Let’s first deal with the frequently asked question, “Are some airports more difficult  than others to land at?” And the answer is “No”.  There are no such airports. To the question “Do some airports have restrictions on their use?” The answer is “Yes”.FEAR OF FLYING AIRPORTS


Very broadly speaking there are three categories of airports for captains of commercial aircraft.

  1. Airports where there are no special requirements for pilots to be able to land there.
  2. Airports where special briefings are required before a pilot can land there.
  3. Airports where a pilot must make an actual visit under supervision before a pilot can land there.

There are restrictions on the use of airports by companies wishing to operate commercial services. Before an airline can operate with fare-paying passengers it has to meet all sorts of requirements regarding the legality and safety of its operating procedures. Clearly, a charter company, operating small aircraft between small airports, would have different requirements compared with an international airline, but that doesn’t mean that the standards are lower. 

For example, the general maintenance standards and schedules will be the same for both airlines. However, the length of runways required for their aircraft would be different. The hours of operating the aircraft might be different. A small company could operate in an airport that has no runway lights because the airline only flies to it during daylight hours. The airport requirements for night flying will be different, as would the requirements for flying in poorer weather conditions. 

An airport in the Alps or any mountainous area would have shorter runways than an international one and it would probably not be possible to have an unobstructed 10-mile approach to the airport. Therefore the type of aircraft operating into such an airport would be restricted. Necessarily the weather conditions regarding visibility and cloud base would be limiting.

There are other restrictions of course at some airports where the take-off path may be obstructed by the terrain. Under these circumstances, the plane will be required to make a turn away from the obstruction before a certain geographical position or height and then follow other laid down procedures. Some people seem to be fascinated by the old Hong Kong airport where planes followed a marker board system or into New York where pilots follow curving approach lights around a baseball stadium, or even Sumburgh in the Scottish Islands. Each of those places and many others require certain weather conditions and airport knowledge.

In addition to these pilot requirements, each airport has weather criteria that have to be observed by pilots. Over and above all these pilots may only operate into airports if the aircraft they are flying is equipped to the level required by the authority responsible for that airport.

Remember the more you know, the less influence your fear of flying will have on your life. There is information on the Premium Membership about operating into airports when the weather conditions are bad … as you would describe them! 

Best wishes,

Captain Keith

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