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Why is Madeira airport so dangerous

Madeira Airport, also known as Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, has long been the subject of fascination and apprehension among pilots and passengers alike. But what gives it this reputation?

Geographical Challenges

Situated on Portugal’s Madeira Island, the airport is enveloped by rugged hills on one side and the vast Atlantic Ocean on the other. This unique positioning presents its initial set of challenges.

The Rugged Terrain

Madeira itself is a mountainous island, and placing an airport on it was no easy feat. The limited flat space meant that engineers had to be creative in designing a functional runway that could safely accommodate large aircraft.

Proximity to the Ocean

The airport’s closeness to the sea adds another layer of difficulty. Pilots often have to navigate strong sea breezes when landing, a task made harder by the surrounding high terrain.

Architectural Marvel: The Runway

Madeira Airport’s runway is nothing short of an architectural wonder.

Historical Constraints

Initially, the airport had a much shorter runway. However, after a few incidents, there was a need to expand.

Modern Extensions

With the advancements in engineering, the runway saw an extension, supported by 180 columns, each about 70 meters tall. This extension was built over the ocean due to the lack of land availability.

Weather Woes

madeira airport so dangerous

Madeira’s weather is as unpredictable as it is beautiful.

Wind Shear Phenomenon

The sudden change in wind speed or direction with height, known as wind shear, poses a significant threat during landings and take-offs. Madeira’s location and topography make it particularly susceptible.

Sudden Weather Changes

The island can experience rapid weather fluctuations, forcing pilots to be always on their toes and often rely heavily on their experience and training.

Pilot’s Perspective

Pilots landing at Madeira Airport are some of the best-trained.

Advanced Training Required

Given the unique challenges, pilots undergo specific training for Madeira, ensuring they can handle the complexities of landing there.

The Approach and Landing

The approach, with the looming mountains and swirling ocean, can be daunting. However, the sheer skill and precision involved make every successful landing a testament to a pilot’s prowess.

Safety Measures in Place

While the airport has its dangers, several safety measures ensure smooth operations.

Technological Advancements

From state-of-the-art navigation systems to advanced weather forecasting tools, Madeira Airport is equipped to handle its challenges.

Skilled Air Traffic Control

Madeira’s air traffic controllers are adept at guiding pilots, ensuring safe landings and take-offs.

Famous Incidents

While the airport’s safety record has improved significantly, it’s essential to remember past challenges and the lessons learned.

Madeira Airport, with its unique challenges, is a marvel of engineering and a testament to human perseverance. While it may be labeled ‘dangerous,’ the safety measures in place and the skilled professionals operating there ensure it remains a gateway to the beautiful island of Madeira.


  1. Why was the runway at Madeira Airport extended?
    The initial runway was deemed short for modern aircraft, leading to its extension for safety purposes.
  2. Do pilots receive special training for Madeira?
    Yes, pilots are specifically trained to handle the unique challenges of landing at Madeira Airport.
  3. How often do flights get diverted from Madeira due to weather?
    While diversions aren’t a daily occurrence, sudden weather changes can sometimes lead to such decisions.
  4. Is it safe for tourists to fly into Madeira?
    Absolutely! With advanced safety measures in place and skilled professionals at the helm, the airport safely handles millions of tourists each year.
  5. What’s the best time of year to fly into Madeira?
    While Madeira is a year-round destination, the weather is generally milder and more predictable during the summer months.

Note: This is a concise and simplified article on the topic for the sake of brevity. The information provided is based on general knowledge and research up to 2021.

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Irene Zagalo

"I love Portugal and especially the island of Madeira."View Author posts

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