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World's Most Dangerous Airports: Narsarsuaq, Greenland, UAK

November 27, 2007 at 5:00 PM | by | ()

Back at the start of 2007, we put together a series on the World's Most Dangerous Airports, which by the volume of mail we get about it is still on your minds. One place we didn't cover the first go around was Narsarsuaq Airport in the town of the same name in Greenland. Fortunately, tipster David wrote in with some details on the airfield, abbreviated both UAK and BGBW:

The approach is through a fjord, so it's necessary to make 90 degree turn to line up with the runway while in the "valley". It's similar to flying down a city street with high rises on both sides with severe turbulence at all times except on the brightest of days; downdrafts are everywhere. There's the risk of icebergs drifting into the departure/arrival path.

Unless the ceiling is at least 4,000 feet and visibility at least 5 miles, pilots without proper knowledge of the local topographical and meteorological conditions are advised to not attempt approach to Narsarsuaq though fjords. Strong easterly winds can create severe turbulence and windshear in vicinity of the airport. Takeoffs are limited to daytime, and the airport is in uncontrolled airspace.

As soon as weather falls below "great for flying", the approach to BGBW becomes a real hand humidifier. Going down the fjord, sometimes wind rushes in from the side and flicks your aircraft to the other side of the cliff wall; over-correcting can be as dangerous as not correcting. The procedure turn to line up on final is nerve hacking. Before or as soon as you finish the turn, there is usually a gust of wind either from the side, from the top or from the back, potentially giving you a not-needed-at-all speed boost all the way down.

Sounds dangerous enough for us! After the jump, check out a panoramic video of the airstrip--narrated by what could pass for Phil Keoghan--and a clip taken from an aircraft coming in to land at Narsarsuaq.

Related Stories:
· World's Most Dangerous Airports [Jaunted]
· Greenland Travel coverage [Jaunted]

Pseudo Phil shows us around:

Flying in for a landing:

Archived Comments:

Reminds me...

of Planet Hoth.

I'd risk it

For the thrill (as a passenger.  with an experienced pilot.  and excellent insurance.)


It is ideed a very interesting airport.  The right downwind pattern for runway 25 is quite hazardous with the aircraft right off the hills to the north and the downdrafts encountered will keep you awake on your approach.

Video snagging

I'm not Phil Keoghan but that is my voice and video you've appropriated without credit. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


I was flying an F-89 to Iceland in 1955. Developed an engine problem. Narsasaruk was the only place I could make. Fortunately it was a clear day. There were three fjords to pick from. The center one lead into Narsasruk and the others to ????. You knew you were right when you saw a sunken ship about half way up the fiord. Was I happy to see that sunken ship. The runway ran right down to the waters edge and from that approach was up hill. Mountains of ice on both sides as you came up the fjord. Not enough fuel to make a go around at this place so you better be spot on. There was a small room that served as a bar as you needed a drink after landing here in a jet fighter. I still recall a song they all sang. "When The Ice Worns Nest Again". I think this may have been a sub base during WWII but it is no place fit for warm blooded people to live. The 4000 feet minimum ceiling tells you somehting about this place. It sure ranks high on my list of most dangerous airports in the world. On this day with an engine problem out over the North Atlantic and not much fuel it turned out to be heaven.


Narsarssuak Air Base aka "Bluie West One" was my first overseas tour 1956-57. We were a refueling stop for the "Hi-Flights" between USA and Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narsarsuaq_Air_Base Whole squadrons of Canadian F-86s and USAF C-123s passed through. Our entertainment was drinking, poker, and fishing for cod and arctic char. Inbound flights with our mail frequently had to abort back to Newfoundland or Labrador.

(Nostalgia not Nostaglia...)