The 3 Most Dangerous Airports in England, Ranked
Peril comes in many forms when considering landing and taking off in a plane, making it essential to know about England’s three most dangerous airports. Like the most dangerous airports in the United States, England also deals with issues that cause severe caution when taking off or landing, including weather, runways, and skyscrapers, to name a few.
Whether sitting in a holding stack — a sky-high waiting room for planes — or stopped on a runway, passengers’ lives are at hand. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) details what safe departures and arrivals look like. While the weather is the most notable event changing touchdown or take-off procedures, it’s not always rain or snow. Sometimes, it’s heat. Air is less dense in high temperatures, causing less lift.
In 2018, the FAA revised airworthiness mandates to protect aircraft fuel systems against lightning. However, federal policy doesn’t necessarily secure safety. A recent House vote allows airlines, specifically Boeing, to fly without all safety upgrades. Though political policy surrounding plane safety changes, a pilot’s correctness and judgment regarding liftoff or landing remain the same. Runway availability, surface wind, and altitude are the basics for any pilot landing or taking off at England’s three most dangerous airports. Though the U.K. has dozens of airports, the London region is famous for more than a handful of international airports.
England’s 3 Most Dangerous Airports
London Heathrow Airport (LHR) is England’s most enormous home plate for commercial planes. But large or small, not all of England’s air pads are safe. London City and Manchester are the most dangerous airports to land at or take off. But don’t overestimate the other airports. Even Heathrow has issues, recently forcing a United Airlines flight to land due to bad weather, including 75 mph winds.
But after landing safely, the risk remains, with some of England’s airports ranked high for crime. An analysis conducted by U.K. police forces shows crime rates at U.K. airports per person and overall. The report reveals that just because a plane has landed safely does not mean all is well with passenger safety.
So, before booking a trip to the U.K., let’s look at England’s three most dangerous airports. Be it runaway location, weather, or even crime, considering the safety of any of the three will make the trip that much safer.
1. London City Airport (LCY)
East of London, with a single and relatively short runway of just under a mile at nearly 5,000 feet, CNN reports London City Airport as one of the world’s most dangerous. The dangers it poses begin with skyscraper hazards, Canary Wharf, and a steep angle of descent.
Set on the Royal Docks in the Borough of Newham, London City Airport often makes the news for its dangerous landing zone. The International Airport Review reports “a fairly steep approach angle” to the runway, and London’s Institution of Civil Engineers details a “sharp glide path.” There is a reason for the steep glide, regardless of the semantics.
Helvetic Airways Captain Mathias Kohler, who landed the first high-winged plane at LCY, explains the steep descent reduces noise pollution and lowers risks associated with landing close to tall buildings in the urban location. He says making the final approach, or final leg, is problematic because regulations call for a descension degree nearly twice that for other airports.
The ideal final leg of descent for London City is at 5.5°. Other airports require a 3° approach. The course is so dangerous not any pilot can perform it. The change in degree also means a change in speed. The aircraft will run off the runway if a pilot does not precisely control the landing. To land at LCY, a pilot must have conversion and simulator training, and airliners must also meet specific requirements.
Following a notorious steep approach, London’s famous fog makes landing dangerous at London City. Freezing fog causes poor visibility while also creating ice on airline windshields. Lastly, London City skyscrapers create hazardous flying conditions. The Bishopsgate skyscraper had to get a “four-story haircut” to avoid air traffic control restraints; however, the Shard, Tower of London, and the O2 Arena continue to make landing in London City difficult.
Plane Crashes and Airport Crime
The airport made the news in January when two planes flew dangerously close to one another. London City has one notable major airplane crash. In 2009, some passengers sustained injuries when a British Airways flight crashed because of a nosewheel collapse on the runway. However, some of the closest physical threats in London City are on the ground. LCY was rated 11 among 21 airports ranked for high crime. In 2022, The Metropolitan Police Service reported 103 crimes at LCY for the 3 million passengers who traveled through the airport, equaling 3.4% per 100,000 travelers.
Though London City gets the worst rap for the most dangerous airport in London, there is some positive news. LCY is the first international airport in the world to be controlled by a remote digital tower. Officials used the COVID-19 pandemic as a trial period to test the system comprised of 16 high-definition cameras and sensors. Now, a pilot can see aircraft speed, altitude, weather conditions, and any moving object on one screen, making the step decent a little less dangerous. Additionally, pan-tilt-zoom cameras allow for the closest inspection of surrounding threats.
2. Manchester Airport (MAN)
Once called Ringway Airport, Manchester is notorious for planes unable to land due to bad weather. Standard landing procedures get aborted on the airport’s two runways, which are over 10,000 feet each. To stay safe, pilots often perform a go-around, a plane maneuver used to abort landing due to extreme gusts or other inclement weather.
This year alone, strong gales from Storm Agnes and Storm Otto forced go-arounds at Manchester Airport in Ringway, bringing media attention to the city airport. British Airways chief training pilot Rich Allen says a go-around entails altering the aircraft’s power and configuration during high winds. Allen says learning go-round maneuvers and high-wind landings get mastered from training simulations. But even then, changing real-time wind strength and variability makes landing in heavy gusts dangerous.
Video as far back as 2015 shows one plane attempting to land at Manchester to no avail. Aer Lingus aborted landing even after touching down because of high storm winds.
Plane Crashes and Airport Crime
In 1985, a Manchester airport crash took the lives of 55 people when a British Airtours airliner caught fire on the runway. In 1957, A British European Airways flight took the lives of 20 passengers and crew members due to equipment failure. The airplane crashed into a house, also claiming the lives of two more people.
It’s not just weather that makes Manchester a dangerous airport. While less hazardous for landings compared to London City, Manchester sees more menace on the ground, ranked at 3 out of 21 airports. The Greater Manchester Police reported 1,505 crimes at the air pad in 2022 for the 23.4 million passengers, equaling 6.4% per 100,000 travelers.
3. Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Heathrow is the largest of all U.K. airports, which has two runways, both over 10,000 feet, and is considering a third. At one point, the airport boasted up to six runaways before more modern aircraft called for longer landing strips. Heathrow is the home plate for the U.K.’s biggest airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Like Manchester, Heathrow, in the London Borough of Hillingdon, suffers severe weather that causes dangerous landing conditions. In 2022, Big Jet TV captured one of the most hazardous landings reported by CNN last year. Bouncing back and forth from high winds, passengers, including two members of the Parliament, feared the worst. Parliament Member Rich Gordon thanked the pilot for their “professionalism and calm in how they dealt with what was a potentially very dangerous situation.”
Heathrow Airport is also home to several emergency landings dating back to 2013. More recently, in March, a Delta Airlines flight diverting across the English Channel from France turned around to dump fuel, landing at Heathrow last minute. In April, a United Airlines flight was forced to abort due to high winds from Storm Noa. In 2022, a strange smell on a British Airways flight had the pilot return to the runway shortly after takeoff.
Plane Crashes and Airport Crime
Heathrow Airport is home to some notable plane crashes starting in 1948, when a Sabena Airlines plane crashed on the runway, killing up to 20 people. Two decades later, in 1968, an engine failure during take-off on a British Overseas Airways Corporation airliner killed five people. Regarding on-ground safety, Heathrow falls between London City and Manchester regarding crime per person, ranking at number seven. The Metropolitan Police Service reported 2,494 reported crimes among the 61,611,838 people who traveled through, equaling 4% per 100,000 travelers. However, Heathrow Airport is the highest out of all 21 airports for the amount of crimes in 2022.
|Airport||Dangerous Landing Factors||Airport Facility Crime Rate|
|London City (LCY)||Skyscrapers, short runway, steep glide slope, weather||3.4%|