You want hazardous airstrips? How about these?

I’ve mentioned bush flying in Africa before, but I don’t think I’ve written about mountain flying in Lesotho, a landlocked state surrounded by South Africa.  There, the Mission Aviation Fellowship co-operates with the government to host the Flying Doctor service as well.  They fly into airstrips carved out of the tops of mountains, or angled up and down the steep slopes.  It’s a real adventure, particularly in light aircraft such as a Cessna 172 or 182 or 206.  For an overview of MAF’s activities there, see this video.

Here are three Lesotho airstrips used by MAF.  Remember, all of them are at altitudes higher than 7,000 feet above sea level.  That’s why landing and take-off speeds appear faster than usual – they have to be, in the thinner air at such altitudes, which are actually higher than the cruising altitude used by most light aircraft in (say) the USA.  Engine power is also sapped at such heights, making it harder to get a heavily-loaded aircraft off the ground.

I recommend watching these videos in full-screen mode for best results.

I’ve flown into some of those Lesotho mountain airstrips, sometimes in a small single-engined aircraft like those shown above, occasionally in a Twin Otter of Lesotho Airways. “Hairy” just about describes the experience!



  1. It's a miracle anyone survives getting anywhere near an aircraft at all.

    "Oh, I'll just sit in this plywood-and-sheet iron contraption and drag it through the air behind a truck engine and a giant spinning sword, what's the worst that could happen?"

  2. We don't generally play in the mountains like they do in Lesotho. We play in the mud instead. I've had the airplane cocked 30 degrees to the direction it's going…on the ground, from torque as we slide sideways in the mud. We do have a couple airstrips in the Didinga hills in So Sudan. Not quite as high as Lesotho, but close…about 6000 ft MSL.

    Or there's Gatab in Kenya.

  3. Indonesia has some pretty hair raising airstrips. Along with Pau Pau New Guinea. There was a video on youtube I stumbled on a while back about young british pilots going to Indonesia to build time and flying pilatus porters into some pretty scary looking airstrips.

  4. And having to deal with local tribes that still had living members that remembered that white man tasted sweeter…

    That would be Susi Air. The company story is kind of impressive – started by a woman with one plane (IIRC it was one). Built into a company turning a $35M (USD) annual profit.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *