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Barra lands place on list of stunning airports

A Twin Otter aircraft lands on the Barra landing strip. Picture: TSPL

A Twin Otter aircraft lands on the Barra landing strip. Picture: TSPL

  • by ALISTAIR MUNRO
 

THE beach landing strip on the island of Barra has been included in a “bucket list” of the most stunning airports in the world to visit.

The curved strip of white sand, only accessible at low tide, has been shortlisted alongside 32 global airport hubs, including Amsterdam Schiphol, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro, for its unusual approach.

The list has been compiled by private air charter, Private Fly, who sought opinions from industry experts.

Michael Galbraith, station manager for Barra Airport, said: “The beach landing at Barra is undoubtedly one of the most unusual and scenic in the world.

“It is one of those ‘bucket list’ experiences [a wish list of things to do before you ‘kick the bucket’] that attracts people from around the world to Barra, and the look of joy as people arrive on the island is hugely rewarding.”

Barra Airport opened in 1936 and is the only beach airport in the world with scheduled flights.

The short runway sits on Traigh Mhor bay – Gaelic for “big beach” – at the northern edge of the Hebridean island.

At high tide the airstrip is under water, but when the tide goes out a wide expanse of white sand offers a soft landing for Loganair’s Twin Otter aircraft flying in from Glasgow and Benbecula.

The flight schedules are subject to tidal conditions and change every few days.

Barra’s airstrip handles around 1,200 flights and 10,500 passengers a year, some of whom make the journey just to experience the breath-taking descent and unique landing. Private Fly said that Barra’s inclusion “proves that small can definitely be more beautiful”.

It added: “The airport has a unique beach runway – the only one in the world for scheduled aircraft – with flight times varying according to the tide as the runway is literally washed away once a day.

“The beach is also open to foot visitors who must observe the windsock to see if the airport is in operation.”

One voter commented: “Beautiful scenery and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to land on a beach”.

Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for Western Isles, is the party’s Westminster spokesman for transport, and as a Barra resident, is possibly the airport’s most regular customer, flying in and out around 50 times a year.

He said: “It is an iconic airstrip, which deserves its status as one of the best in the world. The service is popular with tourists and I almost hesitate to plug Barra Airport due to the difficulty I will have to get seats.”

The beach is set out with three runways in a triangle, marked by permanent wooden poles at their ends. This allows the Twin Otters that serve the airport to almost always land into the wind.

Although the aerodrome is not licensed for night use, emergency flights occasionally operate after dark from the airport, with vehicle lights used to illuminate the runway and reflective strips laid on to the beach.

Barra Airport is operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd.

The poll to choose the world’s best airport landing closes at the end of the month.

 

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