Culture

Barra airport is the only one in the world that uses a beach as a runway

The world of airports includes curiosities such as Sint Maarten (the Dutch part of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin), famous because planes land flying some 25 meters above the beach and crowds often gather there despite the risk .

Or that of the also Dutch island of Saba, considered the shortest commercial track in the world, surrounded by cliffs on three sides.

Some time ago we also talked here about the Bangda airport, which has the longest runway in the world, 5.5 kilometers long, and is surprisingly located in a valley surrounded by mountains in Tibet.

Plane landing in Barra / photo Shutterstock

But all of them have in common that their tracks are asphalt or concrete. It is true that there are also aerodromes whose runways are made of grass, dirt or gravel. But only one airport in the world uses a beach as a runway for takeoff and landing.

This is the Barra airport in Scotland. It is located on a peninsula in the bay of Traigh Mhor, on the north coast of the island of Barra (Eilean Bharraigh in Gaelic), one of the Outer Hebrides.

The control tower / photo David Hignett on Wikimedia Commons

When using the beach as a track, their schedules depend on the tides. When the water rises, it completely hides the runway and does not allow takeoffs or landings. In fact, it has 3 runways that form a triangle, bounded by wooden poles, which allow planes (currently model de Havilland Canada DHC–6 Twin Otter) land facing into the wind.

The airport has regular flights with Glasgow and Benbecula (another of the Hebrides islands), operated by Loganair airlines.

When the airport is not working, access to the beach is allowed, which is an area for collecting cockles by local shellfish collectors. The collectors must be aware of the signs that warn when the airport comes into operation.

Poster with the map of the three slopes / photo calflier001 on Wikimedia Commons

It is not authorized to operate at night, but in cases of emergency it can, for which the slopes are illuminated with vehicle headlights and reflective strips arranged on the sand.

The first time the beach was used as a landing strip was on June 14, 1933, and three years later, on August 7, 1936, regular flights began. Today it receives about 8,500 passengers with approximately 1,400 takeoffs and landings a year.

Arrival of passengers / photo MJRichardson on Wikimedia Commons

In terms of security, it has the same services as a normal airport, although it seems that the firefighters have more work helping dolphins and whales stranded on the island than in tasks typical of the airport.

The island of Barra is barely 60 square kilometers in area, and its 1,100 inhabitants live on the coast, leaving the entire interior practically deserted.

It has numerous monumental and natural attractions, but they have also been able to take advantage of its peculiar airport, which is advertised on the official website as a unique landing experience and encourages to book your Barra beach landing adventure day (your adventure day landing at Barra beach).


Sources

Barra Airport (official website) / Undiscovered Scotland / Wikipedia


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