Pilots choose their most spectacular airports to land in

Funchal in Madeira and Santiago in Chile both make the list


Pilots at British Airways are trained to fly to a wide range of airports – each with their own unique aspects and challenges – across its global network of almost 300 destinations.

Mirror Travel asked six of the flag carrier's Captains and First Officers to describe some of the most challenging and unique landing approaches they face – and how they train to ensure safe and enjoyable flights for their passengers.

See also: Pilots share their best views from the air

See also: Pictures: Cruise captains name their best views from a cruise

Santiago, Chile

Senior First Officer Dave Sproat

Santiago is our latest 787 Dreamliner route and it is amazing. We come in over the Andes – and from 250 miles away at 40,000ft you can see this wall of ice and rocks appearing. The views are truly spectacular.

We fly by Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Andes, which is nearly 23,000ft.

Then we descend into Santiago and the Pacific Ocean is visible in the distance.

Book flights to Santiago here.

Funchal, Madeira

Captain Ally Wilcox

It is always a thrill to land at Funchal as the winds are never the same and we have to use our training, honed judgment and experience to fly the manual curved approach to the runway.

While we will be focused on the approach and landing, our customers will be able to enjoy the great views of the Atlantic and the beautiful island of Madeira.

Our highest priority is always safety, it's built into everything we do. We complete a dedicated training package for operations to Funchal to keep the highest levels of safety.

Watch a video of Captain Wilcox landing at Funchal here.

Book flights to Funchal here.

Mexico City

Senior First Officer Mark Vanhoenacker

For long-haul pilots, one of the most interesting approaches we fly is to Mexico City. The airport's elevation is more than 7,000ft, which means the air is thinner, so we fly faster.

That changes the pace in the cockpit too, which is when our training and experience comes to the fore.

Nearby mountains, a busy air traffic environment, and frequent heavy summer showers add to the challenges and make for a particularly interesting and satisfying day at work.

  • Mark Vanhoenacker is the author of best-seller Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot.

Book flights to Mexico City here.


Captain James D'Silva

The landing into Gibraltar is eye-catching, with the Rock having a commanding view over the airfield. The runway is short, so touching down in the right place is essential and something we naturally train for.

There are many wind effects over the Rock that make the landing challenging, so again this is something we rehearse repeatedly in our flight simulators. We can quite often see the cruise ships as we come into land, with the guests waving at us.

Book flights to Gibraltar here.

Innsbruck, Austria

First Officer Katie Leask

This is a demanding approach, which on a clear day can be visually spectacular. The airfield is located in a narrow
valley, surrounded by mountains many thousands of feet high either side.

The runway is relatively short, and quite often there's turbulence on the approach. We have lead in lights on top of some of the city buildings to guide us in on the final visual approach.

Book flights to Innsbruck here.

London City

Captain Karen Atherton

From a pilot's perspective, this is one of the most interesting approaches anywhere in the world. I am currently one of only 27 Captains at British Airways qualified to carry out this landing on our exclusive premium service between London City and New York.

The level of training required is demanding, and rightly so, but the flying is extremely rewarding and the views heading into London are breathtaking. I have one of the best commutes home in the world.

Watch a video of Captain Atherton landing at London City here .

Book flights from London City here .

How BA's airline pilots train

British Airways has world class flight training facilities and programmes at its Global Learning Academy near Heathrow.

Pilots are trained to achieve the highest levels of performance in what is already the most regulated and highly tested profession.

The carrier's 4,300 pilots undergo two full days of training and testing on the company's state-of-the-art simulators every six months – without exception.

There are 15 multi-million pound full motion flight simulators covering every Airbus and Boeing aircraft type in the 294-strong fleet, and they are available for use 24 hours a day.

Every conceivable weather condition, event and scenario can be created and different airports are programmed to practise taking off and landing at different locations around the world.

  • The simulators are available to the public and sessions start at £399. ba.com
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