A European city has one of the most bizarre airports in the world, as the runway goes right through the middle of it. Planes have to land on a strip of concrete at Gibraltar Airport which actually crosses one of the main roads in the area.
Dubbed as the fifth most extreme airport in the world by the History Channel, cars on Winston Churchill Avenue have to wait at traffic lights for planes to land, before they can continue their journey to the country’s border.
The airport is situated just a stone’s throw from the sea and the famous Rock of Gibraltar, in the British Overseas Territory of the same name. It has gained a reputation for the scary landings on its narrow strip.
Winter flights are particularly challenging due to the increased chances of high wind, exacerbated by naturally-occurring strong cross winds around the Rock and the Bay of Gibraltar.
There have been a number of incidents and accidents at the unique airport. In 1983, an English Electric Canberra crashed into the sea at the eastern end of the runway, killing all three on board. The plane took off and immediately entered a thick cloud, in which the pilot lost control and ended up in the water.
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There was also a unique incident in 2017 when a vehicle from the Royal Gibraltar Police quickly drove onto the runway in an ultimately successful bid to prevent an aircraft from taking off.
The plane had a serving military member on board wanted for alleged sex offences. The stand off caused a two hour delay for anyone needing to cross the runway on Winston Churchill Avenue.
And due to the airport’s quirky location, it has featured in some famous screenplay, including as one of the final shots of Carol Reed’s 1963 film The Running Man, as well as in a BBC Top Gear special.
Airport bosses are well aware of how unusual it is to have a main road across the runway, and even cite it as a tourist attraction on its website.
It says: “Many visitors to Gibraltar cross the international airport’s runway to get in to the city. It is one of the many unusual tourist attractions of Gibraltar.
“Visitors are often surprised that they are walking across the runway they had just landed on only minutes before.” As a result, the officials say the road becomes a popular selfie hotspot and issued a warning about the area.
An airport statement says: “Naturally the spot near Air Traffic Control is an epic selfie and photo opportunity, but we must remember the area is an active runway.”
To keep everyone safe, there are often police officers stationed at the side of the road to offer directions, and some even give tips on nearby hotels or attractions, the airport says.
While people are allowed to take pictures, they are urged not to stay too long. Not only is the road in the firing line of ascending and descending planes, it’s also a wind tunnel at times.
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So people are urged to keep hold of their belongings in case they fly “out of pockets” in the wind. While dropping litter is never a good thing to do no matter where you are, there is a reinforced message from airlines.
People dropping packets or light-weighted items could actually be causing damage to aircrafts, as strong winds could end blowing them in the direction of the flight-path, causing serious complications to plane engines.
And finally, people are told to wait when the light turns red at the entrance to the runway.
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