Barra Airport is one of the world's most spectacular and beautiful airports, located on the hebridean island of Barra. The airport is actually a beach, in fact, it's the only airport in the world where scheduled flights take-off and land on a beach. That is, provided the airport's three runways are not submerged at high-tide. This wide shallow bay of Traigh Mhor, near Barra's northern tip, was once famous primarily for its cockles until aircraft started to use the beach on 14 June 1933. Scheduled air services to and from Barra Airport began on 7 August 1936.
The beach is set out with three runways, marked by wooden poles at their ends. This allows the Twin Otters that serve the airport to almost always land into the wind. At high tide these runways are under the sea and flight times has to be regularly rescheduled with the tide. If emergency night landing is required vehicle lights are used to illuminate the runway and reflective strips laid on to the beach.(Photo: Murdo MacLeod)
Surprisingly, the Barra beach is also open to the public. In fact, it’s a very popular spot for cockle picking. Visitors to the beach can tell if the airport is operating by checking to see if the windsock is flying.
Although flying into or out of Barra sounds like a great adventure, the airport is subject to the same safety rules as anywhere else. Facilities include modern emergency services, though the airport fire crews are called out far more frequently to help stranded dolphins or seals on Traigh Mhor than for any reason connected with the aircraft operations.
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