Standard traffic patterns will help you fly safe, consistent speeds and altitudes down to the runway. They aren’t possible everywhere, however, and some airport locations make a standard traffic pattern impossible.

1) Telluride Regional Airport, Telluride, CO (KTEX)

Telluride is the second-highest airport in the US. With a horseshoe of mountains on the north, east, and south sides of the airport, flying your traffic pattern is limited to a left pattern for Runway 27 or a right pattern for Runway 9.

2) Skagway, Alaska (PAGY)

With 6,000 foot mountains surrounding a narrow canyon where the Skagway airport is located, flying into this Alaskan airport is reserved for the most experienced of pilots. Approaching Runway 20 at Skagway (PAGY), you’ll have to hug the canyon wall with a right pattern, then make a steep turning descent down the canyon for landing.

Here’s the A/FD departure procedure for Runway 02: Departing Runway 02 requires a high-performance climb due to terrain. Aircraft departing Runway 02 may dogleg to the east to avoid a school after 1/2 mile, before turning crosswind to increase altitude.

3) Copalis State Airport, Washington State (S16)

This airstrip is located on an ocean beach near the mouth of the Copalis River. It’s the only airport in Washington State where landing on the beach is legal and its runway literally changes with the tide.

4) Courchevel International Airport – France

When you fly into Courchevel, you’re landing to have a world-class skiing experience in the Alps…but you might not anticipate the runway to be a ski slope itself. The runway is only 1,762 feet long, it has a gradient of 18.6%, and there’s no go-around procedure for landings because of the terrain.

5) Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport, Colorado (KGWS)

3,300 feet may sound like a lot of runway…but not when you’re flying at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet MSL. Glenwood Springs has one short runway that’s situated in an extremely narrow valley. You’ll have to make a straight in approach through the valley for landing.

What other challenging airports have you flown into? Tell us in the comments below.

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