Airports around the world have made history in different categories and rankings. While some have topped chats through technological sophistication , others have huge hangars or have the best air navigation systems among other categories of rankings.
This piece by simpleflying.com however seeks to review the longest runways in the world and the benefits to safety of flights.
‘Build one mile of highway and it will take you just one mile…but a mile of runway will take you anywhere,’ – this is a saying that people in the aviation world love to repeat. Of course, in reality, the largest jets need closer to two miles of runway, and ‘anywhere’ is restricted to fuel and weight limitations. What are the longest runways in the world, and why do we need them?
Why do we need long runways?
At the most basic level, long runways are needed to allow an aircraft to accelerate to an acceptable speed that will produce lift and become airborne. In general, the larger and heavier the plane is, the more speed is required, and therefore, more runway length needed.
Additional runway length can also help with unfavourable weather conditions, which, for landing, in particular, will help with safety. Extra stopping distance may be required due to a slippery runway, perhaps lightly coated by snow. Hotter temperatures and high altitudes will also affect an aircraft’s length of runway needed on take-off.
Therefore, when it comes to aircraft operations, the longer the runway, the better.
Qamdo Bamda: The world’s longest runway?
Our research leads us to believe that China’s Qamdo Bamda Airport has the world’s longest runway at 5,500 meters. Located in south-central China, nestled in the eastern portion of the Himalayan mountain range north of Myanmar, the runway’s length is a necessity due to its high altitude.
In fact, the airport and runway are situated 4,400 meters above sea level. As we alluded to above, high altitude affects engine performance and the ability for wings to acquire the lift needed to get the aircraft airborne.
It’s possible that this “was” the world’s longest runway as some reports note that the 5,500-meter runway was closed and replaced by a 4,500-meter runway.
Zhukovsky International Airport
At 5,400 meters, Moscow’s Zhukovsky International Airport has the second-longest runway in the world (or first, depending on the situation at Qamdo Bamda). The runway was opened in 2016, with Zhukovsky serving as Moscow’s fourth international airport (along with Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo).
At any rate, the airport’s runway stands as the longest in Europe and will have no problem at all handling a fully loaded Airbus A380 or Antonov An-225.
Upington Airport (IATA: UTN, ICAO: FAUP) is an airport located in Upington, Northern Cape, South Africa. At 4900 metres, runway 17/35 is one of the longest runways in the world. The high elevation of the airport, extremely high summer temperatures and the fact that it was designed for the Boeing 747 necessitated the extreme length of the main runway.
Other notable runways
Below are some other notably long runways around the world:
Shigatse Peace Airport in China: 5,000 meters
Ulyanovsk Vostochny Airport in Russia: 5,000 meters
Embraer Unidade Gavião Peixoto Airport in Brazil: 4,967 meters.
Further down the list, but within 100 meters of Embraer Unidade Gavião Peixoto Airport, you’ll find the runways of Upington (South Africa), Denver (USA), and Doha (Qatar).
Experts believe the length of the runways and the distance covered by airplanes before airborne may have huge impacts on flight safety especially with the big jets.
By Francis Ogwo