On the waterfront
© Getty
April 2018

On the waterfront

By Volker Paulun
The airport on Barra, a small island of the Outer Hebrides in front of the Scottish coast, has three runways – more than London Heathrow. But that’s by far not the most remarkable thing to be reported about this landing site.

When the tide is low the Barra bay transforms into the world’s only airport on a beach – until high tide interrupts air traffic again. Due to the changing water levels, even a stranded shark once had to be collected off the runway – besides the almost daily accumulation of flotsam. Tourists, too, regularly have to be run off the runway. In spite of these unusual circumstances Barra is a regular airport for scheduled flights with two daily connections to Glasgow. However, it’s up to the tide to decide when the DHC-6 Twin Otter propeller plane can take off or land.

​​To invent an airplane is nothing. To build an airplane is something. But to fly an airplane is everything

Ferdinand Ferber (1862–1909),
French aviation pioneer
Other unusual airports
  • <strong>St. Maarten</strong> – on the approach to the Caribbean island the jets fly so low over Maho Beach that it seems like you could touch them.
    St. Maarten – on the approach to the Caribbean island the jets fly so low over Maho Beach that it seems like you could touch them. © Getty
  • <strong>Jumbolair Airport </strong>– Hollywood star and hobby pilot John Travolta, like a few other multi-millionaires, has built his mansion directly next to one of the two runways of the private airport. Whereas normal citizens drive their cars to their doorstep Travolta arrives in a Boeing 707.
    Jumbolair Airport – Hollywood star and hobby pilot John Travolta, like a few other multi-millionaires, has built his mansion directly next to one of the two runways of the private airport. Whereas normal citizens drive their cars to their doorstep Travolta arrives in a Boeing 707. © architecturendesign.net
  • <strong>Gibraltar </strong>– when a passenger jet approaches or takes off there the British colony is cut off from the Spanish mainland because cars or pedestrians have to cross the runway in order to enter or leave the enclave.
    Gibraltar – when a passenger jet approaches or takes off there the British colony is cut off from the Spanish mainland because cars or pedestrians have to cross the runway in order to enter or leave the enclave. © Simon Alborz/Wikipedia
  • <strong>Will Rogers Airport </strong>– passengers landing here may be serious perps: one of the gates of Oklahoma City’s airport leads directly into the cell block of the local prison.
    Will Rogers Airport – passengers landing here may be serious perps: one of the gates of Oklahoma City’s airport leads directly into the cell block of the local prison. © Google Maps