Tabletop Runway: Definition and Risks

There are thousands of airports and runways around the world. And as you can imagine, airports and runways need wide and open spaces due to their long and large structures. In addition, there should not be too many obstacles around the runways. Obstacle criteria have also been published in this regard by national authorities and international rule setters. As a result, many conditions are considered in order to build a runway.

Well, let’s consider the airports and runways to be built in mountainous regions or islands. There may not always be wide and spacious geographies to make the runways. Some of the runways built in such places are called tabletop runways.

Tabletop runway is used to describe runways that have a deep cliff at the end of one or both ends of the runway. These runways are usually built on a hill or plateau adjacent to a steep cliff.

Let’s give a few examples of Tabletop runways:

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport – TNCS / Netherlands

Catalina Airport – KAVX / USA

-Lampedusa Airport – LICD / Italy

Catalina Airport tabletop runway
Catalina Airport – California/USA

Tabletop runways contain some risks to aviation and are generally considered dangerous.

We can briefly summarize these risks as follows:

– May create an optical illusion in pilots approaching. It may appear to be level with lower terrains around it and may deceive pilots, thus requiring a very precise and careful approach.

– It is life-threatening in case of a mishap and runway excursion of an airplane taking off. The plane may fall into the abyss at the end of the runway.

– Similarly, there is a danger of drooling from the cliff if an airplane landing cannot stop on the runway and experiences runway excursion.

– Any overshoot and undershoot situation poses serious danger for this type of runway.

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