to a less extent than it does solar powered flights. While the weather can delay the schedule of traditional aircraft or make flying it a more difficult task, solar powered aircraft will not be able to fly except in specific weather conditions - especially in long-distance flights as it would need to recharge while it is up in the air. 2- Expensive Equipment: While the energy source in itself is essentially free, the equipment and technologies required to harness and utilize solar energy are extremely expensive considering the scale on which it would need to be used to fly single-rider aircraft, let alone the commercial-use airplanes. Conclusion: The shift towards renewable energy sources generally, and in the aviation industry specifically, is indeed a positive step towards preserving the environment and decelerating climate change. However, solar powered airplanes have a very long way to go before they can act as a complete alternative for fossil fuels. That being said, solar aircraft in its current and predicted future forms, can still be useful in fields like atmospheric research and communications. We can always use less consumed fossil fuels.
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Until May 2019, a total of 8,845 aircraft belonging to the Airbus A320 family have been sold and delivered, and a total of 8,439 of said aircraft are still in service. This makes the A320 the fastest-selling jet airliner family in the world, as well as the best-selling single generation aircraft program. The A320 family has proved popular with both legacy airlines and low-cost carriers, but why is that? Out of all the aircraft in the world, what makes the A320 that special? Why is it that popular? Let’s learn more about the most commonly used airplane in the world and find out. Meet the family members Manufactured by Airbus, the A320 family are commercial passenger twin-engine jet airliners that can accommodate up to 236 passengers. The family comprises the A318, A319, A320, A321, and the ACJ business jet. After the introduction of the A320neo (new engine option), the A320 became known as A320ceo (current engine option). The most widely spread aircraft family in the world, an A320 takes off or lands every 1.6 seconds. The versatile family can take off and land anywhere, and that’s why it has been to every continent in the world. Airbus A318 The A318 is the smallest member of the Airbus A320 family in terms of size and passenger capacity, it can carry up to 132 passengers. The aircraft may be smaller than other family members, however, it is the largest commercial airplane certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for steep approach operations, which allows the plane to take and land at airports such as London City. Airbus A318 shares a common type rating with all other A320 family members, which allows A320 certified pilots to fly the aircraft without the need for further training or other certificates. Airbus A319 A shortened-fuselage family member, the A319's wingspan is wider its overall length. The aircraft can carry up to 160 passengers. Up until 2019, the Airbus A319 has been in service with 108 operators. And due to its shorter fuselage and sleek design, it is the most popular Airbus A320 family member to be operated as a private jet. The A319 shares a common type rating with other family members, no further training or other certificates needed for type-rated pilots to fly it. Airbus A321 The Airbus A321 is a stretched fuselage variant of the A320 family. With an impressive length that exceeds 44.5m, the A321 is the largest variant of the A320 family. Airbus A321 aircraft are in service with more than 100 operators, with American Airlines and China Southern Airlines operating the largest fleets. Just like A318 and A319, A321 shares a common type rating with the rest of the family, allowing pilots to fly the aircraft with no extra training. Airbus A320 launched in 1984, the A320 made its first flight with launch customer Air France in 1987. Technically, The A320 has two variants, the A320-100, and the A320-200, but in fact, Only 21 A320-100s were ever produced. The main differences between the two variants are wingtip fences intended to minimize drag and increase wing efficiency and also the A320-200 features more fuel capacity. In a nutshell, the A320 is a medium-range, single-aisle jet designed to compete in the 130 to 170-seat market. New technology The most renowned aspect of the aircraft is the adoption of fly-by-wire, which is a technology that was previously reserved for high-performance military jets and the supersonic Concorde. Fly-by-wire technology replaces the physical cables and pulleys used to control older generation aircraft with computers that interpret and relay the pilot's input to the plane's control surfaces. Another new technology used in the aircraft is flight envelope protection, which is a safety system designed to prevent the aircraft from flying beyond its performance capabilities. And one of the most useful innovations in this plane was that Airbus launched cockpit commonality for Airbus with this aircraft. Since the launch of A320, Airbus started to unify its cockpits designs to be similar in operation. That is why pilots to transition between different Airbus models with the same Type Rating. Best exploitation of space The A320 Family features a great storage option; the A320 is the only single-aisle aircraft that is able to load large containers on the lower deck. Add to that the outward-opening cargo doors and large cargo compartment cross-section, and you get the best possible design to maximizes the usable cargo volume. In addition to that, the airplane cabin boasts large overhead storage bins which are capable of holding eight bags instead of the standard five. This makes the aircraft a favorite among all airlines, it gives them the best option to transfer passengers and cargo together. The main competitor The main competitor to the A320 would be the Boeing 737. It is noteworthy to mention that if we looked at the total number of aircraft sold the 737 would be the most globally sold airplane in aviation history. However, the 737 was launched two decades before the A320. Since the A320 was launched in 1984 until now, it has outdone the Boeing in sales. From 1984 to 2019, the A320 has outsold the 737 by 438 planes. To learn more about training for Airbus A320 see also: TYPE RATING
Engineers sometimes design and build an unusual aircraft for some reason or another, to prove a point, to research aerodynamics, or to see if it would fly better than a usual one. These weird airplanes are often seen as a novelty or a quirky invention, then they are documented and usually forgotten. Unlike normal airplanes, the focus on these unusual aircraft is often not practicality. The focus is mostly on testing a new theory to see if it would work, sometimes the theory does not work well and the aircraft does not fly at all, and sometimes it does but the cost is too high to experiment more on the subject. Such planes always end up in some sort of an aviation museum, kept as a novelty for the generations to come. Let’s take a look at some of the strangest airplanes that have ever flown in the skies. Some of these unusual aircraft did not fly for long, but they have all been tested, and all of them could indeed fly. Nemuth Parasol [caption id="attachment_2112" align="alignnone" width="949"] Nemuth Parasol[/caption] In 1934, students at Miami University decided to build this aircraft to demonstrate that a circular wing could indeed fly a plane. One prototype was made and tested, the unusual aircraft did, in fact, fly decently, and the circular wing provided a dreamy parachute-like landing. But the project did not go any further. Too bad as the Nemeth Umbrella Plane looked like a hybrid between a helicopter and a flying saucer. EDGLEY OPTICA [caption id="attachment_2114" align="alignnone" width="949"] EDGLEY OPTICA[/caption] Intended for low-speed observation work, this unusual aircraft was designed as a cheaper alternative to helicopters that allows for better vision with a focus on slow-flying capabilities. The British inventor John Edgley designed and built the original prototype in 1974. He then started his company, Edgley Aircraft Limited with a small team, the first one flew in 1979. Thanks to its weird design, the airplane has been nicknamed bug-eye. Nonetheless, this same bizarre design is what gives it a 270° panoramic vision and almost vertical downward vision. Plus, the cockpit canopy design allows photography through the panels. The small airplane barely has enough space for two passengers in addition to the pilot. It is considered the quietest powered aircraft in the world. Antonov An-74 [caption id="attachment_2116" align="alignnone" width="949"] Antonov An-74[/caption] Nicknamed Cheburashka after a famous animated character, the large engine intake ducts of the aircraft certainly do look like oversized ears. The plane, which has been operating since 1977, offers more than cute looks, it is capable of operating in harsh weather conditions in polar regions. It is one of the few planes that can operate in the Arctic and Antarctic environments. This is due to some helpful gadgets featured in the plane like wheel-skis landing gear and de-icing equipment. If you are looking for an airplane that can land well on ice, you can charter an Antonov An-74 from an air charter service. Sikorsky S-72 [caption id="attachment_2117" align="alignnone" width="949"] Sikorsky S-72[/caption] This experimental hybrid, titled Sikorsky X-Wing after the Star Wars fighter, is a mix of a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft. It was developed by Sikorsky Aircraft. The airplane was designed and built to combine the speed of a jet with the vertical takeoff abilities of a helicopter. However, the program, which was started for pure research purposes, was canceled in 1988. Rutan Boomerang [caption id="attachment_2118" align="alignnone" width="949"] Rutan Boomerang[/caption] Designed and built by Burt Rutan, The Rutan Model 202 Boomerang is a multi-engine aircraft designed to combat engine failure because even if one of the engines failed it would not become dangerously difficult to control the aircraft due to asymmetric thrust. This gives a very distinct appearance to the airplane. Two fuselages, one bigger than the other, with wings facing forward, this is indeed one unusual aircraft. It may look very bizarre, but the asymmetrical design allows the Boomerang to fly faster. And the plane was never intended for commercial use anyway, the 5 place light twin was intended for personal transportation. The Boomerang is simply a very unique private plane. Lockheed Martin P-791 [caption id="attachment_2119" align="alignnone" width="949"] Lockheed Martin P-791[/caption] Is it an airship? Is it an airplane? No, it’s the Lockheed Martin P-791! This aircraft is built for sustainability, it can fly longer routes for less fuel. this Hybrid Airship burns less than one-tenth the fuel of a helicopter per ton, and can easily land anywhere. That is why the producers of the technology hope that it will replace jeeps and trucks in sending cargo and transferring people to remote areas with no airports. This aircraft may look weird, but according to the company, it is faster and cheaper than land and sea transportation systems, especially for remote areas with little to no infrastructure. 377PG: The Pregnant Guppy [caption id="attachment_2120" align="alignnone" width="949"] 377PG: The Pregnant Guppy[/caption] Built from parts of Boeing airplanes as well as some new parts, the Pregnant Guppy is designed and built to carry irregularly shaped cargo for NASA. The designer of this unusual aircraft, John Conroy, had the idea when he heard that it takes 18 days for NASA to transfer space shuttle parts. He built the aircraft from parts of other planes, tried it, and then sold it to NASA. This type of aircraft is called Frankenplane because it is made of parts of other airplanes. Actually many people thought the project was ridiculous and the Guppy would never land safely. But to their surprise, the plane continued to work so well that a successor was designed and built, Super Guppy! Super Guppy features a 25-feet high, 25-feet wide, and 111-feet long cargo bay. This simply means that the aircraft boasts 39,000 cubic feet of usable space. Short SKYVAN [caption id="attachment_2121" align="alignnone" width="949"] Short SKYVAN[/caption] Built for function with total disregard for aesthetics, people have often made fun of this general-purpose aircraft, they have called it names like “Flying Shoebox” and “The Shed”, but the Skyvan has definitely proven value over the years. The plane that took its first flight in 1963, is still used today for transferring cargo and passengers. The 19-seat aircraft features a van-like large rear door for loading and unloading freight. This makes it very efficient for short-haul flights, sky diving activities and much more. Dornier Aerodyne [caption id="attachment_2122" align="alignnone" width="949"] Dornier Aerodyne[/caption] This unusual aircraft looks like the rear part of an airplane as if someone has cut an aircraft in half and only left one half. Bizarrely though, it can fly! The weird invention was tested, it was remotely controlled and flew without a pilot. The first flight took place on 18 September 1972. The wingless aircraft was designed by Alexander Lippisch. According to Lippisch, with the right amount of thrust, a modified Aerodyne might be capable of supersonic flight. He never got to test that theory though as the project was stopped. To learn more about unusual aircraft see also: Giant airplanes: the biggest airplanes in the world References: https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/g1420/17-bizarre-aircraft-we-love-and-the-stories-behind-them/ https://www.aircharterservice.com/aircraft-guide/cargo/antonov-ukraine/antonovan-74 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgley_Optica https://interestingengineering.com/meet-the-guppy-and-the-largest-aircraft-in-the-world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Short_SC.7_Skyvan https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/hybrid-airship.html
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a very spacious country. It is the largest country in the GCC and one of the largest countries in the world in terms of area. That is why there are numerous airports in Saudi Arabia. The aviation sector in the Kingdom has been showing impressive growth over the past years. in 2017, Saudi Arabia recorded 8% passenger growth, and the numbers are rapidly increasing. Furthermore, the domestic market is currently served by five airlines, as opposed to only two airlines a couple of years ago. This significant progress in the aviation sector is, of course, accompanied by building new airports and developing the old established airports in the kingdom. Airports in Saudi Arabia are varied, ranging from the largest airport in the world, to small domestic airports, and most of them are modernly built and feature great amenities and facilities. So let’s take a tour around some of the airports in Saudi Arabia and check the latest additions to the aviation industry in the Kingdom. Under construction airports in Saudi Arabia Work has started on two state-of-the-art airports at Al Jouf and Al Qurayat areas within the northern region of the kingdom. When the projects are completed, the two airports will accommodate a combined capacity of 1.5 million passengers per year. Al Jouf airport project will be built on the Unified Airports Model (B) which can accommodate one million passengers per year. Al Qurayat airport, on the other hand, will be developed as per the Unified Airports Model Plan (A), which can accommodate half a million passengers per year. Al-Jawf currently comprises a small domestic airport with an area of 2,900 square meters, with a capacity of 175,000 passengers per annum. After the expansion, it will spread over an area of 13,000 square meters, with a capacity of one million passengers per annum. The expansion project comprises the construction of five new gates, a new VIP terminal, a Royal Hall, a new air traffic control tower and other facilities. The Kingdom is also working on a project to develop King Abdullah International Airport Jizan. After development, the airport will have the capacity to handle 2.4 million passengers per annum. It lies in a strategic location between Jizan and Jazan Economic City. King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah The new airport has been soft-launched last summer and has been welcoming some commercial flights since. However, the expansion is expected to be completed in 2025. The soft launch included the opening of 6 passenger gates, but when completed, the airport will operate 46 gates with the option to add more if needed. The original airport was inaugurated in 1981, but it has been recently expanded and developed. The three-stage expansion project started in 2006. It is designed to increase the capacity of the airport from 13 million to 80 million passengers per year. Spreading over an area of 15 square kilometers, King Abdulaziz International Airport is the third-largest airport in Saudi Arabia. It is also the busiest airport in the kingdom and the largest by passenger traffic. This airport is mostly renowned for The Hajj Terminal, which is one of the largest terminals in the world. Extending over a vast area of five million square feet, The Hajj Terminal can accommodate 80,000 passengers at the same time. This one of a kind terminal is innovative and eco-friendly, it has received several awards for the imaginative design which combines air-conditioned halls and shaded open areas covered with an elegant tent-like white roof. The expansion project includes a brand-new passenger terminal, the largest air traffic control tower in the world, an electronic passenger guidance system and a stormwater drainage network. The existing runways and airfield systems will also be upgraded. King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh Already the second largest airport in the Kingdom, King Khalid International Airport is currently being expanded. Construction of the new expansion is scheduled to be completed in 2019. The project includes refurbishing and expanding the existing Terminals 3 and 4 and increasing their capacity from 15 million to 25 million passengers per year. Terminal 3 serves as a domestic airport and terminal 4 will work as an international airport. The new project includes integrating both with the addition of a central building. The integrated design is set to make connected flights a very smooth operation. The expansion project also includes the construction of a new fifth terminal, in addition to linking the airport with the new metro system in Riyadh. King Khalid International Airport was opened in 1983. And through the years, it has witnessed one expansion in 2016. As it features the second largest allocated area for an airport in the world, King Khalid International Airport was an alternative landing site for NASA's Space Shuttle. The airport also features one of the tallest control towers in the world, as well as two parallel 4,260 meters runways. King Fahd International Airport, Dammam Opened for commercial operations in 1999, King Fahd International Airport is considered to be one of the newest airports in Saudi Arabia. It is also the largest airport in the world in terms of area. Spreading over a massive area of 780 square kilometers, the huge area of the airport facilitated the landing of the largest aircraft in the world; In 2009, an Antonov 225 landed at Dammam Airport. It was transporting oil drilling equipment. King Fahd International Airport is located in the Eastern Province of the kingdom, 20 kilometers away from Dammam. The strategic location of the airport allows it to host the shortest international flight in the Kingdom, which is between Dammam and Bahrain and the longest domestic flight in the kingdom, which is between Dammam and Tabuk. Not all the area is currently utilized. The kingdom has more development plans for this airport. As part of a multi-phased master plan, the capacity of the airport is set to increase to 30 million passengers per year, up from 12.6 million passengers currently. King Fahd International Airport currently features two parallel 4,000 meters long runways, capable of accommodating the largest aircraft such as Airbus A340-600 and Boeing 747-400. Additionally, the expansion plans include paving the third runway. Since the airport was opened, all airlines transferred their operations from Dhahran International Airport to King Fahd International Airport. That is why it currently serves most of the Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia, and why it became the third-largest traveling hub in Saudi Arabia. The spacious airport is also home to OxfordSaudia, the first certified pilot training center in the GCC. Refrences: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airports_in_Saudi_Arabia https://www.skyscanner.net/airports/sa/airports-in-saudi-arabia.html?previousCultureSource=GEO_LOCATION&redirectedFrom=www.skyscanner.com https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-world-s-10-largest-airports-by-size.html https://www.protenders.com/projects/al-jouf-domestic-airport-expansion https://www.protenders.com/companies/zuhair-fayez-partnership/projects/expansion-of-qurayyat-domestic-airport http://english.alarabiya.net/en/business/economy/2018/09/05/IN-PICTURES-New-airport-project-in-Saudi-Arabia-s-Jazan-city.html
Flying around the world is a fun activity, for passengers as well as pilots. But are all airports fun for pilots? Or do some pilots find dangerous runways challenging? Some airports comprise very dangerous runways, so much so that only experienced pilots are allowed to land there. This is usually not a choice, but a necessity. Sometimes natural elements around the airport do not allow for building a standard runway, so an unusual one is built instead. Let’s take a look at some of the most dangerous runways in the world. Lukla Airport, Nepal Also known as Tenzing–Hillary Airport, Lukla Airport has been rated as the most dangerous airport to land in for almost 20 years. This airport is where people start the climb to Mount Everest Base Camp. Daily flights between Lukla and Kathmandu are available, but the catch is that planes only fly during daylight hours when weather permits. Even though the flying distance is short, there are high chances of rain, clouds and high winds because the airport lies in a very high location between mountains. The significant low visibility due to weather elements often mean delayed flights, the airport gets closed a lot for the same reasons as well. The airport comprises one 527 meter runway. This single runway is book-ended by a mountain and a drop. Because of all these extreme circumstances, the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal has set some requirements for landing in the airport. To land in the airport pilots must be: Experienced, completed at least 100 short-takeoff-and-landing (STOL) missions. Have over one year of STOL experience in Nepal. Completed ten missions into Lukla with a certified instructor pilot. Courchevel Airport, France A 525 meter runway that has a downward gradient of 18.5% and is surrounded by high mountains and low valleys, this is definitely one of the most dangerous runways in the world. This small airport is nestled in a quaint French town amidst the Alps. The runway has no instrument approach procedure or lighting aids, which makes landing in anything but perfect weather absolutely impossible. Furthermore, often times aircraft take off from the edge of the cliff as the runway is too short to gain enough speed for takeoff. Paro Airport, Bhutan Located in a deep valley on the bank of the river Paro Chhu, and surrounded by peaks as high as 5,500 meters, Paro Airport is considered one of the most dangerous airports to land in. Flights to and from the airport are only allowed during daylight hours, and under extreme supervision. As this airport, which lies amidst the Himalayan Mountains, comprises one of the most dangerous runways in the world, only a few experienced pilots with specialized training are allowed to land there. Toncontin Airport, Honduras Rated as one of the most dangerous airports to land in, Toncontin Airport is located near a mountainous terrain and comprises a very short runway. In 2009 however, work has been done to increase the length of the runway. Unfortunately though, nothing can be done to the difficult weather conditions as the airport is situated at an elevation of 1,005 meters. Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar The main road in the city, Winston Churchill Avenue, has to be closed every time a plane lands or departs as it intersects with the airport runway. In addition to that, the location of the airport makes it exposed to strong cross winds and makes landing in bad weather very difficult if not impossible. Both reasons make this one of the most challenging runways in the world. For more about airport runways see also: The most impressive airport runways around the world
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