Lets face it. Even in this day of jumbo jets and air travel as routine, there’s still something vaguely exhilarating about the landing – and some are more memorable than others. Those turbulent touchdowns with high wind gusts and low clouds can give even the most seasoned fliers a bit of a thrill. But then we quickly put those out of our minds and take off for the next journey.
Then, there are the spectacular scenic approaches – when you land here, you know you’ve arrived at something special.
Earlier this year PrivateFly, a global booking service for more than 7,000 private jets around the world, asked a well-traveled list of 23 panelists to narrow down their 2016 list of airport approaches to create a short list of 150. From there, the poll was opened up to travelers from all over, and more than 7,500 individual votes were cast.
The panel included Lee Abbamonte, the youngest American to visit every country in the world. His favorite scenic landings include Ice Runway, Antarctica, Paro, Bhutan and Aitutaki, Cook Islands.
When asked why he chose the Ice Runway, Lee said: “Simply the coolest approach and runway in the world. Landing on the blue ice in the middle of a white desert is something you’ll never forget and want to do again!”
Another panelist, Tiffany Dowd, chose Nice Cote D’Azure, Cape Town and Hong Kong International Airport for her top three favorite landings. Tiffany is founder and president of Luxe Social Media. One of her top choices, Nice Cote D’Azure, (a 2014 winner of the poll) is described by fellow panelist John DiScala this way: “Flying along the spectacular coastline of the Cote d’Azur is as every bit as glamorous as staying on the French Riviera itself.“
And Business Traveler’s own Ross Atkinson participated in the panel. His top three scenic landings are Tocumen International Airport, Panama City; El Dorado International Airport, Bogota, Colombia; and Reagan National Airport, Washington, DC.
Ross describes Tocumen International Airport: “Looking down to the waters of the Pacific Ocean, often the water is spotted with countless numbers of ships calmly waiting to bring their commerce through the Canal across to the Atlantic. On the horizon, sweeping views of the seaside skyline with views against a backdrop of mountains will stun newcomers arriving to Tocumen International Airport into Panama City, Panama.”
Adam Twidell, CEO and co-founder of PrivateFly, shared his view of landing at Barra Airport, Scotland (a 2012 winner of this poll): “A unique opportunity to land on a tidal beach runway, this really is an out-of-this-world arrival into Scotland’s outer Hebrides.”
The winner this year is one that’s hard to beat, the simply stunning Malta Airport.
Former New York Times travel writer Joe Sharkey nominated Malta with this description: “Approached from a churning blue sea; the tiny, isolated rocky island nation suddenly appears and you immediately understand Malta’s strategic geo-political importance for literally millennia by sea and later air in the middle of the Mediterranean.”
Adam Twidell, an experienced pilot, reflects: “PrivateFly’s poll has become an annual checklist for the well-traveled, and this year’s voting was the most competitive yet. The Top 10 offers a fascinating mix of global descents including the imposing city views of Los Angeles and London City; the stunning mountain scenery of Queenstown; the tiny remote airstrip of Saba in the Caribbean (the world’s shortest commercial runway); and the unique beach landing at Barra in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.
“I flew into Malta recently and it was a truly special experience. The fish-shaped island appears over the Mediterranean, with its golden limestone contrasting with the blue of the sea, and the historic capital Valletta coming into focus as you descend. It’s a tiny island landing that packs a big punch.”
If you haven’t descended into these airports, add them to your bucket list. They will not disappoint.
The top 10 scenic landings for 2016
1. Malta Airport, Malta
2. Nice Cote D’Azur Airport, France
3. Queenstown Airport, New Zealand
4. Barra Airport, Scotland, UK
5. Saba Airport (Juancho E Yrausquin), Caribbean
6. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, Canada
7. Donegal Airport, Ireland
8. St Maarten Airport (Princess Juliana International), Caribbean
9. Los Angeles International Airport, USA
10. London City Airport, UK
By Elizabeth Atkinson