Which are the 10 Scariest Airports in America?

By Phillip Nones

Happy landings
“Welcome to Charleston, West Virginia. You can stop hyperventilating now.”

I’ve flown in and out of many airports in my time, encountering the usual plane delays and occasional rough-weather bumpy rides along the way.

But the most frightening airport I think I’ve ever experienced is the one in Charleston, West Virginia.  It’s situated on top of a mountain, and the runway ends mere feet away from a cliff-like drop-off.

Other people I’ve spoken with are spooked by the airports in San Francisco and Boston, where the runways protruding into the ocean give the eerie sensation of landing on water.

In any case, when Airfarewatchdog.com came out with its “Top 10 Scariest Airports in America” ranking recently, I wasn’t surprised to see that the Charleston airport made the list.

Shown below are the ten airports in question, headlined by Reagan National Airport.  See how many of them you’ve flown into … and if you agree that they deserve the notoriety:

#1 Scariest:  Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington, DC – Perched precariously as it is between two overlapping no-fly zones, approaching and leaving this airport is akin to threading a needle.

#2:  Telluride Regional Airport, Telluride, CO – It’s the highest-altitude commercial airport in North America, with no touch-and-go landings permitted.  Basically, the pilot gets one shot to land the plane.

#3:  Catalina Island Airport, Avalon, CA – Its elevation and location on the edge of the island makes planes prone to major-league turbulence and downdrafts.

#4:  LaGuardia Airport, New York, NY – As Airfarewatchdog.com puts it, the airspace around this airport is “uniquely crowded” (read:  dangerous).

#5:  San Diego International Airport, San Diego, CA – It has a downtown location.  No more needs to be said.

#6:  Yeager Airport, Charleston, WV – My “favorite” white-knuckle airport makes the list:  the one with the runway atop a mountain that’s situated between two ravines.

#7:  Rocky Gutierrez Airport, Sitka, AK – Obstacle course ahead:  When the weather is stormy, rocks and other debris pile up on the runway at this island airport facility.

#8:  Midway Airport, Chicago, IL – Short runways and a “convenient in-town location” make for some interestingly rapid dropdowns from the sky … not to mention “pull-back-on-the throttle” takeoffs.

#9:  John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, CA – Air sickness bag alert:  Appropriately Californiaesque state and local noise restrictions require takeoffs at full throttle … then cutting back immediately on the engines.

#10:  Pitkin County Airport, Aspen, CO – The exact opposite of Charleston, WV:  This airport is situated in a valley wedged between two mountains – no doubt massively fun during one of Aspen’s notorious snowstorms.

Based on your own experiences, which one of these airports should be ranked “#1 Scariest”?

… Or are there other U.S. airports that you think qualify for “Top 10” honors?  I’m sure other readers would be interested to hear your perspectives.

Come to think of it, if you have any “scary airport tales” from anywhere in the world, here’s your chance to enlighten us …