Jun
05
2009

Which airport has to wait for tide to go out?

Barra Airport runway and terminal buildings (photo by Kevin Walsh CC-BY)

Barra Airport runway and terminal buildings (photo by Kevin Walsh CC-BY)

The Outer Hebrides are a collection of islands on the west coast of Scotland. Barra is the most southerly of the inhabited islands.

Although a small island, Barra is famed for its scenery: beautiful beaches, machair (fertile low-lying grassy plain), its hills, and being the home of the clan MacNeill and their 15th century Kisimul Castle. Another popular visitor attraction is the island’s novel, and, to be honest, for those nervous of flying, most scary airport which is sited to the north tip of the island.

The airport’s three runways are on the two mile cockle shell and sand beach of Traigh Mhor which only operate when the tide is out twice a day.

The airport is operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited and open to scheduled commercial flights; and for the thousand or so inhabitants of the island, it is an important link to the rest of the world. Flights operate to and from Glasgow.

When the wind sock is raised then the airport is open and active, and operated under the rules of the Civil Aviation Authority ‘CAA’. The beach is closed to all members of the public and the nearby cockle pickers. Strobe lights on top of the control tower indicate when a flight is due to arrive or leave.

The end of the runways are marked out by wooden poles and the runways’ length allows for Twin Otter planes to land. In the event of emergency flights at night-time, then vehicle lights and reflective strips are used to set out the location of the runway. Precise timing of the flights is required as it is important the plane’s wheels do not get too wet or immersed in the soft sand.

If you are interested in the history of the airport, then you may want to track down a copy of Roy Calderwood’s book: Times Subject to Tides: The Story of Barra Airport.

Google Maps satellite view of the beach

Longitude:7° 26′ 25” W Latitude:57° 1′ 23” N
IATA code:BRR
ICAO code:EGP

Youtube video of the landing from a passenger‘s perspective.

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