Interviews — 11.11.19

PrivateFly reveals the results of its annual Top 10 Scenic Airports poll.

Every year, PrivateFly, the private jet charter company, produces its Top 10 Scenic Airports poll. Here, PrivateFly teamed up with  a panel of travel experts, including travel writers Nigel Tisdall and Francesca Street and aviation experts Johnny Jet and Doug Gollan to vote on the world’s most beautiful airport approaches. Any airport was in with a chance, from humble beach runways, to skyscraper-filled, big city approaches. The only criteria? The approach had to have the ‘wow factor’.

1. Donegal (Ireland)

Donegal Airport, on Ireland’s rugged northwest Atlantic coast, has come top of PrivateFly’s annual poll, with the Irish airport retaining its title once again. Adam Twidell, CEO of PrivateFly and an experienced pilot, said: “Some airports offer an aerial view that becomes reason enough to visit in itself – never mind what attractions await on the ground. Donegal’s rugged coastal landscapes are truly awe-inspiring as you come in to land. There is simply nowhere else like it, and its popularity with global travellers is clear.”

The judges said:

  • The view coming into Donegal is spectacular! Mountains on one side and a beautiful rugged coastline dotted with islands and golden sandy beaches running adjacent to the runway.
  • Most beautiful scenery I ever saw, with the beach on one side with crystal clear water and Mount Errigal standing tall on the other side.
  • There is nowhere as lovely as the wild rugged beauty of unspoiled Donegal.

2. Barra (Scotland, UK)

Barra Eoligarry is a STOLport (short take off and landing) with a difference. Situated in the wide shallow bay of Traigh Mhòr  in the Outer Hebrides, the airport is unique for being the only one in the world where scheduled flights use a tidal beach as the runway. It’s also the only approach where the pilot has to keep an eye out for cockle pickers.

The judges said:

  • The quirky nature, the magnificent views coming in and going out and onto a sandy beach. It is a joyous experience from start to finish. Just wonderful.
  • I just love the remoteness of the Isle of Barra and its rugged terrain. Landing on a cockle shell beach is quite the experience too. Make sure the tide is out!”
  • The approach to Barra airport is awesome – superb views over to Skye and the small isles then seeing the causeway between Eriskay and South Uist coming in over the sand dunes to land on the beach at Barra is a totally unique experience – nothing beats it!

1. Nice Côte d’Azur (France)

3. Nice (France)

Nice Côte d’Azur Airport is positioned seven kilometres west of the city centre, and is the principal port of arrival for passengers to the Côte d’Azur. It’s this approach along the Côte d’Azur that impresses, with the blue sea filled with superyachts below you as you glide in over the Mediterranean.

The judges said:

  • Spectacular approach with the Mediterranean sunlight glistening off the azure water of the sea, the evergreen trees and red rocks of the Esterel, pastel Provencal building, and all with the dramatic backdrop of the snow-capped southern Alps.
  • The approach over the sea offers a view of the entire Cote d’Azur, including Cannes, Nice, the famous Baie des Anges and the Alpes Maritimes.
  • Mountains, sea, city and the Promenade des Anglais… this airport has it all!
1. Orlando Melbourne (USA)

4. Orlando Melbourne (USA)

There are three airports in Orlando, but it’s Orlando Melbourne International that impressed our judges. MLB started its aviation life back in 1928, when it was nothing more than a cow pasture. It was then utilised as an air base during World War II before welcoming scheduled passenger flights in ’53. It’s the airports proximity to the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral that got our judges excited though, with the air force station only 6o kilometres from the runway.

The judges said:

  • First you see the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and then pass over the Indian and Banana Rivers.  Then there is a pass over the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – where you may get a glimpse of a rocket on a launchpad.
  • As a pilot and a world traveller, I have to say that no other approach takes your breath away like the approach into MLB.
  • Coming in over the Atlantic Ocean is an amazing experience. On a clear day you can see the Kennedy Space Center.
1. St Maarten (French/Dutch Caribbean)

5. St Maarten (French/Dutch Caribbean)

Is Princess Juliana International Airport the most Instagram friendly airport on the planet? Our judges thought so. The airport has very low-altitude approach, owing to one end of its runway being extremely close to the shore. Arriving aircraft approach the island on the last section of the final approach for Runway 10, following a 3° glide slope, flying low over the famous Maho Beach. Great for plane spotters too.

The judges said:

  • It’s just beautiful. The water, the colour, the land to the side and yes – the awesome approach just above spectators’ heads can’t be beat!
  • Water at one end, a mountain at the other. Land over a throng of people on the beach who are all excited to see you.
  • Most pristine and exhilarating rush filled with glimpses of the azure sea and neighbouring islands and cays. Love it!

6. Saba (Dutch Caribbean)

The island of Saba is only 13 square kilometres in area and mostly consists of the potentially active volcano, Mount Scenery. Flying in, it would appear that you are about to land on a Bond villain’s lair, with the volcano’s sides towering menacingly into the sky. It’s not a landing that you would forget in a hurry.

The judges said:

  • The air approach to Saba is spectacular and thrilling. The island is seen ahead and as you get closer you can see the colorful cottages, trees and lush shrubbed areas, mixed among spectacular rock formations. The plane turns, dips and lands. Amazing!
  • Approaching the island is breathtaking both for its bird’s-eye view of the island’s beauty and for its thrilling straight on approach – a seemingly sharp right turn to see the shortest commercial runway in the world and sticking the landing like on fly paper.
  • Thrilling landing, spectacular views and the beautiful scenery of Saba – the unspoiled Queen of the Caribbean.

7. Queenstown (New Zealand)

As far as rugged beauty goes, the approach to Queenstown airport will have you gasping in awe. One of Australasia’s fastest growing airports, ZQN serves as the direct domestic and international gateway to the lower South Island, providing easy accessibility to the resort of Queenstown. Fans of the The Lord of the Rings trilogy may notice some of the films locations which were shot in Queenstown and the surrounding areas.

The judges said:

  • As you descend between the rugged peaks of the snow capped Southern Alps, then along the vineyard-lined Gibston Valley, take a slight left alongside The Remarkables, over the Shotover River then touchdown on the tarmac. This awe-inspiring approach will leave you blown away!
  • Dramatic jagged peaks and Lake Wakatipu provide a taste of the glorious scenery on offer in Queenstown and its environs.”

8. Toronto Billy Bishop (Canada)

With its close proximity to Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, Billy Bishop’s approach is a real eye opener. Named after a World War 1 flying ace, the airport is located on the Toronto Islands, quite literally next to Downtown Toronto with its high-rise buildings and waterfront developments. The airport is accessible from a pedestrian tunnel at the foot of Eireann Quay.

The judges said:

  • Looking out the window as you arrive in Toronto you see Lake Ontario, the boats and yachts peacefully gliding across the water, the epic CN Tower and all the greatness of the city.
  • Perfect mix between city and sea. A view of the city we are to explore from the top and a particular airport literally in the middle of the city.
  • The view of the city skyline is breathtaking and the iconic CN Tower is in plain view upon approach.
1. London City (England, UK)

9. London City (England, UK)

Located in the Royal Docks in the London Borough of Newham, approximately 11 kilometres east of the City of London, LCY’s approach is filled with London landmarks, with West Ham’s football ground Upton park  to the North, the dome of the O2 to the west, the Royal artillery Barracks to the South and the Gallions Hill to the East. Only multi-engine, fixed-wing aircraft with special aircraft and aircrew certification to fly 5.5° approaches are allowed to conduct operations at London City Airport.

The judges said:

  • Flying so low into an airport over one of the world’s most famous cities gives you an experience like no other. Views coming into the airport include world famous landmarks such as Big Ben, the London Eye, and skyscrapers… followed by a thrilling steep approach to the runway.
  • The view over London’s Canary Wharf and the River Thames is incredible. Amazing at sunset.

10. Aosta (Italy)

An approach surrounded by mountains can be a little disconcerting, but coming in through the Aosta Valley in northwestern Italy is like flying into the opening scene of a World War II movie. Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, Gran Paradiso and The Matterhorn rise above the lush earth, which itself is dotted  with 10 castles. An unforgettable approach, especially in winter.

The judges said:

  • The airport is located in one of the most beautiful places in the Alps, near Mont Blanc.
  • You arrive between the most majestic mountains in Europe.