OCTOBER 7, 2022
Flying Dragon/Youtube. –
An amazing video shows a pilot winding his way through a mountainous valley over the roofs of homes to land at what is widely considered to be the most challenging runway in the world.
Only a few dozen pilots are licensed to land their planes at the Paro Airport in Bhutan, a tiny strip which runs beneath the towering Himalayan mountains.
It is widely considered to be the hardest commercial runway in the world to land on, due to the extreme geography that surrounds it and its size.
The airport is 2,224 metres above sea level, which seems high until you realize the peaks surrounding it stretch almost 5,500 metres into the air.
Pilots have to wind their way through these stony towers and above the undulating floor below, rising and falling as they follow the valley through.
A video of the descent provides a view from the cockpit of a commercial jet as a pilot and co-pilot navigate this path.
For more than two minutes they come barrelling down the valley, keeping just a few hundred metres above the villages and towns below.
They are doing so without the assistance of radar due to the mountains, meaning the descent has to be managed by eye using learned marker points in the landscape, Simple Flying reports.
As well as the landscape – which often leads flights to be cancelled by throwing up fog and cloud, making navigating impossible – pilots have to watch out for chimney pots and electrical towers.
If the weather is good and the approach successful, captains still have to deal with the sudden appearance of the runway.
Unlike most landing strips which allow pilots to line up their plane from several miles away, those approaching Paro have just seconds after rounding the corner of a mountain.
In the video the pilot can be seen skimming round the terrain to the right before swinging his plane to the left, bringing it inline with the tarmac as the aircraft rapidly descends.
He sticks the landing, bringing the plane to a screening halt before the end of the 2,265m runway catches up with them.
. – Flying Dragon/Youtube
By way of comparison, Heathrow’s North Runway is 2,902m long, while Birmingham’s is 3,660m.
Only two airlines fly to Paro International Airport – the state owned carrier Drukair, and the private Bhutan Airlines.
Within their ranks, only a handful of pilots are certified to land at Paro.