HPB’s holiday booking service has been rated 4.7 out of 5
based on 14730 customer reviews on Feefo.
Feefo Platinum Award Feefo logo

Madeira airport: a triumph of ingenuity and engineering

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 30 October 2018
Related property: Encosta Cabo Girao
Madeira airport: a triumph of ingenuity and engineering

Madeira has been on the tourist map for decades, if not centuries. Famous past visitors include Sir Winston Churchill, who stayed at Reid’s Palace Hotel in capital Funchal and liked to visit (and repeatedly paint pictures of) Câmara de Lobos, the pretty fishing village near to Encosta Cabo Girão, which provided something of an antidote to his “black dog” of depression. George Bernard Shaw was another frequenter. Emperor Karl I and Empress Sissi of Austria found the Portuguese island much to their liking. And there were others, those who could afford it: attracted by the “Green Pearl of the Atlantic”’s year-round benign climate, spectacular scenery, gorgeous flora, and friendly welcome.

Those visitors of yesteryear came, naturally, by ship; and to this day Funchal remains a regular port of call for cruise liners (above) crisscrossing the Atlantic Ocean. (The passengers decanted from these great ships tend to be in a bit of a hurry – but as a holidaymaker at Cabo Girão you are under no such time pressure. Permission to feel just a little bit smug.)

But the island’s inaccessibility, which of course made it so exclusive, was a problem for Madeira’s government, which wanted both to increase visitor numbers and facilitate trade with mother country Portugal and the rest of the world. So an airport was built near Funchal, and opened in 1964.

Which wouldn’t normally make much of a story – but Funchal airport (at top) is a bit special.

There’s not a lot of Madeira that’s flat enough, or level enough, for long enough, to build a runway for aircraft – but a site was found, overlooking the Atlantic on one side and banked by mountains on the other. Not totally ideal, but usable. Excavation work took place to further flatten what was there naturally, and two 1,600m runways were built.

As time passed, and aircraft got bigger, the runway (now reduced to one, its original, parallel companion having proved problematically close to the surrounding hills) was extended to 1,800 metres. The extension was opened in 1986.

And proved short-lived. Planes were still getting larger, and more and more people wanted to visit the island. A further extension was called for – not just a sticking-plaster approach to the problem, but a lasting solution.

In 2000, the runway was again extended, this time to 2,781m – almost a kilometre longer. As landfill was not a viable option, the extension was built on a platform, jutting out over the ocean, held up by 180 columns, each about 70m tall. The extension, opened in 2002, was recognised worldwide as one of the most difficult to achieve due to the terrain and Madeira’s topography, and won Funchal the 2004 Outstanding Structure Award from the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering. And (below) you can see why.

Today, Funchal airport is a busy place, handling well over three million passengers a year. Most are holidaymakers – like you – arriving and departing on medium-range narrow-body airliners like the Boeing 737 or the Airbus A320; but the airport can accommodate the wide-body Boeing 747 – the original Jumbo Jet. The mighty Airbus A380? Hmmm, maybe not!

Though its daily comings and goings are a matter of routine, landing at, or taking off from, Funchal can be quite an experience; but should you need distraction, spare a thought for poor Cristiano Ronaldo (above), after whom the airport was renamed in 2017.

Madeira’s most famous son is arguably the greatest footballer of his generation; but is unarguably no stranger to vanity. Imagine, then, how he must have felt when he first saw the bust of himself (below) in pride of place in the terminal building.

The ‘likeness’ has apparently been removed recently – during the FIFA World Cup in Russia, when people’s attention was directed at the real thing – but the locals have launched a petition to bring it back.

And no wonder. If that doesn’t send you off on your travels with a smile on your face – what will?

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

How can I find out more?

The Holiday Property Bond could do as much for your quality of life as it has done for many thousands of families who have already invested. That's why we invite you to get in touch with us in any of these 3 ways and please don't forget our unique 'Money back promise' and 'interest free loan' options.

Request our brochure Speak to a representative Explore one of our UK sites

Please request our fully illustrated holiday property brochure

Please read "How HPB works" and then we will be delighted to send you our brochure, including our property portfolio, and your FREE copy of Insight Magazine. See the beautiful holiday homes and magnificent locations where you can spend your holidays as a Bondholder and learn how impressed Bondholders have been by our handling of the problems caused by coronavirus.

Please complete and submit the form or, alternatively, telephone our FREE brochure request line on 0800 230 0391

Request a brochure
Title *  
First Name *  
Surname *  
Email address *
Postcode *  
Telephone number
How did you hear about us?

We will use the details you provide above to send you our detailed HPB brochure and keep you updated about HPB holiday offers. Details of how we use the information you provide are in our privacy policy.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

* Indicates required fields
HPB’s holiday booking service has been rated 4.7 out of 5 based on 14730 customer reviews on Feefo.

You can speak to one of our representatives

Your local HPB representative will be happy to call or video call you at a convenient time for an informal chat. Simply fill in your details and we'll do the rest.

Most of our representatives are Bondholders themselves and all have visited a number of Bond sites.

The representative will give you all the information you need and then leave you to make up your own mind. He or she will talk to you about your holiday requirements and what level of investment is needed to secure the kind of holidays you want.

Video chat now available with a local representative

This request is for new enquiries only, if you are an existing Bondholder please contact us via myBond.

How should we contact you? *  
Title *  
First Name *  
Surname *  
Email address *
Telephone number *  
Post code *  
Preferred Date/Time
Preferred Date/Time 2
Preferred Date/Time 3
Please contact me to arrange a date

Your local representative will contact you to confirm the date and time.

Date/Time *  
How did you hear about us?
Chosen date (choose above) *
Chosen time (choose above) *

We will use the details you provide above for a representative to contact you. Details of how we use the information you provide are in our privacy policy.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

* Indicates required fields

See our stunning holiday properties for yourself

Having a Private Tour at an HPB holiday location is an enjoyable way to see the high standards of furnishings and facilities you could enjoy with HPB. One of our representatives will show you around the site and answer any questions you may have.

Alternatively, you are welcome to book a Personal Presentation at a hotel near you. You can chat to one of our representatives, ask your questions and view the complete portfolio of HPB locations.


This advertisement is issued by HPB Management Limited (HPBM), the main UK agent and the property manager for HPB, authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, registered at HPB House, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8EH. HPB is available exclusively through HPBM. HPB is issued by HPB Assurance Limited (HPBA) registered in the Isle of Man and authorised by the Financial Services Authority there. The Trustee of HPB is Equiom (Isle of Man) Limited, registered at Jubilee Buildings, Victoria Street, Douglas, Isle of Man, IM1 2SH. The Securities Adviser is Stanhope Capital LLP of 35 Portman Square, London W1H 6LR. No medical examination is required.

HPBM promotes only HPB and is not independent of HPBA. Holders of policies issued by HPBA will not be protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme if the company becomes unable to meet its liabilities to them but Isle of Man compensation arrangements apply to new policies.