Next time you’re stuck on a plane 30 minutes past departure time, remember: there’s probably a reason you haven’t taken off, and you’re most definitely better off for waiting.
In case you were getting complacent about air travel, Travel + Leisure has ranked the U.S.’s most dangerous commercial airports and it’s only a little terrifying.
While T+L notes that airplane safety has certainly become tighter over the years, the actual number of close calls on the runway during takeoff and landing are alarmingly more frequent than we would like to imagine. The magazine decided to investigate the numbers and created a comprehensive list ranking the 35 busiest commercial airports in the U.S. to see which airports had the most “near misses” and other “runway incidents” over the past five years. Using runway safety statistics from the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as their most recent Runway Safety Report, turned out the full list.
Chicago O’Hare took the top spot, with 75 runway incidents in the last five years. The airport experienced one particularly heart-tightening close call in 2006, when a United 737 was gaining speed on the runway just as an Atlas Air 747 began pulling directly into its path. The United pilot was able to quickly adjust to the situation and saved both planes from the impending collision by just 120 feet. Cleveland Hopkins airport sits at the No. 2 spot with 45 incidents, and its own tale of disaster in Feb. 2007, when a Delta commuter flight “skidded off a snow-covered runway and smashed through an airport perimeter fence.”
Of course, these are some of the biggest and busiest airports, so it’s impossible to expect smooth operations 100% of the time. “Places where you have a lot of [pilot] training activity or a large number of flight schools tend to see a larger number of runway incidents, “ Wes Timmons, former director of runway safety for the FAA, told T+L. Luckily for us, every airport is working on expanding their runways and creating safer configurations for takeoffs and landing, as well as investing in “intensive” education for pilots and air controllers.
Check out Travel + Leisure‘s top 5 below, and then see the full list here.
1. Chicago O’Hare
2. Cleveland Hopkins
3. Los Angeles International
4. San Francisco International
5. Honolulu International