The 10 Most Difficult Airports for Pilots in the U.S.

Published: 03-22-2017
Which airports give pilots the most trouble?

“If you can walk away from a landing, it's a good landing. If you use the airplane the next day, it's an outstanding landing.” — Chuck Yeager

Every day, thousands of pilots will make flying look like a breeze, from the smooth takeoff to the buttery landing. However, that isn’t to say that every pilot isn’t without their bad days, or in this case, bad airports.

Unfortunately, not all airports are created equal. So while some airports have long and empty runways, others can challenge even the most skilled pilots with its rough terrain and heavy congestion.

Honeywell Aerospace recently compiled a list of the 10 airports that cause pilots the most difficulty when landing, with each offering unique challenges. (These rankings are not in any particular order)

1. ASE - Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (Aspen, Colorado)

“Pilots flying into Aspen-Pitkin County Airport require special training as they face a steep approach path and must use a separate navigation aid if they need to pursue a missed approach. Furthermore, pilots land one direction and take off from the opposite direction using a single runway due to surrounding, mountainous terrain.”

2. IFP - Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (Bullhead City, Arizona)

“Pilots landing at this west Arizona airport must navigate rapidly rising terrain and be aware of its high departure climb gradient performance requirements.”

3. BTM - Bert Mooney Airport (Butte, Montana)

“Pilots must navigate numerous obstructions flying into this airport. On top of that, there isn’t a control tower making landing here even more challenging.”

4. COD - Yellowstone Regional Airport (Cody, Wyoming)

“While the beautiful mountains make Yellowstone a prime destination, the mountainous terrain surrounding this airport makes landing challenging for pilots, especially since there’s no control tower. They also have no approach control and must pursue non-precision approaches only.”

5. DCA - Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Washington, D.C.)

“Pilots must dodge several no-fly zones located over D.C. and navigate a “River Visual” approach requiring a 30 to 40 degree turn close to the Potomac River to line up with the runway.”

6. JNU - Juneau International Airport (Juneau, Alaska)

“The mountainous terrain and surrounding valleys have made landing challenging for both commercial and business aviation pilots.”

7. LGA - LaGuardia Airport (Queens, New York)

“Though scheduled flights are limited to 1,500 miles, except for Denver and Saturday flights, LaGuardia's popular location creates a difficult and busy approach for pilots navigating multiple runways and jets landing in New York.”

8. MMH - Mammoth Yosemite Airport (Mammoth Lakes, California)

“Mammoth Yosemite Airport is located on the side of a mountain in a box canyon creating a difficult approach, especially in mountainous weather conditions.”

9. SAN - San Diego International Airport (San Diego)

“Flying into any busy airport can be challenging, but San Diego International’s steep approach path that brings pilots over the city and strong tailwinds in the area create an even bigger landing challenge.”

10. TEX - Telluride Regional Airport (Telluride, Colorado)

“Telluride is the highest commercial airport in the U.S. Mountainous terrain creates an especially difficult approach for pilots landing here.”

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