Fiction logo

Places Planes Don't Want to Fly Over

Despite the fact that flying is frequently hailed as one of the safest forms of transportation

By Emma Published 6 months ago 20 min read

statistics show that 40% of Americans still experience anxiety when they fly. But even for the remaining 40%, there are some regions of our earth that give people who fly over them a sense of dread and anxiety. Fasten your seatbelts as we travel to some of the most hazardous and banned locations that airplanes are forbidden from flying over, from helicopter swallowing craters to the riskiest runways on earth.

Tibetan Plateau.

Around 9,728 commercial aircraft are thought to be in the sky at any given time. Additionally, if you count private jets and military supplies, the total might reach 17,500.

In fact, you can view the precise location of every commercial aircraft in the sky right now by using an online fly tracker. Pretty absurd, no?

You might observe, however, that there are a few locations where there are completely no planes at all. One such location is Tibet, where there aren't any airplanes at all but where you can frequently see them deliberately flying around it to avoid it.

Yet why? Well, the typical altitude at which commercial airplanes fly is between 31,000 and 38,000 feet. However, this may alter in specific emergency situations. The protocol for commercial airplanes is to descend to just 10,000 feet in the case of cabin depressurization or engine failure. The Tibetan Plateau, also known as the "roof of the world," has an average terrain elevation of 14,370 feet, which means that any passing aircraft experiencing a cabin-based emergency would not be able to descend to a safe height without running the chance of coming to a very mountainous end.

Seven significant mountain ranges may be found in the region, including the Himalayas, which contains the tallest mountain in the world. Mount Everest, with a height of 29,032 feet, is nearly as tall as an airplane flying at full altitude, let alone one in an emergency.

Tibet is avoided not only because it is the tallest location on Earth but also because it is subject to some rather severe turbulence. During a flight, turbulence is instability brought on by abrupt, rapid fluctuations in the air currents. Even though you've undoubtedly already encountered some minor turbulence on an airline, more intense turbulence can be hazardous.

Strong wind currents are propelled through and over the tops of large mountain ranges, such as those in Tibet, causing significant air pressure changes that might easily be fatal for aircraft. The highest building in the world has one more restriction for airplanes, though.

The Tibetan Plateau is typical of places with greater than normal altitudes being significantly cooler than regions closer to sea level. The average temperature in winter is -4F, and it frequently drops below zero throughout the day. However, in some really cold conditions, it can fall to -40F. The normal freezing point of jet fuel used by US air fleets is between -40F and -50F.

Therefore, if a flight were to pass the Tibetan Plateau when it was the coldest, there might be a significant issue. Despite the fact that plant engines' heat can typically prevent gasoline from freezing, catastrophes like these do occasionally occur. The buildup of ice in the fuel caused British Airways Flight 38 to crash on January 18, 2008, just short of making it to the runway at London Heathrow.

The flight from Beijing to London passed across Siberia and Mongolia, both of which are known for their extreme cold. Even while the fuel itself didn't freeze, little amounts of water in the fuel froze because of the cold weather, causing clogs and fuel pipes that ultimately led to engine failure. Thankfully, nobody died, but if you ever need a reason to stay away from frigid climates, the possibility of frozen jet fuel should suffice.

Lava landings.

While the thought of flying in frigid flight gear is enough to make any pilot's teeth tremble with fear, occasionally the prospect of a warmer flight can also make one perspire. especially when flying close to a volcano is involved.

Volcanic ash can easily climb far higher than that, even though commercial aircraft can fly up to 42,000 feet in altitude, which is much higher than the highest volcano on Earth.

The South Pacific island of Tonga lies next to the underwater Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'Apai volcano, which erupted in January 2022, vaporizing 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools' worth of saltwater and creating the biggest ash cloud ever seen.

Hugely venturing 190,000 feet, or 36 miles, into the mesosphere, the Ash Cloud. Out of the five layers of the Earth's atmosphere, that is the third highest layer.

A plane's fuselage can be destroyed by the extremely abrasive ash from a volcanic eruption like that, and the ash can also obscure or even break the windshield.

However, a plane's engines are its most vulnerable component, and flying through volcanic ash can cause a plane to suddenly stop flying and start plummeting.

British Airways Flight 9 crashed into a cloud of volcanic ash on June 24, 1982, while it was returning from London Heathrow Airport to Auckland, New Zealand.

Onboard flights, passengers could still smoke in the 1980s. So the crew originally believed the gases coming from cigarettes when they started to accumulate in the Boeing 747's cabin.

But when the smoke grew thicker and a sulfurous odor accompanied it, it became obvious that something was wrong. It turned out that volcanic ash had entered the engine turbines.

Given that a jet engine can remove all of the air from your home in less than a second, it is not surprising that adding ash to the mixture of fresh air could cause some problems. And as the heat from the engine turned the volcanic ash into glass, it started to coat the turbine blades, which is obviously a concern.

In this instance, the problems showed themselves as the worst-case scenario—quadruple engine failure. Captain Eric Moody of Flight 9 was forced to attempt to glide the aircraft from 37,000 feet to merely 12,000 feet because all engines were malfunctioning, despite the crew's frantic efforts to restart the engines.

It's obvious that passengers were afraid and believed that this might be their final journey. Three of the four engines did, however, restart when enough of the molten ash solidified and broke off of the engines, as if by some miracle.

Amazingly, the incident on Flight 9 did not result in any casualties. However, the aviation industry is now far more aware of the harm that a volcanic eruption may do to airplanes. Today, the presence of volcanic ash is sufficient to completely halt aircraft, as was the case in 2010 with the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Because the ash cloud in question was so large, much of Europe's airspace had to be shut down between April 15 and April 23. So it's obvious that flying over volcanic ash is not a good idea, but what if you somehow ended up flying inside a volcano?

Michael Benson, Chris Duddy, and pilot Craig Hosking of Paramount Pictures were scouting locations when they flew above Hawaii's Kilauea volcanic crater on November 21, 1992.

Up until a few seconds after arriving at the middle of the Pu'u'o'o ranges, everything had been going without a hitch. The helicopter's power and, consequently, altitude abruptly and mysteriously started to decline.

Captain Craig and his passengers found themselves plummeting towards the crater of an erupting volcano with little time to place a distress call. The helicopter narrowly avoided a bubbling lava lake when it touched down on the scorching crater bottom, but it was still surrounded by toxic vapors.

The three guys somehow made it through their ordeal because they were in the area of the crater where oxygen eddied down from the rim, and they were recovered after two days trapped within.

The National Transportation Safety Board's examination revealed that flying through a volcanic gas cloud caused a partial loss of engine power because there wasn't enough oxygen available to burn the engine's fuel.

Any pilot, or passenger for that matter, would get the chills from hearing that story. Strangely enough, though, it appears that some thrill seekers are more than willing to take a chance.

While it might seem a little crazy to fly directly over a volcano, Kilauea is nonetheless accessible for flying tours. The waiver form would probably state something like, "Might result in your fatal plummet into molten lava. Please sign your name below.

Copter crater.

Even though it is terrible to imagine an airplane losing power over a volcanic crater, there are other terrifying gaps in the earth's surface where this can happen more quickly and fatally.

One of the largest man-made excavations in the world, The Mirny Diamond Mine has a diameter of approximately 4,000 feet and a depth of over 1700 feet.

The mine opened in 1955 and swiftly rose to become the biggest in Russia, where it remained until it was shut down in 2004. However, now that it is shut, it only stands to present a major threat to any aircraft daring to fly over it.

Although it has happily not happened yet, experts believe that the yawning chasm could draw a passing plane or helicopter into its deep. This notion is supported by science.

The earth will warm the air within a deep enough hole even in a typically frigid environment. Due to the significant temperature differential between underground air and air above ground, hot air rises relative to more dense cold air, which sinks, and this causes a lot of air movement.

Any aircraft would get less lift from warm air rising from the hole because it is less dense than the cooler air it had been flying in, which may cause it to lose altitude quickly.

In addition, as cool air fills the hole, a strong turbulent air current is created. This powerful air current increases the likelihood that the pilot may lose control and crash into the hole's bottom or walls.

The risk alone should be enough to remove this place from any pilot's flight map, so while everything is still theoretically theoretical for the time being, let's just hope it never comes to that.

Holy ground.

You might be surprised to learn that Mecca, Saudi Arabia, lacks a public airport despite being one of the most well-known sacred towns on earth.

In reality, there are strict restrictions against flying over or even into Mecca. But depending on who you ask, the reason why airplanes don't fly over Mecca is a contentious topic, with two competing ideas providing very different explanations.

The first is the assertion that, because to an atmospheric magnetic anomaly, it is actually impossible for airplanes or even birds to fly over Mecca.

Facebook posts assert that the iconic Holy Kaaba structure interacts with electromagnetic things, such as planes and even birds, making it physically impossible for them to fly over it because it is located precisely in the middle of the Earth's magnetic poles.

It's frightening to imagine something with such a strong magnetic field that it could bring a jet down, but there doesn't seem to be any evidence to support the allegation.

Numerous pieces of evidence refute this notion, such as images showing birds perched on or flying over the Kaaba and the presence of security helicopters during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Islam.

The religious importance of the densely populated city is a more plausible non-pseudoscientific explanation for why aircraft don't fly over it.

Religious prohibitions against aircraft entering Mecca and, more particularly, prohibiting aircraft from flying over the Holy Kaaba prohibit flights over the holiest site in Islam.

Non-Muslims are not allowed to visit Mecca and may be subject to fines and deportation if they do.

This goes so far that non-Muslim passengers in an airplane flying overhead would also be regarded as disobeying the law.

Flying over the Kaaba would be regarded as a major transgression because of the widespread belief that Mecca is directly connected to heaven, which is thought to be situated right above it. Consequently, commercial flights completely avoid it.

Risky runways.

49% of all fatal air accidents, according to Boeing, occur during the final descent and landing. Therefore, airports make sure the landing location is as safe as possible when it comes to runways.

Well, the majority do. It appears that some airports missed the memo. Northeastern New Zealand is home to the regional airport known as Gisborne Airport.

Even though this airport may appear to be very routine at first sight, there is something really unusual and possibly harmful about it. One of the very few airports in the world with an active railway line cutting through its runway is Gisborne. It's thought that the railway existed long before the local government decided that the location would be ideal for an airport in the 1940s.

For more than 70 years, air traffic control had to constantly watch for railroad crossings during airplane landings, which was quite the nightmare. Kiwi Rail began taking steps in 2012 to discontinue several of its rail routes that crossed the runway in Gisborne.

Therefore, the neighborhood antique train club is the only user of the rail crossing these days. Despite the rarity of train crossings nowadays, rail and aviation timetables must be meticulously arranged, and punctuality is crucial to ensuring that train and plane can coexist in perfect harmony.

Thankfully, despite having one of the riskiest runways in the world, there have never been any plane versus train collisions. Even still, I wouldn't want to be the pilot maneuvering around that kind of obstruction.

And Gisborne Airport isn't the only one with a laughably awkward-looking plane landing area. When it comes to pilots' preferred landing locations, Princess Juliana International Airport isn't exactly the royal standard. Look at this.

That's accurate.

Hats off, in the literal sense, to anyone who has the guts to enter this beach runway. As they make their final approach to the runway at Princess Juliana International Airport, approaching aircraft descend just 100 feet above beachgoers.

Maho Beach on St. Martin might be too busy to be lovely by Caribbean standards, but I suppose it does make for one of the most thrilling sunbathing experiences available.

Even though a 57-year-old lady perished in July 2017 after being blasted backwards by the force of a jet engine, thousands of people still go to Maho Beach every year to ride the jet stream wave.

Even the most assured pilot will undoubtedly feel uneasy when flying over people who are only a few meters below them.

No fly countries.

We've looked in a lot of areas where flying is prohibited, but what about areas where flying is not possible? One of the reasons North Korea is regarded as having one of the world's most dangerous airspaces is because of their erratic missile launch schedule.

Additionally, the North Korean army regularly launches unannounced missiles into the Sea of Japan. Pilots will take special precautions to steer clear of Japanese seas as a result.

Early in 2018, after talks with the US, North Korea agreed to notify the International Civil Aviation Organization of all activity that could endanger aviation, including missile launches.

To accomplish this, North Korea would need to record a "notice to air mission," which is a notification submitted to an aviation authority to inform pilots of potential risks along a certain flight route.

However, North Korea began firing missiles into the Sea of Japan in May 2019 without giving any prior notice. So, action was required.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration published a new rule in September 2020 banning the entry of any US commercial aircraft into North Korea.

While the US took precautions to keep its own aircraft out of North Korea's dangerous airspace, other nations are much more open about what will happen if an aircraft flies somewhere it shouldn't.

If an aircraft wants to land there or even just enter their airspace, it must first obtain a permit from Cuba. A violation of this ban on unauthorized or unscheduled flights entering Cuban airspace could result in some incredibly scary consequences for the violating aircraft.

On February 24th, 1996, two unlicensed, unarmed Cessna 377 aircraft were shot down by Cuban war planes without prior notice based only on the pilots' alleged opposition to the Cuban regime.

And the majority of other nations follow the American practice of having controlled airspaces that can either approve or deny requests for planes to go through.

The pilot will initially get a radio message from air traffic control telling them to leave if an unapproved jet enters the airspace.

Even if the pilot complies, they will still receive a brasher warning, which essentially informs them that the aviation authorities are less than impressed with their flying abilities.

What would happen if a pilot disregarded the advice of air traffic control? varies depending on the location. However, in most cases, a plane may be shot down if it is determined to represent an obvious threat.

However, even flying over more distant locations has the potential to land pilots in jail or worse. Imrali Island is a little island in the Sea of Marmara right off the Turkish coast, although it's not exactly a popular holiday spot.

Imrali Island, which is far from a paradise and has only been used as a jail since 1935, is a portion of banned airspace, thus no planes are allowed to fly over it.

In order to stop drones and planes from releasing contraband into prison grounds or ejecting inmates, many jails across the world have limited airspace. You can understand why pilots might not be too eager to give their passengers a bird's-eye view of places like Imrali given all the crooks and armed guards below.

Flying into restricted airspace is not something you should put on your bucket list, if Cuba's treatment of unauthorized flyers is any indication.

Alien territory.

Area 51, one of the world's most enigmatic air force bases, is linked to rumors of UFOs, aliens, and cover-ups by the secret government. Although the military base has long been shrouded in secrecy, it is no secret that civilians are not permitted entry.

Armed guards are always patrolling Area 51 on the ground, but it's not just people below who should be wary of trespassing in this extremely covert area. Supposedly, Area 51's security crew will radio the pilot with a very strong warning to immediately reroute their journey if a jet were to get too close to the barred airspace, which extends out to cover 90,000 acres.

If a pilot did not opt to reroute, they might have to wave bye-bye to their time in the air, permanently, as several signposts around the complex warn that the use of deadly force is authorized against any perceived threats.

Pilots might decide to avoid this path if they have an encounter with a UFO or an experimental military aircraft, if being shot out of the sky isn't enough to turn them off.

Air in Space.

Space Centers may offer some of the most thrilling airspace, but they are undoubtedly among the most hazardous places on earth. In light of the fact that they launch rockets into space there, etc.

The airspace surrounding the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, among other space stations across the US, is categorized as a restricted fly zone for any aircraft other than rockets, of course.

Pilots of non-space flying aircraft are not permitted to cross the R-2932 space shuttle landing area at the Kennedy Space Center within a 30-mile radius when restrictions are in place.

Although you may assume that this would frequently disrupt commercial aircraft, even NASA doesn't see rocket launches all that often.

Pilots don't have to worry about flying into rocket launches all that frequently because there are 10 space ports in the US and an average of 37 launches every year. Even still, if a flight path sends a pilot anywhere near a space port, the mere prospect of it is enough to make their stomachs turn.

Presidential protection.

In a large number of nations, including the UK and the USA, it is forbidden for pilots to fly over certain regions related to important political figures. The White House is among the most notable.

The White House is located in the Washington, DC, national capital region, which is subject to specific aviation regulations.

There are two restricted flight zones around Washington, D.C., the most severely restricted of which is a 15 mile ring that surrounds the White House and has a 33 mile radius.

The military will likely intercept any pilot who has the audacity or stupidity to fly into the presidential airspace, forcing them to land.

The pilot's license would then likely be canceled as a consequence of multiple heated interrogations with the Secret Service and Air Force, and that's the best case scenario.

The pilot might be charged by the federal government and sentenced to prison if investigators even have the slightest suspicion of wrongdoing.

Finally, if that still isn't enough, there is a widely held belief that the White House grounds are home to short-range missiles that may be fired at any unidentified aircraft that happens to be in restricted airspace.

If I were a pilot, I'm sure I wouldn't want to travel even 15 or 30 miles within 1,000 miles of a region where I might be shot down.

The Happiest Skies on Earth

So far, we've seen airplanes avoid anything from deadly animals to secret bases. But would you think that airplanes aren't allowed to attend the celebration in the world's happiest skies?

Only two US theme parks have received the no fly designation: Walt Disney World Resorts in Orlando, Florida, and Disneyland, its sister park, in Anaheim, California. They are actually the only two places in the US that are not part of the government where airspace is permanently limited. As a result, Mickey and Minnie's mouse pads have the same level of security as the US president.

Both parks were officially given a no-fly order by the Federal Aviation Administration as of October 27th, 2014, for unspecified security reasons. But it's probably because the parks are a popular destination for more than 25,000 tourists each day.

According to the official ban, aircraft must stay more than 3000 feet over each of the park's Princess Castles. The prohibition is consistent with Operation Liberty Shield, a Congressional Act that also forbade flying over stadiums hosting more than 30,000 spectators.

The Disney parks can be flown over with a special authorization, but the application process is lengthy and laborious. When Disney planned to launch a flock of drones over Disney World and Disneyland in 2015, they had to apply to breach the law.

A fleet of 50 illuminated drones would be used over Sleeping Beauty's Castle as part of a nocturnal fireworks display, according to Disney's 42-page application.

The FAA ultimately gave the Disney drones the go-ahead in November 2016 after more than a year of waiting. You're telling me that in order to fly some drones in his yard, King Mickey must submit to the authority of the state?

Guess the scary, uncontrollable powers that rule Disney have some boundaries. Which of these locations do you think a flight over would be the most terrifying? Have you ever experienced any turbulence on a flight? When the remark appears, please let me know. As always, we appreciate you.


About the Creator


BBA in Marketing, Full time Freelancer

Hobby traveling, reading, observing, learn new thing,

Subscribe Please :)

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.