August 12, 2013

Remind me not to fly there

Gibraltar is a small place, though amazingly nearly half of it is a nature preserve.

Gibraltar International Airport has only one air strip, for the simple reason that there isn't room for more than one. In fact, there wasn't really room for even that one; they had to put half of it out into the harbor.

And about halfway along it, there's a major city street that crosses it. Not with a tunnel, either; it's at the same level. When a plane is due to land, they have to stop traffic on that street. It's considered the most dangerous airport in Europe.

I dunno, though. The last time there was a fatal crash there was 1943. Still, I'd feel a lot better if that street went under the airstrip instead of across it. (Even though they average about 10 flights per day.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 12:44 PM | Comments (11) | Add Comment
Post contains 148 words, total size 1 kb.

1 ICAO and FAA assign elevated hazard to runway incursions without any regard to the circumstances. I once met a guy who said that he avoids flying into Albuquerque Sunport because... wait for it... "airport diagram has many hot spots (FAA designated areas of elevated risk of incursions)". I swear I facepalmed, because duuuuuude you're going to exit 3000 ft before the first of the hotspots... It's just mindless machine grinding its gears.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at August 12, 2013 02:11 PM (RqRa5)

2 Ah, this reminded me of the Slideshow from Popular Mechanics.  Obviously, when Gibraltar made the airport, they didn't have the new building techniques, so they couldn't pull off what they did in Hong Kong, Macau & Osaka.  Which is build an Island for your airport. 

But, considering the amazing lack of accidents, there's really not much reason to invest the tens of millions of dollars to extend the runway out into the eastern oceanside. 

Posted by: sqa at August 12, 2013 03:30 PM (a/IgQ)

3 There is (or at least there was when I was there) a similar airport in Panama.  The runway runs right across the Intercontinental Highway.  For extra comfort, this is just a little cropduster airport, so there is no tower, no lights, just a simple wooden barrier that someone has to walk out and lower before the plane goes across.  I remember one time driving back home around 2am, and I saw the lights of a plane coming, without the barrier being down.  Obviously that wasn't a crop-dusting flight...

Posted by: David at August 12, 2013 06:03 PM (da+4f)

4 I'm a bit surprised they didn't include Schiphol in that list. It's a perfectly ordinary airport, except that it's below sea level. The name means "ship's grave" because before the dikes were built and the land drained, it was very treacherous sailing and a lot of ships were lost in that area.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 12, 2013 06:58 PM (+rSRq)

5 Some small airfields in the smaller parts of the USA are pretty funny.  I've been at a stop sign with a "Plane Landing" sign before.  (Airfield starts right where you stop.)  And I caught a story one time about a chunk of Montana where the road so the local dinner is also a functional airstrip.  So you get cars parked next to small aircraft.

Though it's a great reminder that the single most dangerous part of flight is the take off and landing. 

Posted by: sqa at August 12, 2013 08:22 PM (a/IgQ)

6 Nah, the tunnel would be below the water table, clearly what they need is an overpass.

Posted by: Mauser at August 12, 2013 11:46 PM (TJ7ih)

7 I live in Dallas.  There's a couple of small, private airfields that run close and perpendicular to the road.  (One of them is probably just a paved spot on some guy's farmland.)  I've had little plans come zooming by as I was passing--the one I called out, I had to brake once, because it felt like we might collide as he went by!  (Probably wouldn't have happened, but it's freaky.)  Those are both up in the McKinney area.  There's a GA airport near where I live (Addison Airport) that has a tunnel under the runway.
Finally, when I lived in New England, I remember that Pease AFB (which closed by BRAC, and made into a GA airport called Pease International Tradeport) had an overpass over I-95 that was perpendicular to the runway and *very* close to it.  Being elevated, it was a regular occurrence to drive along and have a decent-sized plane zoom right overhead, at what felt like maybe 50-100 feet up.
Given the layout of Gibralter, I wonder how much effort it would take to build a tunnel and keep it dry.  It's not as if we don't know how to build underwater tunnels and keep them dry; the question, I guess, is whether it's cost-effective.

Posted by: RickC at August 13, 2013 04:22 AM (WQ6Vb)

8 I have a "Cubdriver Alaska" DVD where Loni goes into town to buy supplies and lands on the street and taxies up to a supermarket. Apparently it's a daily occurence in parts of Alaska (obviously not in Anchorage).

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at August 13, 2013 05:12 AM (RqRa5)


I think the problem is that if they wanted to put in a tunnel, the air strip would have to be shut down for about a month.

The existing system seems to work, and losing all air traffic for a month would be a huge problem, so there's little incentive to make the change.

If a jet hits a car, and 300 people are killed, then maybe they'd start thinking about it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at August 13, 2013 07:15 AM (+rSRq)

10 I don't think you can kill 300 people by hitting a car with an airliner of that kind that flies into Gibraltar. Maybe 120 at best.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at August 13, 2013 08:52 AM (RqRa5)

11 Small world, RickC.  I live in Carrollton, TX.

Posted by: Mark A. Flacy at August 13, 2013 06:16 PM (66bg3)

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