And now for something completely different!

Keeping a balance on one’s state of mind.

Don’t know about you but I find that it is all too easy to get wound up by so much that is going on in this crazy world.  That’s not to marginalise the threats to society that are all around us and there are some powerful writers out there who work so hard to inform the world as to the truth of those threats.  (As an aside, one of my favourite authors is this context is Patrice Ayme, just see this recent Post of his as an example of his depth of analysis.)

But my dear friend of over 40 years, Dan Gomez, recently sent me a link to a video of the 10 most extreme airports in the world.  That stirred some memories from my own flying days.

First settle back and enjoy 7 minutes of reasons why you don’t want to think about flying! 😉

The YouTube video has this information, which I republish below,

Pictures and videos of the top 10 most extreme airports in the world!

San Diego: Busy airspace lots of buildings on approach
Madeira: Difficult approach and did have a short runway
Eagle Vail: High altitude, short runway & mountainous approach & departure
Courchevel: Short runway, bumpy runway, high altitude
Kai Tak: Difficult approch, fly through tall buildings, short runway
Gibraltar: Short runway, building on approach, winds from the Gibraltar rock
St Maarten: Short runway, has to fly over the beach with alot of people on there, steep takeoff because of mountains
St Barts: Short runway, has to dive.
St Barts: To land, the low approach on that hill thingy
Toncontin: Difficult approach, short runway
Lukla, short runway, only was cemented a few years ago, no go around, if land too low you land into a cliff

First song: La Perla by Kobojsarna

Second song: Feel It – Explicit Album Version by Three 6 Mafia vs Tiesto with Sean Kingston and Flo Rida

Now to a personal recollection.

I was a private pilot for many years, first learning to fly at the Suffolk Aero Club at Ipswich Airport in Suffolk, England.  My first lesson was on the 3rd March, 1984!

Some twenty years later, on the 13th August 2004 to be exact, I was checked out to land at Courchevel Airport in an aircraft type known as a TB20, a French-built aircraft.  Here’s the page from my log book with the necessary authorisation stamp affixed.

Cleared to land at Courchevel, LFLJ!

The following year, 19th July, 2005, I added my wonderful Piper Super Cub to that authorisation.  (See here for a part picture of the aircraft.)

So thanks to YouTube as someone has uploaded a film of a light aircraft operating into Courchevel.  It really is rather thrilling!

Finally, back to Dan.  Here’s his recollections included in the email that he sent with that first film.

Just found this.  I’ve landed at two of these.  Eagle Vail was a piece of cake compared to Toncontin as Marty and Bruce know. BAE146 and small Boeing jets.  I flew in and out of Toncontin 5 times in the 90’s and had no idea it was as scary as it was.  That is to say, I knew it was scary because my palms sweated and heartbeat was about 140 but when I look at it now I go “what was I thinking?”

Take offs were like Orange County, Full brake power straight up. The big difference was you were shuttling along the runway and then down the runway and finally, up the runway to get the wheels up.

One time, on a connecting flight from Medellin, we taxied in, were boarded by military police with drug dogs who sniffed their way through the aisle.  Bags were searched while everyone waited in intense heat. It took about 2 hours, three time longer than necessary. Then the interior was fumigated with everyone aboard. All the big machine guns too. Nobody said a word!

There’s one thing about flying a light aircraft, especially into ‘interesting’ airfields, you don’t have a moment to worry about the state of the world!

8 thoughts on “And now for something completely different!

  1. Paul, I think I can better your video of Courchevel…

    You may recall that I have trekked to Everest Base Camp (in Nov 2008) and that, I have therefore flown in to and out of Lukla. Being a pilot, you will appreciate (much quicker than non-pilots) that taking off at Lukla is no worse than jumping off a cliff in a hang glider (which is not risk-free) but… landing at Lukla is altogether different: With a 4000-metre-high wall of Himalayan rock at the end of the runway you either land successfully or you crash; there is no option to go round again… I have blogged about – and posted photos of – my trek before, as in However, since posting that item (now updated), I have found an even better video of a landing at Lukla that is as close to being there as it is possible to get.

    For ease of reference, here it is:


      1. The video is much as I remember it. Due to the interest of many passengers, I think all the pilots tend to fly the little twin engine prop planes with the cockpit door open. This means that anyone who wants to see, need only stand up to watch the approach (they don’t seem to bother with seat belt warning signs and if they did many people ignored them). I am just glad that, at the time of my landing at Lukla (November 2008), I was not aware of the fatal crash that had occurred a month earlier – when a plane attempted to land when cloud was obscured the runway (landing on instruments is not an option at Lukla).

        There is footage of the aftermath of this crash on You Tube but I have just found this brief clip showing exactly the conditions in which the plane attempted to land.


  2. Love planes and watching crazy flying. But best on U tube rather than inside a flying machine. Landing at Courchevel: hmmm. Wow. There used to be an airstrip next to where I live in the Alps. But it was closed. Probably something to do with mountains climbing a mile up all around with homes in the axis…
    BTW, thanks for the extreme compliments, Paul, I am most grateful.

    For a slight change, I’m writing up something on making ecology more market friendly (since you always want solutions!)


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