I’ve had the privilege of flying to many destinations in Europe. However, there are only a handful of airports that continue to stand out in my memory. Not just for their breathtaking scenery but also for the unique challenge it presents to pilots. Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport, formerly known as Funchal Airport, is one of those airports. I this article, I will show you why landing a Boeing 737 on Madeira’s Funchal Airport is a truly special and a more demanding experience.
The Stunning Approach & Landing
The approach to Funchal Airport is nothing short of spectacular. The airport is located on the eastern coast of the island, surrounded by dramatic mountains and the vast Atlantic Ocean. Did you know Madeira is called the ‘Flower Island’? Between March/June the island is an explosion of colors of the local flora and fauna. It’s a sight that never gets old, and it sets the tone for the challenging landing ahead.
Short Runway and Unique Terrain
Airport has a runway that measures just 2481 meters (8140 feet) in length. The runway itself is built on reclaimed land from the sea, sandwiched between steep cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. This unique topography demands precision and careful calculations during landing.
Unpredictable Weather Conditions
Madeira’s weather is notorious for its unpredictability. Pilots operating in this region must constantly monitor weather updates, as conditions can change rapidly. Strong changing winds, fog, and rain can pose significant challenges during approach and landing. This means that every landing at Funchal Airport requires keen decision-making skills and the ability to adapt to evolving weather conditions on short notice. An alternate is planned on the Canary Islands due to a limited diversion capacity of Porto Santo (LPPS).
Funchal Airport often presents pilots with the need to execute tailwind landings and go arounds. Due to the airport’s location and surrounding terrain, tailwinds are a common occurrence. Wind variations and wind turbulence are generated by the rapidly upraising terrain close to the airport which can cause severe low altitude wind-shear conditions and microbursts. For that matter, the tower will report the wind at ROSARIO and the touchdown zone. Pilots must employ specialized techniques and rely on their training to ensure a safe touchdown while contending with the effects of the tailwind.
Training and Certification
Did you know Madeira, Funchal Airport, is a Captains only landing and takeoff airport? To qualify for landing a Boeing 737 at Funchal Airport, pilots undergo rigorous training and certification. This comprehensive training program includes simulations, familiarization flights, and stringent assessments. Watch my approach and landing video below!
Landing a Boeing 737 on Madeira’s Funchal Airport is an experience that continues to captivate and challenge pilots like myself. The combination of a breathtaking scenic approach, challenging terrain, ever-changing weather conditions, tailwind landings, and the precision required makes it a remarkable feat of aviation. It’s an opportunity to put our skills to the test and demonstrate our commitment to safety and excellence in aviation. Madeira, Portugal is a must-visit destination for aviation enthusiasts and travelers alike.
Watch more cockpit view landing videos on my DutchPilotGirl YouTube Channel!
* Navigation charts provided by Lido charts. Not for operational use.