Airports Like No Other – Madeira International Airport

Landing at the Madeira International Airport creates once-in-a-lifetime sceneries for the passengers while making the pilots a little nervous. This airport is not for amateur pilots owing to its peculiar and perilous nature with its strange runways construction. It is time to fascinate you with some breathtaking facts about this airport like no other.

Where is Madeira Airport Located? 

Madeira International Airport or the Cristiano Ronaldo Airport named after the world-famous footballer is located on Madeira Island, an autonomous region of the Portuguese Republic. Madeira is the main island of an archipelago that constitutes three islands: Madeira, Porto Santo, and Desertas. Home to nearly 250,000 people and well-known for its geographical beauty among travelers. 

The airport commenced its operations back in 1964 with an inaugural flight operated by TAP Air Portugal: the flag carrier of the nation. Due to the increasing demand of tourists visiting the island, authorities expanded the airport to handle more passengers. Perched runway on the foreland was the major obstacle for expansion projects as they had run out of land and any expansion to be made should stretch towards the sea!

What Makes the Madeira Airport Peculiar? 

The airport was once infamous for its short runway. The initial length of the runway was 1,600 m and the airport could not accommodate larger commercial carriers. During the later runway extension projects, it was lengthened to 1,800 m. A major expansion project took place in 2000 extending the runway length almost up to 2,781 m and giving the chance to serve larger carriers. 

This iconic construction of the runway made the Funchal Madeira airport like no other. Out of the two alternatives: building a second runway or extending the current runway, authorities decided to proceed with the latter. The runway extended towards the sea on reclaimed land and was supported by reinforced concrete piles. The runway bridge is 1,020 m in length and 180 m in width, raised 57 m above the sea. 

Andrade Gutierrez, a Brazilian construction company was the contracted company for the constructions and the construction work continued for four years: 1996 to 2000. The behemoth investment of $452.8 million U.S. Dollars was made by the airport authorities to bring the airport on par with the usual international airports serving all types of carriers. 

The newly added runway bridge structure won the ‘Outstanding Structure Award’ in 2004, which is granted by the International Association of Bridge and Structural Engineering.

What Makes the Madeira Airport Perilous? 

We know that the unusual construction of the runway bridge makes the Madeira airport peculiar, but what makes it perilous and more challenging for even experienced pilots? 

It is none other than the unpredictable crosswind that blows aircraft off the runway! 

Mountain cliffs towards the inland perturb the sea breeze creating heavy crosswinds across the runway. Airplanes intended to land on runway 05 have to perform a visual approach due to the unavailability of ILS, and the approach is short and steep due to the mountains. Even an experienced pilot requires additional attention to make the landing uneventful and to qualify for a round of applause from the passenger cabin.

Leave a Comment