Gibraltar is not your average airport, only captains can land there. It is a category C airport, meaning it’s a little more challenging than most approaches in Europe. Pilots must also have undergone special simulator training, sat in the jump seat for takeoff and landing and have flown there under the supervision of a training captain, all before being qualified to fly there.
This is because of the terrain to the south of the airfield, which is known as “The Rock”. It is the position of this rock that can cause turbulence and wind-shear when winds are strong at low levels. This may make landing conditions difficult and in some cases impossible. Which is why, particularly with southerly winds, the safest decision is to divert to a nearby alternate such as Malaga.
Although diversions and go-arounds are common and practiced procedures for pilots, we do realise it might not be as fun for the passengers who don’t know what is happening!
Hopefully this blog will help you to know what is happening, understand why it is completely safe and the reason as to why you might not be landing at Gibraltar!