Iconic Barra among world’s most stunning airports

Barra airport's runway is inaccessible at high tide. Picture: calflier001
Barra airport's runway is inaccessible at high tide. Picture: calflier001
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THE iconic beach landing strip on Barra has been named as one of the most stunning airport approaches in the world.

Private air charter firm Private Fly compiled a list of 37 unusual airport approaches around the globe for travel fans and pilots to vote as the best to land on.

The tiny Barra airstrip in the Outer Hebrides, which is only accessible at low tide, was competing alongside airports such as Amsterdam Schiphol, Bermuda, Hong Kong, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro.

The top ten was selected by a panel of high profile industry experts, with Barra being named number three. It won top spot in 2012.

First place went to Nice’s Cote d’Azur, with St Maarten Princess Juliana International Airport in the Caribbean coming second.

Angus MacNeil, SNP MP for Na H-Eileanan An lar (Western Isles) is possibly Barra 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.

“While I am used to the scenario of taking off from and landing on a beach, for most visitors it is an unusual experience,albeit a fantastic one.

“It is not just the beach, but the surrounding scenery, which people find amazing.

“I tell people it is exactly the same when St Peter lets you through the Pearly Gates and into Heaven.”

Tim Smith, regional manager south for airport operator HIAL, said: “Barra deserves its status as one of the most stunning and iconic airport approaches in the world.

“It attracts interest from passengers across the globe keen to experience its unique beach landing.”

Barra Airport opened in 1936 and is a short runway airport situated in the bay of Traigh Mhor - Gaelic for ‘big beach’ - at the northern edge of the island of Barra.

The airport is served by Twin Otter aircraft and flight schedules are subject to tidal conditions – at high tide, the runway is under water.

The beach is set out with three runways in a triangle, marked by permanent wooden poles at their ends.

This allows the Twin Otters to almost always land into the wind.

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

It handles around 1,000 flights and saw 9,474 passengers in 2013.