MADEIRA IS A PORTUGUESE island in the Atlantic Ocean. Most people, including us, arrive by air and land at the Airport of the island’s capital, Funchal.
We flew from London to Lisbon to Funchal on the Portuguese airline. The climax of the somewhat poorly organised and unsympathetic airline‘s handling of its passengers was not entirely the fault of the airline: it was the landing at Funchal airport.
Funchal airport is hazardous to say the least. It consists of a single short runway with sea along one side and at both ends. This short runway, rather like that of a large naval aircraft carrier, lies almost surrounded, not only by water, but also by nearby rocky mountains.
After flying over the empty Atlantic for about 80 minutes, the rocky island of Madeira, partly shrouded in clouds, loomed into view.
We descended towards the short runway and almost a few seconds before we were to have touched down on the concrete, the pilot caused the ‘plane to ascend steeply. We headed back into the clouds before the pilot announced that his first attempt to land had been thwarted by an unexpected gust of crosswind and that he would make another attempt to land.
I noticed that during the second attempt, we approached the runway far slower than the first time. The few hair-raising minutes before we touched down seemed like hours, so anxious I was beginning to feel. It was a great relief to set foot on the tarmac when we left the aircraft.
The cabin crew laughed at us when we told them how scared we were during the landing. They could have tried to be reassuring at the very least. I was unimpressed by their reaction to our concern.
Terrifying and alarming as was the landing, Funchal is proving to be a delightful destination.