Why is the approach to Madeira airport so complicated

Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport (FNC), otherwise known as Funchal Airport, Madeira Airport, and Santa Catarina Airport is the gateway to the sunny hotspot of Madeira, Portugal. The site handles more than three million passengers each year, but it is well documented as home to some of the most dramatic approaches in the world. What causes this phenomenon?

Strong winds

Madeira is an archipelago located in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is almost 400 km (250 mi) north of the Canary Islands and 520 km (320 mi) west of Morocco, making it subject to several climate systems. The History Channel’s Most Extreme Airports named it the ninth most dangerous airport in the world and the third most dangerous in Europe. In fact, the crews have to go through extra training to land there.


As seen above, a TAP Air Portugal the pilot was applauded earlier this year showing fantastic crosswind skills when landing at the airport. In dramatic shots Airbus A321neo crabs can be seen during its approach.

The airport is located in a mountainous area in the Atlantic, which suggests a lot of strong winds and mountain waves. The weather on this day can be unpredictable due to combat conditions and pilots are often forced to divert to the Canary Islands if the situation is too risky. Unfortunately, accidents do happen over the years.

The fatal accident sparked a change

The difficult reputation of Funchal Airport has been with it from the beginning. The airport was opened in 1964, and just 13 years later, in 1977, the deadliest air crash in Portugal at the time occurred. accident, whose anniversary passed recently last week participated in a Boeing 727 on TAP Air Portugal flight 425.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, there were 156 passengers and eight crew members on board the trijet, which was flying to the island from Brussels via Lisbon. In wet weather, the 727 touched down 2,000 feet (610 meters) past the runway threshold. This, combined with aquaplaning, did not leave enough space to stop.

Madeira airport runway

This caused the plane to overshoot the runway, which was relatively short at the time. It then skidded off the end of the strip, landing almost vertically on the beach, where it crashed and caught fire. Unfortunately, out of 164 occupants, 131 died. TAP subsequently made changes, operating smaller 727 aircraft to Madeira.

In terms of changes made by the airport, its runway was extended by 200 meters (656 ft) to a total of 1,800 meters (5,906 ft) in the 1980s. Then, at the turn of the new millennium, a second expansion increased its length to 2,781 meters (9,124 ft). The extension was built on a platform and is partly over the Atlantic.

Madeira’s airport is classified as C, which means it presents certain problems during procedures, including approach, landing or take-off. In the future, pilots must undergo special simulator training and sit in a spare seat for take-off and landing before performing services in Funchal.

Madeira Airport

Photo: Jonathan Hendry | Simple flight

Ground support

The extended section of Madeira Airport’s runway sits 70 meters (230 feet) above the autonomous region’s coastline and is impressively supported by a total of 180 piers. As airline crews approach the unique structure, relentless, shifting Atlantic winds make airport operations difficult.

Despite the difficult conditions, the airport has been praised for its architectural achievements in the modern era. It is noteworthy that in 2004 he received the prize of the International Association of Bridge and Construction Engineering for an excellent design. So, a solid proposition is sure to put travelers at ease after a bumpy landing.

What do you think about the difficulties of flying to and from Madeira? Have you ever flown to this facility? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Source: Aviation Security Network

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