“It matters not where the plane is going, what matters is choosing to get on”.
Perhaps this is not entirely true, or maybe it is. I love flying, in this article, I am going to rank my five favourite approaches in Europe. It is hard to narrow down five amazing approaches.
But I can conclude it is possible. Is it the winter wonderland of Scandinavia, the rolling vistas of the Mediterranean or the cityscape of a thriving metropolis, which captures your emotions?
We start this article with a bonus airport. Whilst it does not make our top five list, it is worthy of its own place in the pack. Let us jump to a rocky outcrop in the Atlantic Ocean.
Funchal Airport, Madeira
This unique airport has a runway built on stilts into the Atlantic Ocean. This tiny island often battered by extreme wind, low cloud and rain pose some extreme challenges for pilots.
To both the north and south of the airport, lie high mountains. When approaching on 05, the northeasterly runway, you will fly parallel to the airport then follow a tight semi-circle to line up and land.
This tight turn is formed at less than 1000ft above the merciless waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The drama of this challenging approach earns this lovely little airport a special place in our hearts.
5) London City Airport, United Kingdom
The short, sharp shock from East London, flying into London City with its famously steep 5.5⁰ glideslope, and short runway surrounded by water is a very dramatic experience.
All aircraft and crew flying through this airport have to be specially certified and rated.
By day you get a lovely view across London its rivers of sludge, the snaking train lines and the imposing skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.
By night the lights shimmer and dance all around as far as the eye can see. It really is something special day or night.
4) Faro Airport, Portugal
This quirky airport on the very southern tip of Portugal commonly referred to as the gateway to the Algarve.
Whilst the approach into Faro is undeniably flat and this not usually a redeeming feature, in this case, though it actually is.
The striking salt marshes and rugged coastline really do contrast each other beautifully.
If you’re lucky enough to be on the north side of the aircraft as you land, you might even catch a glimpse of the historic and beautiful city of Faro.
3) Madrid Barajas Airport, Spain
Paul Heaton once sang “Is it Madrid with its market square?” Turns out it absolutely is, the favoured configuration is for aircraft to approach from the south and take off to the north.
As the descent commences you pass over the snow-capped mountains of the Iberian Peninsula. This gives way to the rolling plains east and west of Madrid.
As you fly base leg and line up over the city, you will be treated to a wonderful view of the Market Square, and the Airbus base at Getafe finally the striking Torre de Cristal which dominates the skyline will watch over you as you bounce down the glideslope into Madrid Barajas Airport.
2) Geneva Airport, Switzerland
Geneva is a large city on the southern tip of Switzerland. Surrounded by France to the North and South, the dramatic and rugged Alps are there wherever you look.
Geneva has two approaches when approaching from the north east you overfly the crystalline blue waters of Lake Geneva, with its quaint villages and gently rolling hills, it really is something to behold.
From the south-west, you will overfly the mountains and a number of rolling plains. With a gentle mist forming in the bottom of the valleys it really is awe inspiring.
1) Innsbruck Airport, Austria
An airport that needs a very little introduction from me, the small city of Innsbruck is located in a tight valley.
As you look in awe at the mountains which dominate the skyline, you will consider how it’s possible to get an aircraft anywhere near this pretty valley.
As you twist through the mountains, it’s a strange sensation to see them, level with the aircraft then as you descend lower they tower above you. It’s like entering the jaws of a giant rock monster.
If you are really lucky you will take the approach into runway 08, which features a low and tight turn onto the final approach after overflying the city and valley. If you land on 26, whilst there are no dramatic low turns it is still a breathtaking sight.
In this article, I have counted down my favourite European approaches. Do you have any advances on my list, or think I have forgotten any. Comment below and let me know what you think.