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Lufthansa Ace Makes Challenging Madeira Airport Approach Look Easy

Tricky Approaches and Nearly Constant Crosswinds Aren’t All That Make Madeira Unique

Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport is on the island of Madeira, which is located west of Morocco and southwest of Portugal in the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago and a popular vacation destination for Europeans. The airport serves Funchal, which is the capital of Madeira, as well as the rest of the island. The single runway (05/23) has been both famous and notorious for its short length and tricky 05 approaches. Lots of airports have prevailing crosswinds, and Ronaldo Madeira has some of the worst. If you’re watching a hairy crosswind approach the odds favor Madeira as the destination. Extended several times over the years, the runway is now 9,125 feet long. But it’s how it got that way that makes Madeira unique.

Photo Credit: Richard Bartz

In 2000, the runway was extended from 5,906 feet (1,800 meters) to 9,125 feet (2,781 meters). The 2000 runway extension was built on a platform. The platform is supported by 180 columns that average 230 feet (70 meters) in height. The runway extension and its infrastructure were built by Brazilian construction company Andrade Gutierrez and was the recipient of the 2004 Outstanding Structure Award by the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering (IABSE). The video shows two crosswind approaches to FNC- one slick (by a TAP Air Portugal 737) and the other more typical (by a Lufthansa A321-200, “Hildesheim”).

BONUS: Here’s a second video of truly hairy Madeira approaches and go-arounds.

Title image from screenshot of Paulo Ricardo Faria’s video (linked to above).

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Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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