The Only Airport That Has a Beach As Its Runway

December 1, 2021

Airplane parked at Barra Airport
Airplane parked at Barra Airport

Barra Airport, located on the coast of Western Scotland on the island of Barra, is the only airport in the world with a beach as its runway. The white beach runways of Barra Airport are only accessible with the fall of the tide.

The scheduled flights to the beach runway depend on the schedule of the tide and when the beach is exposed. When this happens, and a windsock appears, the airport is active, and the beach is closed. All other times, the beach is open for locals and tourists to enjoy.

There are three runways laid out on the beach to take advantage of the prevailing winds, making it possible for aircraft to always land into the wind, which decreases ground roll during landing and ground speed during takeoff.

The runways are between 2,231 feet (680 meters) and 2,776 feet (846 meters) long. The runways are underwater at high tide, but the end boundaries are marked with wooden poles that have been sunk into the beach, allowing the limits of the runway always to be seen.

Barra Airport has an operational air traffic control tower when the airport is active, but flights are only allowed during the day unless there is an emergency where a flight needs to land at night. Currently, Loganair is the only commercial airline operating from the airport, and it flies to and from Glasgow, Scotland, twice daily. Glasgow is the only flight destination from Barra.

The airport started in 1974, and 15,000 passengers fly to and from Barra per year. There are about 1,400 aircraft movements per year at the airport, which includes about 60 private flights.

View of Traigh Mhor beach, which means “big beach” in Gaelic, and the site of the Barra Airport runways. The terminal for the airport is in the distance to the right.
View of Traigh Mhor beach, which means “big beach” in Gaelic, and the site of the Barra Airport runways. The terminal for the airport is in the distance to the right. Ribinrectus/Wikipedia
A Twin Otter taking off for Glasgow.
A Twin Otter taking off for Glasgow. M J Richardson/Wikipedia

Sources: STST Media, Barra Airport, CNN

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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