A slightly skeewiff statue of Cristiano Ronaldo is the most notable thing about LPMA/Funchal Airport which, since last year, has been known as Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport.

Before that, however, the airport on Madeira’s east coast was better known for hosting one of the world’s most challenging approaches and landings.

The airport’s runway is often buffeted by Atlantic winds, while its proximity to the mountains and ocean present yet more difficulties. Pilots scheduled to arrive here must undergo additional training, studying the approach in detail. Airlines wishing to fly into Funchal – sorry, Ronaldo – require special approval from the Portuguese aviation authority.

Earlier this year the Association of Portuguese Airline Pilots (APPLA) said it was vital that the airport closes when winds exceed the maximum limits (depending on wind direction). In a statement it said that “there are limits to anything in aviation. These limits generally exist for several reasons, including safety issues”. APPLA was concerned there had been some 20 commercial landings in the first half of 2017 when the wind had been exceeding limits.

What are these limits?

The Portuguese AIP warns that:

The Airport is located on a plateau on the east coast of Madeira Island. Except for the seaside, ground raises rapidly very closed to it. This fact generates, very often, wind variation and turbulence. Also severe low altitude wind shear conditions and / or micro burst are likely to be encountered.

Wind Limitations

When landing

Maximum of two minutes mean Wind Speed Values indicated by the Touchdown anemometer:

  • In the sector 300° to 010° MAG (clockwise) – 15KT, with the maximum Wind Gust of 25KT
  • In the sector 020° to 040° MAG (clockwise) – 20KT, with the maximum Wind Gust of 30KT
  • In the sector 120° to 190° MAG (clockwise), and if Runway in use is 05 – 20KT with a maximum Wind Gust of 30KT, and if Runway in use is 23 – 15KT, subject also to maximum Wind Gust of 25KT as indicated by MID Anemometer.

Maximum of two minutes mean Wind Speed Values, including Gust indicated by the MID or ROSÁRIO Anemometers

  • In the Sector 200º to 230º MAG (clockwise) – 25KT.

When Taking-off

Maximum of two minutes mean Wind Speed Values indicated by the MID anemometer:

  • In the sector 300° to 010° MAG (clockwise) – 20KT with no Gust limitations
  • In the sector 020° to 040° MAG (clockwise) – 25KT with no Gust limitations
  • In the sector 120° to 190° MAG (clockwise) and if Runway in use is 05 – 25KT with no Gust limitations, and if Runway in use is 23 – 20KT, also with no Gust limitations

NOTE: The limitations above do not supersede any Operators or Aircraft Operations Manual (AOM) limitations if these are more restrictive

Turbulence

  • Attention should be paid to the WIND DIRECTION INDICATORS located on the south side of the runway, near each touchdown area. They will reflect unexpected wind changes. Occasionally they will indicate wind from opposite directions;
  • When landing on RWY 05 wind differences greater than 5 KT, between Rosário and MID anemometers, may indicate turbulence on final;
  • When landing on RWY 23 with winds from South and Westerly Sectors, one may experience severe turbulence at low altitude over the RWY Threshold;
  • Headwind or nearly so, up to 15 KT will cause “WEAK” turbulence on final;
  • Wind of 15 KT from sector 020° to 050° MAG (clockwise) may cause “MODERATE” turbulence;
  • Wind of 15 KT or even less from sector 300° to 020° MAG (clockwise) may cause “SEVERE” turbulence;
  • Down drafts or up drafts are to be expected near the threshold of runways 05 and 23.

NOTE: Pilots are strongly requested to report to the Control Tower as soon as possible any turbulence and/or windshear that may affect operational conditions.

There have been recent attempts of political intervention by the Vice President of the Regional Government, Pedro Calado. He met recently with aviation officials in Lisbon but to no avail. He expressed to his amazement at the fact that the limits set for Madeira Airport have not been changed since 1964.

Calado says that “what is happening at Madeira Airport is unusual, it is the only airport in the world that has mandatory limits, meaning that even if the commanders consider having safety conditions to land, if the wind limits are above stipulated, can not do so under penalty of ANAC suspending its license to fly. ”

He is right about that. Air Traffic Control won’t stop you from making an approach and landing if the wind limits are exceeded but they will promptly report all flights having done so to the authorities back on the mainland. There have been threats of license and airline operational approval suspensions in the past.

Looks pretty fun though!

Have you flown into the airport recently and can update our opsgroup members? Drop us a line: bulletin@fsbureau.org

Extra Information:

  • The airport’s runway, supported by columns that lift it 70 metres above the ocean, extends out over what was once a beach. The construction of it began in 1983 after a Boeing 727 operated by TAP Portugal overshot the original runway in 1977 in windy and rain conditions, landing past the threshold before aquaplaning and sliding off the runway and plunging off a steep bank. The aircraft crashed into a bridge, split into two and burst into flames, killing 131 of the 164 on board. The accident remains TAP Portugal’s only fatal accident and the second deadliest in Portugal.
  • Portugal AIP
  • Pilot’s Briefing Room – Funchal