Post image for Video: A rocky takeoff from Gibraltar Airport

Video: A rocky takeoff from Gibraltar Airport

by Michael on May 8, 2012

Gibraltar is a pretty interesting place to visit. Besides the giant rock that takes up most of the land, it’s the only place where we’ve had to drive across the airport runway to enter. This can cause a few complications since jets also use the runway. But the Gibraltarians take it in stride. When a plane is taking off or landing they hold back the traffic, just like at a railroad crossing.

Gibraltar airport runway

How many airports let you cross the runway?

Since there isn’t much land at Gibraltar they’ve come up with clever ways to use what they have. Before World War II, airplanes used to land on the grassy area in the middle of the local horseracing track. With the advent of the war the British built a runway into the sea. With minimal margin for error not just any pilot can land at Gibraltar. Despite the somewhat hairy landing, a quirk that placed the Gibraltar airport in a list of the top 10 unusual airports, there has never been a civil aviation accident.

Gibraltar Airport cars crossing runway

Since Gibraltar is part of the UK a double-decker bus on the runway is not an unusual sight.

We met our friends Charles and Maureen, native Gibraltarians, for a behind-the-scenes visit to the “Rock.” A relic of Gibraltar’s strategic position is that the rock itself is honeycombed with tunnels, some dating to the 1700s. We were inside one of these tunnels when we heard the unmistakable sound of a jet engine roaring to life, a noise that typically provokes a Pavlovian response in Larissa as she jerks her head quicker than a one-eyed dog in a sausage factory.

Gibraltar Airport birds eye view

Gibraltar Airport viewed from the Rock. The border with Spain is about 500 yards on the other side of the runway.

We ran to a viewpoint in the tunnel and were rewarded with a literal bird’s-eye view over the runway. Since there are only about five flights a day out of Gibraltar our timing was perfect. Here’s our video of a jet taking off from one of the quirkiest airports in the world. And as our friend Charles points out, also one of the safest.



If you’re into watching planes take off check out the video of the new runway viewing platform at Perth Airport.

Doz & Amanda May 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Gibralter sounds like a great place to be a bus and plane spotter at the same time 🙂

Giselle May 8, 2012 at 10:15 pm

This is the first time I have heard about this kind of airport.. Anyway, thank you for the photos and the video as well..

Barbara May 9, 2012 at 2:54 am

How interesting and hats off to the Gibraltar airport’s safety record!
A great view of the airport strip from on top the Rock, too.

Have a nice day.

Michael May 9, 2012 at 3:47 am

We drove there but next time we’ll have to fly in.

Michael May 9, 2012 at 3:47 am

Glad you enjoyed it.

Michael May 9, 2012 at 3:49 am

And the tunnels themselves are pretty fascinating too. There’s even a natural stone amphitheater inside the rock for classical performances.

jerry May 9, 2012 at 7:17 am

Did you see any monkeys?

Michael May 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Yes we did. We’ll be showing some pics of them in the future.

Richard Needham May 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm

In Philadelphia, we had our own airport runway driver a few months ago, who drove through a chainlink fence in his SUV and led the police on a merry chase up and down the runways at speeds over 70 mph, aborting a landing and closing down the airport. I wonder if he thought he was in Gibralter?

Michael May 18, 2012 at 3:09 am

It wasn’t us! We have an alibi.

Alexandra May 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

Wow never knew about the airport in Gibraltar! Sounds cool! I have always wanted to take the ferry to Morocco from there. You have just added another reason to make the journey!

Matthew Hutchins June 22, 2012 at 6:32 am

Gotta love that crazy airport, love your blog, keep up the great work.

Michael June 22, 2012 at 6:47 am

Hi Matthew,

Yeah, it’s pretty wild watching them take off and land there. Thanks for checking in.

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