Drive over the runway

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  • Tours of Gibraltar Logo

When you think of tours in Gibraltar the first idea that might spring to mind are the famous Gibraltar rock tours. But you will be amazed to know that one of the highlights of private tours in Gibraltar is the drive over the runway. This single runway, which is more 5,511ft (1,680m) long, is one of the quirkiest Gibraltar attractions.

Built on the site of a race-track as a Royal Navy back-up in 1939, it was to play a big role as an airbase in World War Two. Nowadays it might just be an obstacle to Gibraltar transfers when tourists have to wait for planes to land, but back then it was an important part of the war effort. Rock dug out of tunnels were used to extend the runway so that larger planes could take-off and land there, helping the Allies win the war.

One of the mysteries of the war took place on 4 July 1943 when a B-24 Liberator II took off from the Gibraltar runway and crashed into the sea. Exiled Polish prime minister Lt. Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski died in the incident making him a national hero. Although the crash was deemed to be accidental, a number of historians have suggested there was foul play afoot and the Nazis had sabotaged the flight.

After that, the airport was used to bring the first tourists to Marbella before the Spanish dictator Franco shut the frontier in 1969. Despite this, a passenger terminal was built in 1972, that was extended during the following years as one of the only exit points to the Rock. After the border re-opened with the death of the Fascist general, the Cordoba agreement allowed the building of a new air terminal. This allowed more flights to UK and even some to Spain, which soon stopped because they were just not selling.

The airport is considered to have some of the most exciting landings and take-offs in the world being so short, so close to the city centre and with the road that crosses it. However, the latter will soon be a thing of the past as a tunnel will be opened soon, so this is a rare opportunity to enjoy the runway drive before it becomes etched into the history of the legendary Gibraltar Rock Tours.