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The average fleet age is 6. Good to know : just when you thought that airline names couldn't get more silly, Nok has teamed up with Scoot Airlines of Singapore to bring us NokScoot. Oh well, it's a low cost medium to long haul airline formed in that for now is focussing on routes from Bangkok to China and Taiwan. It has three Boeing ER's. Blessing aircraft in order to bring good luck is a Buddhist tradition in Thailand.
Novelist, s It girl and dreadful driver, Rose Macaulay But when Macaulay wrote about them, she was introducing the undiscovered and the exotic. This is how she described Torremolinos:. I came into Torremolinos, a pretty country place, with the little Santa Clara hotel, white and tiled and rambling, with square arches and trellises and a white-walled garden dropping down by stages to the sea.
One could bathe either from the beach below, or from the garden, where a steep, cobbled path twisted down the rocks to a little terrace, from which one dropped down into 10 feet of green water heaving gently against a rocky wall. Swimming out to sea, I saw the whole of the bay, and the Malaga lights twinkling in the middle of it, as if the wedge of cheese were being devoured by a thousand fireflies.
Behind the bay, the dark mountains reared, with here and there a light. It was an exquisite bathe. Scenes from s Torremolinos. There were blue shadows on the white garden walls, and cactuses and aloes above them, and golden cucumbers and pumpkins and palms. I dropped into the green water and swam out; Malaga across the bay was golden pale like a pearl; the little playa of Torremolinos had fishing boats and nets on it, and tiny lapping waves.
Returning to England, she graduated from Oxford and set herself up in London, where she achieved great acclaim as an author, writing 23 novels. She also had a passion for speed and, despite being an appalling driver, managed to survive a spin across the USA in , a wartime stint as a London ambulance driver and, in , the tour described above. Fabled Shore was her only factual travel book, but rarely has one account had such a profound effect on the development of a region. Macaulay missed the package boom, though — she died in Visiting today : the resort town had its heyday in the 50s and 60s, when - hard to imagine I know - stars like Marlon Brando, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren and Orson Wells would rush to be seen there.
But then the resort built too many hotels too fast and became notorious for being the very worst of the Costa Del Sol - think Kiss me Quick hats, oversized Whicker Donkeys and Watney's Red Barrel. Today the town has jettisoned the worst of its image and has a more Spanish feel again. A few more discerning restaurants and bars have opened, and of course there are still lovely spots along the coast and just inland, and places such as Marbella have worked hard to resurrect themselves as more upmarket resorts.
Frank Sinatra become embroiled in a nasty little incident in He was filming Von Ryan's Express in the area, and dropped into the then hip bar of the resort's first luxury hotel - the built Pez Espada Hotel. He was arrested and subsequently fined fined of 25, Pesetas, which only added to his bad boy image. The hotel is still there, and its bar is now called 'Frankies Bar', with Sinatra themed cocktails and a wall of his framed album covers. See Hotel Pez Espada. Getting there : Torremolinos is just eight kilometres southwest from Malaga's Costa del Sol Airport , which is Spain's fourth busiest and handled nearly 17 million passengers in You can fly to Malaga year round from across Europe, with even more destinations served over the summer months.
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Further information : see Visit Costa del Sol. Saba island and its runway, built on the only flat area. Looking out of the airplane's window, my vertigo lunges at me.
Instinctively, I grab the armrest furthest from window and the 60m sheer drop, and strain against the seat belt. Far below, ferocious waves smash onto jagged rocks: I feel about to plummet. We haven't even taken off yet. I'm scared because this is no ordinary airport. It's on the tiny island of Saba in the Dutch Antilles, which has the shortest and most stupidly located runway in the world.
It is grafted onto the side of a dormant volcano, with 60m cliffs on three sides, and just m feet of tarmac. That's not much longer than the deck of the USS Nimitz. And the Nimitz has wires, nets, and foam, to help a plane stop, and a catapult to aid take off's too.
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Here the only thing on the runway is a house-sized letter 'X' painted at each end. The pilot flew past the runway on my flight over here - to see the way the windsock was blowing. I asked him what the 'X' was. The runway is way too short". He saw my expression come over all "so why the hell are we pointed at it then? The landing was terrifying all right, like a theme park ride gone wrong, but now the pilot was pivoting the plane for take-off - the wheel six feet from the edge to make every foot of tarmac count.
This was worse. We turn for take off, and I looking down the runway to take my mind off the drop. It didn't help. I've seen check-in queues at Heathrow that were longer. And I know a thing or two about planes. I wish I didn't. I know they went into production in And I know that all planes need roughly twice the length of runway to take off as they do to land.
There's a roar and the air tenses. The pilot applies full brakes and full power - the poor man's Nimitz catapult - and we lurch forward. The man next to me crosses himself.
We are trundling. I don't want to be trundling. I want to rocket, whiz, or to whoosh at the very least. Saba's titchy airport with sheers drops behind the runway. I shove my feet hard into the floor, trying to back-pedal. It doesn't work. The giant 'X' passes underneath and we are still on the ground.
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Then there is no ground. The ground ran out. There's just a cliff, a drop, and lots of rocks, but somehow, stupendously, we fly. It's hard to credit, but there hasn't been a single major incident here, and after the minute flight back to St Maarten, I feel more confident about flying, rather than less. If these guys can serve such a ridiculous airport year-round and keep coming home safely, then I guess landing at a real airport with an averaged length of around 3,m runway must be a piece of cake.
For more information on the iland, see the Saba Tourism Bureau. The scariest of the rest.
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Here are nine more abnormal airports, which might terrify you, or might make you more sanguine about flying: or maybe both. Gibraltar International Airport. The main road into Gibraltar crosses the airport runway.
Gibraltar has a pretty awkward runway too, and is a lot less niche than Saba - in fact it accommodates seater jets several times a day. It's book ended by the Mediterranean Sea at either end and is snug alongside the sheer face of the eponymous m-high rock. Land here on a bad day and the swirling currents cause the plane to lurch like a Wurlitzer just before landing. I used to work for GB Airways - a Gibraltar-based airline that was eventually bought out by Easyjet - and flew in semi-regularly. One dark and stormy night when, the first attempt to land was accompanied by some horrendous jolts, and although the second try felt worse, the pilot did manage to plant the thing hard onto the runway.
Faces were blanched, stomachs rearranged, and there was considerable screaming. I needed a drink, the pilot needed a medal and three American tourists needed train tickets back to London - they told us they would never fly again - and maybe they didn't. The shiny new airport terminal is m from the city centre and actually is the border between the UK and Spain. See Gibraltar Airport Madeira Airport. Madeira airport's runway is raised on concrete pylons.
Here the runway is hemmed in between mountains and the Atlantic Ocean and was uncomfortably short. It's length is no longer a worry, as over the years it has been extended; most recently in However, because of its pinched location, the only option was to construct the new runway over a strange looking elevated section that uses , feet high pylons. It may look spectacular, but at least now pilots don't need to worry especially about the runway's length. What they still do need to be aware of though is the infamous buffeting that can take place as the aircraft passes a gap in the mountains.
So on the way into land here, captains first aim straight for a disused banana warehouse on the side of a mountain. It sounds crazy, but I was told this while sitting behind a GB Airways pilot on the jump seat when I last flew there. Next comes a steep right turn, after which the plane passes that crease in the mountains. If the wind is blowing strongly, as it often does and was doing on that day too, stand by for a horrid sideways lurch. Madeira is served by dozens of European airlines from many cities, and is especially busy in the summer months.
Courcheval Altiport's far from flat runway.
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The runway at the so-called Courcheval Altiport looks like it could slide down the mountainside at any moment. At just 1,ft in length, It's short too, but most alarming is the Landings are scary enough I would imagine, but reckon that take offs are worse. As a break in the snowboarding, I spent an alcohol-fuelled afternoon at the adjacent restaurant here. It was impossible not to watch each light aircraft taxi onto the flat top section of the runway, and then rev the engines with the brakes on ready for the dash down the hill.