While walking across the runway at most international airports would get you arrested, it is actually encouraged at Gibraltar Airport. Here, the main road in and out of the British Overseas Territory crosses right over the runway.
While offering services for commercial flights, the airport at Gibraltar is owned by the Ministry of Defence. The airport sits just to the south of the Spanish border, mostly hosting flights from British Airways and easyJet to and from the United Kingdom, with a handful of services also operated by Royal Air Maroc.
81 years of history
Gibraltar Airport was built in 1939 during the second world war. The airport was constructed just south of the Spanish border. Before being used for the airport, the property was home to a horse racing circuit. The runway used to be shorter than it is now. However, rock removed from the Rock of Gibraltar was used to reclaim land for an extension.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
When it was built during the war, the runway crossed over the road from the border to the center of Gibraltar. In times gone past, this proved to be no real obstacle to traffic. However, while both land and air traffic has continued to climb, no alternative has been completed.
The runway with a road crossing
The airport’s runway runs roughly parallel to the Spanish border. As such, it effectively cuts Gibraltar off from the border. When an aircraft is landing or departing, the road is closed via barriers and traffic lights clearing the runway.
As there is no alternative to using the runway, it can make things difficult when there are multiple aircraft operations. In the case of using runway 27 for arrivals, or 09 for departures, the aircraft must also backtrack across the road having landed or before departure.
Recently, given the increasing demand for both air and road traffic on the site, developments have been taking place at the airport. Passenger numbers peaked in 2017 at over half a million per year. This was due to the extensive network of flights operated by Monarch from the airport. However, following the airline’s collapse, numbers have dropped below half a million once more.
To accommodate the increasing number of passengers at the airport, the airport’s current terminal was fully opened in 2012. It features five gates, facilities for arriving and departing passengers, and both landside and airside viewing areas.
To cope with the additional land traffic, a tunnel around the east of the airport is currently being constructed. This would mean that all traffic would bypass the runway. This would be a win for both drivers and the airport.
However, it would mean that the novelty of the road crossing was ended, as it would only be used in exceptional circumstances. The project is currently delayed, as it was initially to be completed by the start of 2009.
Have you walked across Gibraltar’s runway? Let us know your experience in the comments!