MIAMI – Santos Dumont Airport (SDU) is perhaps one of the most unique airports not only in Brazil but in the entire world.

Nestled in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, the airport borders Guanabara Bay and is surrounded by landmarks including Sugarloaf Mountain, the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art, and Flamengo Beach with views of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue in the background.

Serving primarily as a domestic airport, runway 02R/20RL with a relatively short length of 4,340 ft poses a unique challenge to the large Boeing 737, Airbus A320, and Embraer E190 aircraft operated by airlines including GOL Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes (G3), LATAM Airlines (LA), and Azul Brazilian Airlines (AD) respectively that visit the airport on a daily basis.

LATAM Airlines Airbus A320-232 registered as PT-MZT on a final approach into Santos Dumont Airport. Photo: @sntz_spotter – João Pedro Santoro

Furthermore, the litany of landmarks ranging from buildings to mountains in the surrounding bay make the approach into SDU a complex one.

The aircraft oftentimes have to make a litany of turns on the descent, giving passengers an especially dynamic and close introduction to the city.

Watch this Boeing 737 approach into runway 02R at Santos Dumont Airport, enjoy the views of Rio de Janeiro! Video Credit: Rodrigo Louro via YouTube.

To further understand SDU and the approach into it from the perspective of a local planespotter, Airways sat down with in house staff photographer João Pedro Santoro who frequents the airport.

BF: Why is SDU such a unique airport?

JS: Santos Dumont Airport is one of the best placed airports in the world, if you are downtown it only takes 10 minutes of walking to get to it. We have a really short runway due to a lack of space in Rio de Janeiro’s downtown.

BF: Why is the specific 02 RNAV W approach into SDU especially unique, what are some landmarks that stand out on the approach from a non-pilot’s perspective?

JS: When approaching 02R via RNAV W, you can see the two most important landmarks in of Rio, the Sugar Loaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer Statue.

BF: What views can one expect from a passenger seat on the 02 RNAV W approach?

JS: Well, you can expect to see practically the entire city if you’re sitting on the right side of the aircraft.

BF: So one should definitely book a righthand seat when visiting, thank you for your time Mr. Santoro.

Azul Linhas Aéreas Embraer E190 on approach into Santos Dumont, the airport is located in the heart of Rio de Janeiro! Photo: @sntz_spotter – João Pedro Santoro

SDU, with beautiful views of Rio de Janeiro, provides a scenic approach that allows passengers to know the city before they even arrive, an approach that every avgeek should experience!

Azul Linhas Aéreas Airbus A320neo on approach into Santos Dumont Airport with a view of the spectacular view of Sugarloaf Mountain. Photo: @sntz_spotter – João Pedro Santoro

Featured image: GOL Boeing 737-800 on approach into Santos Dumont Airport (SDU) in Rio de Janeiro with a view of the Cristo Redentor statue in the background. Photo: @sntz_spotter – João Pedro Santoro