You’ve probably heard a lot about the world’s longest runways – but what about these impressive unpaved runways?
Grass runways are a common sight in many remote and rural airfields around the world. These runways are constructed with natural grass or turf instead of asphalt or concrete, providing a soft landing surface for aircraft.
While grass runways may not be suitable for all types of aircraft or weather conditions, they offer many advantages, including lower construction costs, reduced maintenance, and a more environmentally-friendly option.
White Waltham Airfield, UK
Located in White Waltham, White Waltham Airfield was set up in 1928 by the de Havilland family for the de Havilland Flying School. Throughout its operational history, the airfield was home to the Air Transport Auxiliary, Royal Air Force Home Command, as well as an aircraft assembly and testing site.
The airfield is said to be the largest grass airfield for civilian use in Europe (after Army Aviation Centre (AAC) Middle Wallop, a British Army airfield with a grass runway over 3,875 feet / 1,181 meters long). White Waltham Airfield has three grass runways, all measuring over 3,000 feet (914 meters) – the longest of which is runway 07/25, at 3,642 feet (1,110 meters) long.
Fun fact: the late Prince Philip (husband of Queen Elizabeth II) learned how to fly at White Waltham Airfield in 1952, flying a de Havilland Chipmunk.
Hope Aerodrome, Canada
Hope Aerodrome in Hope Townsite, British Columbia, has a single turf runway that extends 3,960 feet (1,207 meters). The aerodrome is most notably remembered as the location of the 1972 demonstration of the Boeing 737’s landing and take-off abilities.
Today, it hosts seven training schools, as well as several flying associations and clubs.
Kaikohe Aerodrome, New Zealand
Built as a US Marines bomber base in 1942, Kaikohe Aerodrome is situated in the Northland region of New Zealand. The two grass runways at the airfield include the 5,052-feet (1,540-meter) runway 17/35 and the 3,035-feet (925-meter) runway 13/31.
During the Second World War, this site was selected for its large and flat solid volcanic foundation, which made it ideal for building long unpaved runways that could sustain heavy landings by bomber aircraft.
In the 1970s and 1980s, several airlines began scheduled passenger services to the airfield. However, the nearby Kerikeri (Bay of Islands) Airport was eventually favored due to the availability of a sealed runway there. These days, Kaikohe Aerodrome is commonly used for glider operations and general aviation flights.
Triple Tree Aerodrome, US
South Carolina’s Triple Tree Aerodrome boasts an impressive grass runway that stretches 7,000 feet (2,134 meters). The aerodrome is registered as a non-profit organization and hosts a variety of full-scale and radio-control aviation events for adventurous children and the young at heart alike.