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Enjoy The Most Scenic Airport Arrivals in the World Right from the Flight Deck

Our top five picks for the world’s most scenic airport arrivals through a pilot’s eyes

When it comes to scenic airports, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Beauty often amounts to a matter of subjectivity. In the case of beautiful landscapes seen from the flight deck, we believe beauty is much more objective.

We have the distinct opportunity to experience rare perspectives from the flight deck when it comes to scenic arrivals into the world’s most beautiful destinations. Today we’ll share our insights into some of the world’s most scenic airports which we have seen from the flight deck.

The world is full of unique and visually stunning airport arrivals. Covering all of them in one article would be impossible. We’ve chosen to highlight our top five picks for most scenic airports in the world. As professional private jet pilots, we enjoy the perspective from the flight deck as one of our small perks.

Hopefully, we will pique some interest in a career on the flight deck of a private jet. Let’s look at the unique perspective from the flight deck that we get to enjoy as pilots. We will pick up each arrival at the initial approach fix and take each one all the way to touchdown.

Runway 9 Telluride Regional Airport, Colorado USA

Telluride COWhen the skies are clear at Telluride, the view on approach to runway 9 is unforgettable. The approach begins 10 miles north of the Cones VOR, leading you safely into the valley below the mountain peaks.

As you make the gentle left hand turn towards the final approach, you should see the airport at 11 o’clock sitting atop a steep plateau. At 10 miles from the runway, and not a moment sooner, the descent can continue safely as you watch the plateau grow bigger in your windscreen.

You’ll notice the valley narrowing on both sides as you approach the runway, which makes the whole experience even more visually striking. Be wary of sudden mechanical turbulence near the edge of the cliff as you reduce the power to idle and begin to round out for a smooth touchdown.

Runway 31 Al Bateen Executive Airport, Abu Dhabi UAE

Abu DhabiAt night, the approach to runway 31 at Al Bateen is a lot like living inside a postcard. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, located immediately to the southwest of the final approach course, lights up the area in a gentle yet stunning wash of colored light – the real highlight here.

The arrivals into Al Bateen typically route aircraft to the north, then bring them back to the south to join the final approach. Abu Dhabi shines like a jewel in the darkness of the surrounding desert and the airport can get lost among the sea of lights below.

When you make the turn back towards the airport and descend to the glideslope intercept altitude, the airport stands out just past the grand mosque ahead of you. As you continue to descend towards the runway, you will have a unique perspective of the mosque’s spires and domed roof structures as you sail right past them.

Don’t look too long though, because the runway comes up quick!

Runway 10 Princess Juliana International Airport, Sint Maarten

There’s a good reason pilots choose this one as a favorite.

The approach to runway 10 at Sint Maarten takes you right over the world famous Maho Beach. Beachgoers stand right underneath arriving aircraft just before touching down on the runway.

Count on an approach as typically a long straight in unless traffic volume is heavier than normal. You’ll easily see the mountains of Sint Maarten protruding from the surrounding turquoise water as you begin the final approach segment. The mountains make for the perfect backdrop to this iconic approach.

At the final approach fix, we like to be fully configured to land so we can give the beachgoers below a good show as we pass overhead nice and slow before touchdown. On short final, you can see people posing for pictures on the beach as you fly directly overhead. You will not find another approach like this one anywhere in the world.

Runway 33 Galeão International Airport, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro BrazilComing in to land in Rio de Janeiro is a stunning experience when viewed from the flight deck no matter the runway.

The approach to 33 is a rare one and by far the most striking, however. Air traffic control typically routes aircraft onto arrival procedures that descend over the port when runway 33 is in use. Routes run past the iconic Cristo Redentor off the left hand side of the aircraft.

As you turn towards the final approach segment, you can’t help but notice the city skyline laid against the backdrop of sharp mountain ridges on the left side of the aircraft. The cityscape and rugged mountains are beautifully juxtaposed by the waters of the Guanabara Bay immediately to the right and underneath you as you descend toward the runway pavement.

Runway 9 London City Airport, England

London EnglandBeautiful, iconic, challenging. This sums up the approach to runway 9 at London City Airport.

From the right side of the aircraft, this approach truly stands out, with the best views of the city center and monuments like the Tower of London and the London Bridge. Very few pilots will have the opportunity to fly the approach into London City Airport due to the complex descent angle, which is meant to keep aircraft safely higher than normal while they are descending over the city center preparing to land.

When this approach initiates from the east, it begins with a beautiful fly over of London before turning around to set up on the final approach segment. This might be the best time to enjoy the city sights because, once air traffic control clears you to begin the approach, the flight deck gets busy.

To fly the steep 5.5º glideslope, getting configured to land much earlier than normal is the name of the game. Once the aircraft is fully configured and on glideslope, the city skyline slowly rises above you as you approach the runway. The runway itself is unique in that it sits between two channels of water which effectively makes the runway appear as though it’s on its own little island.

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