Just Wanderlust Blog » A discerning, food-loving, & culturally curious road warrior seeks the world's beautiful and bizarre destinations.

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Landing at the world’s most dangerous airport, Paro Airport (PBH)

I was freaking out.  Was I really about to fly into the world’s most dangerous airport?! FML.

I’ve flown so many times that flying is second nature to me, but it wasn’t until I was killing time at the Kathmandu Airport that I learned that my next flight to Paro, Bhutan, was to the world’s most dangerous airport.  My flight to Paro was delayed which is common for flights to Bhutan so I decided to surf the net and figure out what there is to do in Paro; instead, I saw a bunch of search results about Paro Airport and none were favorable.

The airport is located 7,300 ft above sea level, surrounded by 16,000 ft Himalayan peaks, and has a landing strip only a mile long.  It’s the only airport in the world where the altitude exceeds the length of the landing strip!  Pilots must dodge the mountains and houses on either side as they come in for landing.  Not only that, there are reports that because of the complexity in maneuvering the landing, only eight pilots are allowed to land at this airport.  For all these reasons, Paro Airport is reportedly the world’s most dangerous airport.

Great.  I didn’t know what to expect so I sat there anxiously.  Praying.  All the way until we took off.  This was the most nervous I’ve ever been flying.  Like, EVER.

Luckily, the flight from Kathmandu to Paro was short – just an hour.  Before I knew it, we were on our descent already.  The plane curved sharply left and right as it headed toward a valley between the mountains.

Then it swung around to position itself for landing.  We passed by beautiful farming terraces which distracted me from the actual touch down…

…and just as quickly as we took off, I heard the familiar sound of the plane’s wheels touching ground!  We arrived – safely! And it wasn’t scary at all – at least, not for a passenger.

(First glimpse of Paro Airport – fancy!)

I don’t know what the articles were talking about because the flight was totally safe and in retrospect, I shouldn’t have read any of them before my flight (what timing, right?).  So, if anyone is reading this while waiting for their flight to Paro, please, please don’t worry!  The pilots know what they are doing and as a passenger, there’s no difference between flying into Paro or any other airport!

In other news, I am really excited to be in Bhutan – it’s a country I never actually thought I’d get to see but now that I’m here, I am on a mission to figure out if it deserves its nickname as “the last shangri-la”!

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Mark - May 21, 2013 - 10:56 am

I mean really, no many jobs where you are 1 out of 8 subject matter experts.. you were probably in good hands. 🙂

then again, if your pilot wasn’t 1 of those 8.. well…….

love following your journey. keep up the posts!

Tiffany - May 27, 2013 - 2:08 am

wow I can’t believe only 8 pilots are allowed to do the landing..it does seem scary yet exciting (adrenaline rush!) at the same time

Marty Schmidt - December 13, 2014 - 3:32 am

I had the same experience. It didn’t seem dangerous. It was actually quite beautiful and felt like we were drifting down between peaks as we came down into Paro. http://martinschmidtinasia.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/for-all-sentient-beings-meeting-a-bhutanese-monk/

David Astley - June 11, 2018 - 11:22 am

You were lucky, Diana, because you flew in on a reasonably clear day, but on many days the Druk Air planes descend through thick cloud and then suddenly you will see the mountainside just meters from the wing tips – and that’s enough to scare even the most experienced flyers! You are right in your statement that the pilots know what they are doing, but wrong that flying into Paro is no different than any other airport – the fact that so few pilots in the world are licensed to fly that route demonstrates that it is very different. The descent into Paro is many times more risky than flights into other airports – because there is absolutely no margin for error – but having said that, I would rather fly into Paro on Druk Air than on say a budget airline in Africa, because I trust the skills of the Druk Air pilots. They are amongst the best in the world.

JustWanderlust - June 30, 2018 - 2:36 pm

Thanks for the comments, David! I have no doubt the pilots know what they are doing because as a customer flying into Paro, it is no different than flying into any other airport. I felt very safe. 🙂

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