Airports where thrill-seekers watch passenger jets coming in to land just over their heads

Heartbreaking footage of a Wizz Air passenger jet flying yards over the heads of tourists has shown just how keen thrill-seeking plane spotters are in the action.

Uploaded last week, the footage was captured by a jet enthusiast who saw the planes landing on the Greek island of Skiathos, which has become a popular destination for plane spotters.

At just over a mile long and built yards from the sea, Skiathos Airport’s landing strip is particularly short, meaning pilots have to land much lower than other runways.

But even seasoned plane spotters were shocked as the Airbus jet barreled down the tarmac and clipped the airport’s perimeter fence, knocking back some onlookers in the process.

Skiathos is not the only destination for plane spotters who want to experience the thrill of landing beneath a large passenger jet. The Greek airport is named after the European Saint Martin – an island in the Caribbean that is also famous for its large low-landing aircraft.

Arecife Airport in Lanzarote – another island runway – is another popular destination. Meanwhile, authorities in Thailand have also warned tourists they could face stiff penalties for taking selfies as planes land at Phuket International Airport, saying doing so could distract pilots.

Skiathos Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport

Wizz Air’s landing video opens with the plane in the distance heading over the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea towards Skiathos’ Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport.

Many people are shown congregating on the beach and on the road that runs along the narrow strip of land between the sea and the runway. As the Wizz Air-operated Airbus A321neo approaches, it becomes clear that the pilot is bringing it down to low altitude. A spectator begins to step out of the way in anticipation of a very short landing.

While it narrowly clears the perimeter fence, it’s so low that it kicks dust and sand into the air and ruffles the hair of a man seen shaking in the footage. A girl is also seen being hit on the back.

Heart-stopping footage of a Wizz Air passenger jet (pictured) flying yards over the heads of tourists shows just how keen thrill-seeking plane spotters are for the action.

Heart-stopping footage of a Wizz Air passenger jet (pictured) flying yards over the heads of tourists shows just how keen thrill-seeking plane spotters are for the action.

The airport’s runway is 5,341-feet (1,628 m), placing it in the ‘short and narrow’ category of runways. A short landing strip runs north-south and from shore to cast, meaning the pilot has to go as low as possible to give him enough runway to land and stop.

Watching planes at the end of a runway is not without its risks. Last month, a 61-year-old British woman was knocked from behind as she and a group of tourists gathered to watch a plane take off.

Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Martin

Dubbed the European Saint Martin of Skiathos’ – an island in the Caribbean also famous for its low-landing planes – numerous videos have shown Boeing 747 passenger jets coming down the runway.

Like Skiathos, the Caribbean airport has a short runway – just 1.4 miles – forcing planes to fly at low altitudes. Spectators will often gather on the island’s Maho Beach, a stretch of golden sand that separates the airport runway and the stunning blue Caribbean Sea.

Skiathos has been dubbed the European Saint Maarten - an island in the Caribbean also famous for its low-landing planes (pictured).  Plane spotting is a popular activity at the island's Princess Juliana International Airport, but it can also be dangerous.  In 2017, a woman was killed when a low-flying plane blew her off her feet.

Skiathos has been dubbed the European Saint Maarten – an island in the Caribbean also famous for its low-landing planes (pictured). Plane spotting is a popular activity at the island’s Princess Juliana International Airport, but it can also be dangerous. In 2017, a woman was killed when a low-flying plane blew her off her feet.

But while plane spotting is a popular activity at the island’s Princess Juliana International Airport, it can also be dangerous. In 2017, a woman died after a low-flying plane blew off her leg during take-off.

A New Zealand woman was clinging to a fence when she was blown off her feet before hitting her head on a rock.

Tourists visiting the picturesque beach regularly climb the cliffs to watch planes land, with signs specifically warning against the danger.

Dutch regional police make daily visits to the beach to warn tourists of the dangers. The airport was previously named the most dangerous in the world by the History Channel program Most Extreme Airports.

Phuket International Airport, Thailand

Tourists also gather at Phuket International Airport in Thailand.

Unlike others, Phuket’s runway is separated from the sea only by a picturesque beach, meaning people often gather on the golden sands or stand in the sea to watch the planes take off.

Photographs from the beach show that tourists often capture spectacular shots of the undersides of passenger planes in a stunning island setting as the jets land.

However, in 2019, the Thai Aviation Authority threatened tourists with the death penalty for taking selfies on a beach near Phuket Airport, saying that doing so posed a risk of distracting the pilot.

He said the punishment was consistent with other offences, such as flashing laser pointers as planes approach the ground, which could endanger the pilot’s vision.

Image: People gather on the beach to watch a low-landing plane in Phuket, Thailand

Arecife Airport, Lanzarote

Another airport known for having fewer landings is Arecife Airport on the Spanish Canary Island of Lanzarote.

Like Skiathos’ Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport and Saint Martin’s Princess Juliana International Airport, Arecife is built close to the sea, with the end of the runway almost meeting the sea.

Tourists will often congregate on the rocks near the beach – Playa Honda – and along the road leading up, and take photos as the passenger jets approach.

Pilots don’t typically fly their planes at low altitudes like Skiathos and St. Martin, though the airport offers enthusiasts the chance to get under planes and fly over the sea.

Pictured: People take a selfie to take off at Arecef Airport on the Spanish island of Lanzarote in July 2022

Pictured: People take a selfie to take off at Arecef Airport on the Spanish island of Lanzarote in July 2022

The popularity of plane spotting came to the fore in Britain in early 2022 when livestreaming platform Big Jet TV captured a passenger plane landing at London’s Heathrow Airport in high winds during Storm Eunice.

More than 200,000 viewers on Jerry Dyer’s Big Jet TV spent more than six hours watching stomach-churning footage of the planes landing almost sideways at Britain’s busiest airport at 120mph.

In one shocking clip, the plane almost flipped on approach in strong winds which forced it to perform a ‘touch and go’ stunt, meaning the pilot had to take off again and approach again for a second attempt. Witnesses claim that paint dust can be seen hitting the ground from the tail of the plane during a light landing attempt.

Another airport known for its erratic landings is the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Nepal. The runway is built near the edge of the cliff, meaning the pilot has no room for error when landing.

CLOSE SHAVE: This is the shocking moment a pilot struggled to land a British Airways flight at Heathrow Airport in London during a storm in February that brought gusts of up to 92mph.

CLOSE SHAVE: This is the shocking moment a pilot struggled to land a British Airways flight at Heathrow Airport in London during a storm in February that brought gusts of up to 92mph.

Only small aircraft can take off and land from the airport and pilots need at least one year of experience and 100 missions flying STOL (short take off and landing) aircraft.

Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport in Portugal has also received a lot of attention over the years – mainly for its renaming in honor of the football megastar – but has one of the world’s hairiest runways.

Pilots must fight the island’s strong winds to land on a narrow runway, which is supported by 180 columns 190 feet above sea level. The runway also exits the sea.

An airport north-east of Gibraltar also has a nerve-wracking feature. The runway is built in the sea and across the width of the British Overseas Territory and has a public road in its centre. Like a level crossing across a railway track, a road has to be closed when a plane lands or takes off from an airport.

Another airport known for its erratic landings is Tenzing Hillary Airport (pictured) in Nepal. The runway is built near the edge of the cliff, meaning pilots have no room for error when landing

Dev

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