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Scenic Airport Approaches

In our travels around the globe, we often look out the airplane window from our vantage point 35,000 feet up, and gaze down in wonder on oceans of clouds, vast expanses of forests and plains, or sunrises and sunsets over the horizon. But do we consider those few minutes as we make our descent when our approach is a breathtaking view that can be equally awe-inspiring?

By coincidence, in the December issue of Business Traveler, our World Wise column talked about new business models for travel, including PrivateFly – which gives jet setters easy and cost effective access to more than 7,000 private jets around the world. Each year, PrivateFly runs a poll that asks travelers which of the thousands of airports worldwide is their favorite approach.

As part of Business Traveler,I was honored with an invitation to join the esteemed panel which developed the short list of candidates for the 2016 “Most Scenic Airport Approaches.” I was in some elite company, among individuals who cover the globe each year racking up some serious miles. One panel member in particular is one of the world’s most-traveled people, just six countries away of becoming – at age 36 – the youngest person to visit all 324 countries and unique destinations on theTravelers Century Club list.

This past fall, the panel of 23 came up with a short list of airports that circled the globe, covering beach runways, mountain-top landings and airports approaches framed by stunning city skylines.

With the voting wrapping up during the month of March, I thought I would share with you just three of my favorite entries on the 2016 short list.

In line with this month’s featured business destination, my first pick is the Bogotá, Columbia, El Dorado International Airport (BOG). Your view out the window is of a sprawling city 8,300 feet above sea level, with population of over six million and dominated by buildings in red hues set against the lush green mountain backdrop of the Andes.

As you climb away from BOG’s runway, in the distance is the 350-year-old church and shrine of Mount Monserrate. Don’t stop looking as you depart. Just outside of Bogotá you can also spot the uniquely colored Lake Guatavita and the huge Embalse Tominé reservoir nestled among the mountains.

Another intriguing approach takes us into Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport (PTY). The sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean are often dotted with countless ships in calmly waiting in queue to carry their commerce through the Canal for the crossing to the Atlantic.  

On the horizon, sweeping views of the city’s seaside skyline against a backdrop of mountains will astonish newcomers and frequent visitors alike. The reflection of the skyscrapers in the tropical blue waters against the plush greens of the mountains creates a picture-perfect setting.

Of course, I am slightly biased, given that my ‘home’ airport is Washington, DC’s, Reagan National Airport (DCA). On the approach to this close-in airport, there’s not a bad seat on the plane. The mighty symbols of democracy are spread out below in a single sighting – from the Pentagon and across the Potomac to the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, the reflecting pool and the Capitol dome.

Over 21 million passengers pass through DCA, many following the ‘River Visual’ approach over the Key Bridge, Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, Arlington Memorial Bridge, and the George Mason Memorial Bridge. It’s an awe-inspiring vista on both arrival and take off from the nation’s capital.  

So there you have it; three of my personal favorites. I hope these have given you a taste of the many to come. In an upcoming issue of Business Traveler,we’ll feature more from 2016’s “Most Scenic Airport Approaches,” both those that topped the poll, as well as some which made short list but didn’t capture the eye of voters.

Until then, stay tuned and safe landings.

By Ross Atkinson