Skiathos landing: Video shows Wizz Air plane skimming yards over tourists’ heads
This is the heart-stopping moment a Wizz Air passenger jet skimmed just yards over tourists’ heads as it came in land on a Greek island, in what some said was the lowest ever landing at the airport.
Dramatic footage of the landing was uploaded last week by a jet enthusiast who was positioned to watch planes touch down on Greece’s Skiathos island.
Measuring just a mile in length and built yards from the sea, Skiathos Airport’s landing strip is particularly short due to the island’s geography, meaning pilots have to come in to land far lower than they would on other runways.
But even the seasoned plane spotters appeared shocked as the Airbus jet barrelled towards the tarmac and narrowly cleared the airport’s perimeter fence.
The is the heart-stopping moment a Wizz Air passenger jet skimmed just yards over tourists’ heads as it came in to land at a Greek airport
As the Wizz Air-operated Airbus A321neo approaches, it quickly became clear to spectators that the pilot was bringing it in at a low altitude, with one onlooker even moving out of the way
As the jet lands, it clears the perimeter fence by a matter of yards, with the force knocking some of the gathered spectators backwards
The video opens by showing the plane in the distance cruising towards the Skiathos Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport over the turquoise Mediterranean waters.
Several people are shown to have gathered on the beach and a road that runs along a narrow bit of land between the sea and the runway.
As the Wizz Air-operated Airbus A321neo approaches, however, it is clear that the pilot is bringing it in at a low altitude. One onlooker even begins to move out of the way in anticipation of a low landing.
Others are heard shouting out in surprise over the roar of the engines as the pink and white jet swoops down until it is just a matter of yards over the heads of the plane spotters, and even wobbles slightly as it prepares for touchdown.
As it narrowly clears the perimeter fence, it is so low that it kicks up dust and sand into the air and ruffles the hair of one man who is seen in the footage flinching.
In another angle from a second camera, people’s clothes are shown being buffeted by the gust caused by the jet. One young girl is even shown falling over backwards – knocked down by the force of the jet – while a woman loses her hat.
As this happens, the wheels of the plane make contact with the tarmac, and the pilot successfully lands the jet on Skiathos.
The video (pictured) opens by showing a plane in the distance cruising towards the Skiathos Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport over the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean
Pictured: A man holding a camera flinches as the jet comes into land on Skiathos island
In another angle from a separate camera, people’s clothes are shown being buffeted by the gust caused by the jet. One young girl is even shown falling over backwards – knocked down by the force of the jet – while a woman loses her hat
Pictured: Another camera angle shows the plane flying in low over the beach and road where spectators have gathered
One aviation buff, commentating underneath the video posted to YouTube by GreatFlyer on August 5, explained why the conditions meant such a low landing was necessary.
‘High temperature and very short runway, you have to do a deep landing to maximise the available runway for stop,’ they wrote.
‘Low cost airlines operates with short turnaround times, if you overheat the brakes you mess up the schedule if the plane.’
One person joked: ‘How many of the spectators do you think needed new pants?’. Another jested: ‘A powerfull hair dryer, isn’t it!?’
Others congratulated GreatFlyer for being able to keep his cool and capture the low landing from so many angles – while those around him were buffeted by the force.
‘That was absolutely insane! Wonderful capture mate, awesome job!’ one person wrote. ‘Amazing capture and thank you for the multiple angles, that’s exactly what I wanted to see as an aviation geek! Perfect,’ another said.
Amid some suggestions that the landing was reckless – and that the pilot may have deliberately approached at a low altitude to play up to the gathered crowd – one commenter hit back.
The airport’s runway (pictured in this aerial photograph) is found in the north-east of Skiathos island, and is built in-between two hills that flank the stretch of tarmac. The runway runs north-to-south and from coast-to-cast, meaning pilots have to approach as low as possible in order to give themselves enough runway to come to a stop
‘Before jumping to conclusion, let’s just say we don’t know why the plane ended up so scarily low on a fairly routine approach but I doubt it was “intentional” “showing off”,’ the person wrote on YouTube.
‘However, the people standing there were definitely standing there intentionally despite of the warning signs and traffic lights. You cannot get injured if you’re not standing there. Glad to see the plane eventually touched down without any damage.’
GreatFlyer, whose YouTube channel features dozens of dramatic plane landings and take-offs, suggested that the Wizz Air pilots landing in Skiathos was the lowest ever at the airport.
The airport’s runway is found in the north-east of Skiathos island, and is built in-between two hills that flank the stretch of tarmac. At each end of the tarmac, the Mediterranean sea is just yards away.
The runway measures at 5,341-foot (1628 meters), meaning it is barely longer than a mile, putting it in the ‘short and narrow’ category of runways. By comparison, runways for commercial airlines tend to measure between 7,000 to 12,000 feet. Heathrow’s runway measures at 12,799 feet (around 2.1 miles).
Due to the uneven terrain on the Greek island, the airport was built by reclaiming land from the sea between Skiathos island and the smaller island of Lazareta (a former leper colony) – joining the islands together into a single, larger island.
The relatively short landing strip runs north-to-south and from coast-to-cast, meaning pilots have to approach as low as possible in order to give themselves enough runway to land on and come to a stop. Otherwise, they risk the aircraft going off the end of the runway and into the water.
Because of the short runway, some planes even have to take off with less fuel. Many flights then have to touch down minutes later in nearby Thessaloniki to refuel.
Pictured: A British airways flight is seen coming in for a low landing at Skiathos’ airport
Pictured: Another passenger jet is seen performing a low landing in Skiathos
Watching the planes from the end of the runway is not without its risks. Last month, a 61-year-old British woman was knocked over backwards when she and a group of tourists gathered to watch a plane take off.
Footage showed her spread her arms out wide, before the force from the engines became too much, and she fell backwards down a small step. Reports from the Greek island said she was unharmed, but airport officials were forced to publicly stress that the runway meets the necessary safety standards.
A month earlier, a 79-year-old man was knocked over when a plane flew overhead. A report from Greek City Times said he had tried to get clear of the stretch of road at the end of the runway, but couldn’t get clear in time.
In 2018, a British schoolboy was injured after he was blasted through the air by the turbines of an Airbus 320 after visiting a controversial tourist attraction.
The 12-year-old was with his father watching planes land just above their heads when he was fired more than 30 feet through the air on a Greek island. He landed on the sand.
Earlier that same year, a man who was stood filming planes take off from Skiathos got the shock of his life when he was also knocked off his feet by the powerful thrust of an aircraft’s engines.
GreatFlyer compared last week’s Wizz Air landing with another low approach from an Air Italy landing in 2013 on the same island.
As with the Wizz Air flight, the Air Italy plane cleared the airport’s perimeter by a few yards, leading to some to claim it was the lowest landing ever captured on video.
Some suggested last week’s low landing may have been even lower.
Its geography has made Skiathos a popular destination for plane watchers. There can be up to 100 people surrounding the runway on a busy day and the airport has been dubbed the European St Maarten – an island in the Caribbean which is also famous for its low-landing planes.
Plane crazy! Airports around the world where thrill-seekers can watch passenger jets land just over their heads
Ever since the Second World War, plane spotting – like trainspotting – has been a popular hobby among a group enthusiasts who go out of their way to catch a glimpse of aircraft coming in to land, or taking flight.
This is often to see rare or new aircraft such as the now-decommissioned Concorde, the Boeing 747 when it first took to the skies, or the US President’s Air Force One.
But a small group of thrill-seekers amongst the hobbyists have been known to take this a step further, searching out places in the world where they can watch large passenger jets soar narrowly above their heads.
One such place is the Greek island of Skiathos. With its short runway positioned between two beaches, pilots must land as soon as they can on the tarmac to ensure they can slow down in time before running out of space.
It has become a popular destination for plane spotters, who regularly gather at the end of the runway to watch planes landing and taking-off just yards over their heads.
The airport on the Greek island has been dubbed the European St Maarten – an island in the Caribbean which is also famous for its low-landing planes.
Like Skiathos, the Caribbean airport has a short runway – of just 1.4 miles – forcing planes to approach at low altitude. Plane spotting is a popular activity at the island’s Princess Juliana international airport but it can also be dangerous. In 2017, a woman was thrown to her death after a low flying plane blew her off her feet.
Skiathos has been dubbed the European St Maarten – an island in the Caribbean which is also famous for its low-landing planes (pictured). Plane spotting is a popular activity at the island’s Princess Juliana international airport but it can also be dangerous. In 2017, a woman was thrown to her death after a low flying plane blew her off her feet
The New Zealand woman joined hundreds of other tourists at Saint Maarten to watch planes taking off at the beach-side Juliana International Airport.
She was holding onto the fence when she was blown from her feet before hitting her head on the rocks and suffering fatal injuries.
Tourists visiting the picturesque beach regularly climb up onto rocks to watch planes come into land, despite signs specifically warning against the danger.
Police on the Dutch territory make daily visits to the beach, which is popular with plane spotters from around the world, to warn tourists of the dangers.
Pictured: People take selfies as a plane comes in to land at Arrecife airport on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, July 2022
Other airports known for their low-landing planes include Arrecife airport on the Spanish island of Lanzarote and Phuket International Airport in Thailand.
In 2019, Thai aviation authorities threatened tourists with the death penalty for taking selfies on the beach next to the Phuket airport, saying that doing so ran the risk of distracting pilots coming in to land.
The popularity of plane spotting came to the fore in Britain in early 2022 when livestreaming platform Big Jet TV captured passenger aircraft landing at London’s Heathrow airport in heavy winds during storm Eunice.
Pictured: People gather on a beach to watch a low-landing plane in Phuket, Thailand
Jerry Dyer’s Big Jet TV had more than 200,000 viewers spending more than six hours watching stomach-churning footage of airliners touching down almost sideways at Britain’s busiest airport in 120mph gusts.
In one shocking clip, a plane almost flipped after making its approach in strong winds which forced the ‘touch and go’ stunt, meaning the pilot had to take off again and re-approach for a second attempt. Witnesses claim paint dust can be seen coming off the tail of the plane as it hit the ground during the shaky landing attempt.
Another airport famous for its precarious landings is the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Nepal. The runway is built close to the edge of a cliff, meaning pilots have no room for error when coming in to land.
Close shave: This is the shocking moment a pilot struggled to land a British Airways plane at Heathrow Airport in London during a storm in February, which brought gusts of up to 92mph
Only small planes can land and take off from the airport, and pilots are required to have at least a year’s experience and 100 missions flying STOL (short take off and landing) aircraft.
The Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport in Portugal has also recieved a lot of attention over the years – primarily for changing its name in honour of footballing megastar – but also for having one of the most hair-raising runways in the world.
Pilots must fight against the island’s strong winds and land on a narrow runway that is supported by 180 columns, 190 feet above sea level. The runway itself also jets out over the ocean.
Gibraltar’s airport to the north-east also has a nerve-wracking feature. The runway is built into the sea and across the width of the British Overseas Territory, and has a public road running through the middle of it. As with a level crossing across a railway track, the road has to be closed whenever a plan lands or takes off from the airport.
Another airport famous for its precarious landings is the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Nepal (pictured). The runway is built close to the edge of a cliff, meaning pilots have no room for error when coming in to land