Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ever flown into Tegucigalpa?

I have, and that is ONE HELLUVA RIDE!

I found this article on and figured some of you out there might appreciate it.

Difficult Approach + Short Runway = Challenge
By Ryan Bert
April 29, 2001

Tegucigalpa is the capital city of Honduras. The international airport there is one of extreme interest because of its difficult approach and because of its surprisingly short runway. There are many unknown facts about this airport.

Toncontín International Airport is more commonly known as Tegucigalpa airport. Tegucigalpa is actually a misnomer in the essence that the airport is actually located in Tegucigalpa’s sister city, Comayaguela. The runway at TGU is only 6,132 ft (1869 m) long. The airport was built on a plateau in the city. Tegucigalpa itself is situated in a basin between several tall mountains. This unique location allows for some spectacular approaches and interesting landings.

The approach into TGU is breathtaking. Up until a few years ago there used to be a small hill some 200 ft (60 m) from the runway. Planes used to have to fly low, ascend the mountain, and descend into TGU. That hill was bulldozed during the early 1990’s. Now the approach into TGU is just as interesting and not as dangerous. An airplane landing at runway 01 at TGU must circle inside the basin below the mountaintops. It is very interesting to look up at the wing and still see trees and mountains while being banked the other way. After it circles the basin it has only 100-200 ft (30-60 m) to line up before the runway. Because of the short runway as soon as the plane crosses the fence separating the airport property and the highway, it must make contact. The runway has a “displaced threshold” leaving only 5,436 ft (1657 m) of useable landing runway. That short runway, coupled with a 1.06º downhill slope on runway 01, allows for little braking time.

Many accidents have occurred here at Toncontín airport. The most notable one was that of a TAN (Transportes Aereos Nacionales)/SAHSA (Servicíos Aereos de Honduras S.A.) Boeing 727-200 (N88705) into a mountain in 1989. The Boeing 727 had drifted from its VOR/DME to Runway 01. It crashed into Cerro de Hule (Translated into “rubber hill”) some 5,000 ft (1524 m) from the runway. This crashed killed 123 of the 138 passengers on board and half of the 8-member crew. Back in June of 1999, an American Airlines 757 struck the fence that separates the highway and the runway. “It was a difficult ordeal,” said one of the passengers, who was onboard and he vowed not to fly into TGU ever again. A year later he was on a flight into TGU and got teary eyed and scared once the approach began. The most recent accident occurred on February 3, 2001. Fortunately no one on board was injured or killed. The TACA Airbus A320, N465(PA/TA), suffered from a reverse thrust malfunction once on the ground. The pilots are to be considered the heroes. Had they not turned the airplane onto the closest taxiway to the end of the runway, they may have gone over the cliff, which is found only 100 ft (30 m) from the end of the runway.

The runway here in TGU is very short compared with many runways in other countries. It is the second smallest international airport in the world. The actual length of the runway is 6,132 feet (1869 m). It was built on a plateau in the basin that holds Tegucigalpa and Comayaguela. Takeoffs here are really awesome. The airliner sits at the end of the runway with the parking brakes on and adds full throttle to the aircraft. After about 5-10 seconds the pilots release the brakes and you are hurled down the runway and leap into the sky with only a 1000-1500 feet (300-460 m) of runway left. It is an incredible feeling to stand on the outside beside the runway and listen to the RPM’s of the aircraft taking off.

Almost every single landing and takeoff at TGU interrupts the flow of traffic along Boulevard hacia Loarque. There are two traffic lights on either side of the runway that stop traffic whenever an airplane takes off and lands. They do not normally stop traffic for small Cessna’s or other small propeller planes; however, for jets and turbo-props traffic is stopped. The reason traffic is stopped is because of how low the aircraft must get to the ground on approach to TGU. They didn’t always stop traffic though. It wasn’t until a few years ago when a jet struck a passenger bus on approach that they finally added the traffic lights. There is only a 4 ft (1,2 m) tall fence separating the traffic from the runway.

I belive Tegucigalpa is one of the most interesting airports in the world. What a challenge for pilots to land here. How exhilarating it must be to pilot a plane in to TGU. I can’t wait for the day when I will pilot an aircraft into this beautiful airport.

Written by
Ryan Bert
No wonder people applaud vigorously upon landing.


At 10:53 AM, Blogger DON GODO said...

My heart has stopped several times upon landing...Now I know why!

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Liar_Liar said...

I loved it both times. Almost felt military aircraft carrier landing. how often can you get that feeling in a 727?

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Bound for Ceiba said...

I just cannot believe that one plane hit a bus on the road. Holy crap.

At 3:35 PM, Blogger PARLANCHEQ said...

Yikes! I hate flying. That did not help. :)


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