What Is Unique About The Barra Airport In Scotland?

Barra Airport in Scotland has a runway on the beach.
Barra Airport in Scotland has a runway on the beach.

Barra Airport is a small airport located on the tiny island of Barra, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, about 140 nautical miles from the city of Glasgow. The airport is famous for being the only airport that uses a beach as a runway. The short runway is built on the wide beach of Traigh Mhor and is completely covered by the sea during high tides with flight schedules being dependent on these tides.

History Of The Barra Airport

Barra Airport was constructed in 1936 and was officially opened on August 7th, 1936 providing a gateway for residents of the island of Barra who needed an alternative to marine travel which was at the time the only means of accessing the mainland. During the airport’s opening, tickets for flights to Glasgow cost about $5 per person with sales being driven by adverts placed in a favorite local newspaper known as the Oban Times. The famous Scottish airline, Loganair, began flights to the island of Barra in October 1974 and was responsible for management of the airport. The administration of the airport is currently handled by the Highlands and Islands Airports Limited.

Infrastructure Of The Barra Airport

Barra Airport is a CAA Ordinary License holder and hence has the mandate of handling public fights on the island. The aerodrome is not licensed to use the facility at night. Barra Airport is comprised of three runways (one more than the runways at London’s Heathrow) with wooden poles placed at their ends for marking. The airport has one small terminal. The airport hosts a spacious car park which is free to all passengers. There are several taxis and buses at the airport to facilitate movement to and from the terminal. Barra Airport is naturally lit and therefore does not handle night flights. However, during days with poor visibility, vehicles are stationed at the runways to assist pilots to locate the runways.

Air Traffic At The Barra Airport

Barra airport serves all flights coming in the Isle of Barra and handles over 10,000 passengers per year with about 1,400 aircraft movements. The airport also handles an average of 60 private flights per year. However, Barra Airport does not allow the landing of fixed wing aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight exceeding 6,018.62 pounds due to safety concerns. The two airline companies which use the airport facilities are Longair and Flybe which use Twin Otter aircraft.

Global Appeal

Barra Airport is unique as the only airport in the world where scheduled flights take place on the beach. Despite the fact that twin-engine aircraft frequent the airport, the beach is still open to the public. However, the general public is advised first to check the windsock if it is flying, because that is an indication that the airport is operational. The beautiful beach adds to the picturesque nature of the airport, and this has made it a popular destination for tourists all over the world. In 2011, a poll was conducted by the jet charter company, PrivateFly.com where Barra Airport was chosen as the top airport in the world.


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