15 Delightfully Quirky Airports and Airstrips

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istock

Today is International Civil Aviation Day, which makes it the perfect time to celebrate some of the globe’s most amazing places to land. These 15 airports and airstrips are worthy destinations in their own right.

1. Copalis State Airport

Why fly to a beach vacation when you can literally land on a beach? This sand airstrip on the Pacific Ocean in Washington stretches between the Copalis River to the south and a line of rocks on the north. Plan your trip ahead of time, though—it’s only accessible during low tide.

2. Courchevel Altiport

This airport in the French Alps is one of the world’s most dangerous. Its runway is insanely short (just 537 meters) and there are no lights to guide pilots in fog or stormy weather. Oh, and watch out for skiers—the airport sits next to an active ski run. Once you’ve landed safely, the airport offers amazing access to views of the Alps and the slopes.

3. Gibraltar Airport

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This airport servicing British-controlled Gibraltar offers incredible views of the famous rock that shares its name. Keep your eyes on the road if you’re driving in Gibraltar, though—a street intersects the runway.

4. Matekane Air Strip

This tiny strip in Lesotho abruptly ends at the edge of a 2,000-foot cliff. Good thing planes can fly!

5. Williams Field, Antarctica

Naturally, conditions are icy here, and ski-equipped planes have to land on deep snow that sits atop a floating layer of ice.

6. Daocheng Yading Airport

When this Chinese airport opened in 2013, it became the highest civilian airport in the world at 14,472 feet above sea level.

7. Barra Airport

This airport, located on a beach in Western Scotland, is made up of three sand runways. Much like the Copalis State Airport, take-offs and landings have to be scheduled around the tides.

8. Madeira Airport

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This Portuguese airport had to extend its runway in order to accommodate larger aircraft. The existing strip ended on the water, so the designers had to be clever. The solution: A runway on stilts, jutting out past the island’s edge.

9. Paro Airport

Only eight pilots in the world are certified to land at this extremely dangerous airport nestled in the Himalayas in Bhutan. The approach is so perilous, weather has to be perfectly clear in order to land.

10. Kansai International Airport

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Osaka’s international airport is on a man-made island three miles off the coast in Osaka Bay. It was built in 1994 to ease overcrowding within Osaka proper.

11.Tenzing-Hillary Airport

If you want to climb Mt. Everest, chances are you’ll fly into this Nepalese airport, which is susceptible to such wild weather shifts and terrible visibility that mountaineers’ adventures often begin while they’re still on their planes.

12. Princess Juliana International

Beachgoers can almost touch planes as they fly overhead on the way to this St. Maarten airport. The low approach and scenic views make it one of the world’s best spots for plane watching.

13. Don Mueang International

A private 18-hole golf course is nestled between two runways at this Thai airport. Fore!

14. King Fahd International

At 780 square kilometers, this Saudi Arabian airport is by far the biggest airport in the world. It’s larger than the entire country of Bahrain!

15. Juancho E. Yrausquin

There is little room for error on this tiny airstrip. Shoehorned in the Dutch Antilles, the lone runway is surrounded by steep cliffs and high hills on all sides.

10 Thoughtful Gifts for Your Wedding Party

Here's a list of 10 thoughtful and quirky gifts for your groomsmen and bridal party.
Here's a list of 10 thoughtful and quirky gifts for your groomsmen and bridal party.
Rekonect/Amazon

When buying a gift for your bridesmaids and groomsmen for your wedding, it's important to show that you appreciate all their hard work. And one way to do that is to get them a creative gift with a personal touch. You know your wedding party better than we do, but if you’re struggling to come up with something, here are some fun options ranging personalized socks to Pokemon bath bombs.

1. Custom Face Socks; $24

Customizable Socks on Amazon
Amazon

Every time your bridesmaids or groomsmen pull out this pair of socks, they’ll remember your special day. Just select a picture you know they'll love, send it to DivvyUp (through Amazon), and they can enjoy these comfy socks adorned with fun memories. You could also put a picture of a cat or dog on the socks, just in case a member of the wedding party would be horrified by their own mug decorating their feet. As an added bonus, they're available in every color of the rainbow.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Carry-On Cocktail Kits; $24

A carry-on cocktail kit
UncommonGoods

Is anyone in your wedding party flying out to the venue? Make their trip more enjoyable by giving them the gift of mid-air booze. Choose from Old Fashioned, Margarita, Moscow Mule, or Gin and Tonic kits that include almost all the ingredients you need to mix up a refreshing drink on the flight. All your friend needs to do is order the alcohol on the plane to complete the cocktail.

Buy it: UncommonGoods

3. Pokémon Bath Bombs; $17

Pokeball bath bombs
The Island Bath & Body/Amazon

“Gotta drop ‘em all!” Fill your tub with hot water, throw in a Pokeball-shaped bath bomb, and let the relaxation commence. According to the company, these bath bombs can help relieve muscle and joint pain, so they're perfect for helping your wedding party unwind after a night of running around—or dancing in heels. Each bomb unleashes amazing scents while simultaneously bubbling up your water and filling it with fun colors. Oh, and did we mention that the wondrous spheres contain hidden Pokémon toys?

Buy it: Amazon

4. Magnetic Notebook; $33

A magnetic notebook
Rekonect/Amazon

Give your groomsmen and bridal party the gift of easy organization with this magnetic notebook that allows you to remove pages along the margin without any tearing and place them back in anywhere you'd like. And as an added bonus, when you run out of paper, rather than buying a whole new notebook, you can just purchase additional sheets ($10).

Buy it: Amazon

5. Customizable Flasks; $18–$65

Customizable flask
United Craft Supplies/Amazon

With one of these, your best man or maid of honor will be toasting your wedding long after the party wraps. Tastefully engraved with the recipient’s initials, the durable, pocket-sized flasks come in packs of three and six—or if you prefer, you can order a single one.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Green Herbal Tea Kit; $40

Green tea set
UncommonGoods

After your big day goes off without a hitch, your wedding party will definitely want to relax. And what better way to unwind than with a hot cup of tea? Each kit makes about 18 pots of tea, and there are 10 disposable teabags included. Inside the beautifully packaged box, you'll find three varieties of green tea from Japan, India, and Sri Lanka.

Buy it: UncommonGoods

7. Converse Wedding Sneakers; Various

Converse Wedding Sneakers.
Converse

For anyone who has dreams of a wedding party full of Chuck Taylors, Converse has a line of fully customizable wedding sneakers poised to match almost any dress/tux combo. Available in high-top and low-top, these sneakers sport that classic Chuck look, but with color accents, optional design choices, and custom text for the theme you're going for (you can even make them glittered if that's your thing). You can personalize your wedding to your own style, whether your party wears them during the ceremony, or you just buy them for everyone as a gift.

Buy it: Converse

8. Fujimax Instax Instant Camera; $165

An instant film camera
PHOTO4LESS/Amazon

Leave the smartphones at home. A throwback to a classic film camera, the Fujimax Instax Mini is a cinch to use and prints pictures in just a few minutes. When the pictures are ready, they can be used as creative decorations around the house or office.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Cold Brew Maker and Carafe; $40

Portable cold brew maker
UncommonGoods

Give your wedding party the gift of fresh cold brew without the café prices. All you need to do is add coarsely ground coffee beans to the filter, pour water into the brewing chamber (2 tablespoons of ground beans for every cup of water), and let it all steep for 12–18 hours. When you're ready, just press the front button to instantly fill the insulated carafe below with fresh cold brew. You can also check out this on-the-go espresso maker ($79).

Buy it: UncommonGoods

10. Interactive AR Moon Phase Mug; $30

Moon phase mug
UncommonGoods

Stay updated on what phase the moon is in as you sip your morning cup of coffee or tea. Your wedding party can simply scan the QR code at the bottom of the mug and an image of the moon in its current phase will appear on your phone. If you need to step away from your beverage for a minute, simply cover it with the included lid to keep what you're drinking nice and hot.

Buy it: UncommonGoods

At Mental Floss, we only write about the products we love and want to share with our readers, so all products are chosen independently by our editors. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a percentage of any sale made from the links on this page. Prices and availability are accurate as of the time of publication.

11 Questions About Airplane Cabins, Answered

Marcin Kilarski/iStock via Getty Images
Marcin Kilarski/iStock via Getty Images

Of the many uncomfortable places humans can find themselves, the airplane cabin is among the most common—and puzzling. These high-speed cylinders can cross the globe, but the price is stuffy air, peculiar design choices, and strange amenities. If you’ve ever found yourself trapped on a long flight, and curious about why the seats are blue or why cabins are so cold, keep reading.

1. Why don’t airplane seat belts have shoulder straps?

An airplane seat belt is pictured
thawatpong/iStock via Getty Images

We’ll get the more obvious question out of the way: Yes, in the highly unlikely event of a serious plane crash, a seat belt is not likely to make a difference in mortality rates. The belts are really in place to keep passengers from being injured during turbulence, which can cause loosely seated travelers to bump their heads on the overhead compartments or walls. (According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there were 234 accidents involving turbulence from 1980 to 2008, with almost 300 serious injuries and three fatalities. Of the latter, two were not wearing seat belts.)

The bigger mystery is why airplane belts aren’t more like car seat belts, which might prevent people from bumping their head on the seat in front of them. The reason has to do with the environment. For a shoulder harness to work, the belt would have to be secured either to the cabin wall, which is not as sturdy as a car frame, or the seat. If it was attached to the seat, modifications would have to be made that would increase the plane’s overall weight. Planes are also unlikely to experience side collisions, which is where shoulder harnesses would work best.

The belts also have what’s called a lift-lever instead of a button release. That’s in case an object in the cabin falls and accidentally presses the button.

Those old-school buckles have one additional advantage. They’re cheap, saving airlines money—savings they pass on to you, the customer. (Just kidding. They probably don’t do that.)

2. Why are airplane bathrooms so small?

An airplane bathroom is pictured
VVF/iStock via Getty Images

The phone booth-sized lavatories on planes are actually getting smaller. A popular new model dubbed the 737 Advanced Lavatory being installed in nearly half of all new aircraft increases non-pooping cabin space by 7 inches. The push for shrinking bathrooms isn’t actually greed or a need to stuff in more seats. It’s a move by airlines to allow for more leg and reclining room—however sparse—for existing seats. And yes, it could be worse. Early aviators pooped in cardboard boxes.

3. Why are airplane cabins so cold?

A woman is pictured sleeping in an airplane
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If you think you’ve gotten as comfortable as you’re likely to get in your seat, you may find a cold front moving in. Following take-off, when air conditioning is turned off to conserve fuel, airplane cabins can become notoriously chilly. Believe it or not, airlines keep it cool for your health. Pressurized cabins combined with warmer temperatures can increase passengers' risk of hypoxia, a condition in which body tissue doesn’t get enough oxygen and fainting can result. (Oxygen is decreased at high altitudes, so cabins are pressurized.) Turning down the thermostat can help prevent passengers from passing out. Passengers are also likely to feel colder because they’re sedentary and can't warm up by moving around.

4. Why is airplane food so bad?

A tray of airplane food is pictured
PJjaruwan/iStock via Getty Images

When you can get better meal options at a gas station, you know something is very wrong with airplane food. The bland concoctions served in cabins are the unfortunate result of preparation, storage, and environmental limitations. Meals are frozen and then thawed in flight. That’s because a cabin pressurized to an altitude of 6000 to 8000 feet above sea level (even when the cruising altitude is about 40,000 feet) makes for a less-than-ideal fresh food preparation space.

But isn’t serving up a mostly frozen menu what fast food restaurants seem to do well? Maybe, but the difference is that airlines need to serve hundreds of hungry customers at once. To keep lingering meals from drying out, they’re often drowning in sauces. Combine that with dry cabin air suppressing our sense of smell and reducing our ability to taste sweet and salty flavors, and you have a recipe for gastronomical disaster.

5. Why is tomato juice so popular on flights?

A cup of tomato juice on an airplane serving tray is pictured
Cameris/iStock via Getty Images

In addition to water, soda, and more intoxicating options, cans of tomato juice seem to be a surprisingly popular option on flights. That’s because the same dry air that affects our sense of smell and makes the food taste off can actually improve tomato juice’s flavor. The savory umami of the juice is unaffected by the cabin environment, making the option stand out in an otherwise bland menu.

6. Why are so many airplane seats blue?

Airplane seats are pictured
roibu/iStock via Getty Images

Not all plane seats are blue, but odds are good you’ve encountered more than one blue-colored cabin in your travels. Blame sloppy passengers. Unlike bright or dark colors, blue does a good job of hiding stains, blemishes, and other damage, making it a perfect tone for airlines who don’t want to replace seats on a regular basis. Psychologically, blue is also soothing to passengers who might have a little travel anxiety.

7. Why do airplane windows have those tiny holes?

An airplane window hole is pictured
Cristiano Babini/iStock via Getty Images

We know why airplane windows are round: Squared-off windows tend to take on too much stress in a pressurized cabin, a fact airlines noted in the 1950s following an investigation into several accidents. The design also incorporates three window panes, which is where that tiny little hole comes in. The first pane on the plane’s exterior takes on the structural burden of pressurization. The middle pane is a back-up in case the first pane fails. The third pane closest to the passenger is there to prevent scratches and damage to the middle pane. The hole is in the middle to help regulate the air pressure between the cabin and the outer and middle panes, leaving the full force of the outside pressure to exert itself on the exterior pane only. That way, if the window gives out, you'll still have the middle pane as a back-up. It also wicks out moisture to keep the window free from fogging.

8. Why do some airplane seats have a triangle above them?

A pair of hands is pictured making a triangle shape
Nopphon Pattanasri/iStock via Getty Images

Look around a cabin and you might see a triangle pasted on the wall near a row of seats. No, this is not for members of secret societies. The markers are there to help crew members identify windows where the plane’s wings are the most visible in the event they need to inspect them for damage, ice, or other concerns.

9. What do those chimes over the airplane’s intercom really mean?

An airplane cabin is pictured
triocean/iStock via Getty Images

Ding. Ding. At times being in an airplane can feel like being in an elevator. While some of those chimes are meant to call your attention to seat belt alerts or landing notifications, not all of them are intended for passengers. Airplanes use a kind of code similar to a ring tone to call from one section of the cabin to another—to ask about food supplies, for example. Different chimes can mean different things. A three-note chime might tell flight attendants that turbulence is ahead, alerting them ahead of passengers. The code varies by plane, so try not to read too much into it. If you hear just one note, though, it might be the pilot asking for some coffee.

10. Why do your ears pop during a flight?

A man is pictured holding his ears on an airplane
Kritchanut/iStock via Getty Images

It goes back to cabin pressure. As a plane ascends, lowering the pressure in the cabin, pressure in the inner ear changes. Force is applied to the eardrum and you’ll feel like something is squeezing your head until the Eustachian tubes connecting your ears to your nose and throat relax, letting air in and equalizing the pressure.

11. Why don’t airplane oxygen mask bags inflate?

A flight attendant is pictured demonstrating an oxygen mask
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The vaunted airplane oxygen mask demonstration always causes some concern over its rather inert plastic bag, which attendants often warn “may not inflate” once the masks descend over the passengers in the event of an emergency. If it doesn’t inflate, what good is it? The masks are continuous-flow, which means oxygen produced by chemicals in the overhead compartment will flow through the mask regardless of the person inhaling or exhaling. Excess oxygen is stored in the bag until it's needed. It also prevents panicky passengers from seeing their bags "deflate" while others appear full.

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