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St. Maarten - Princess Juliana

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St. Maarten - Princess Juliana

Old 10th Jun 2003, 21:30
  #1 (permalink)  
Dancing with the devil, going with the flow... it's all a game to me.
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Question St. Maarten - Princess Juliana

Hi folks,

The runway approach to St. Maarten - Princess Juliana in the Netherland Antilles is obviously a low one as the pictures on airliners.net will testify but I always have great problems in convicing friends that it really is as mad as all the photo's on airliners.net show it to be!

I would just like to:

a) confirm those photo's ARE real


b) ask you if you have any idea how I can prove this to my friends as they are all convinced those shots have been doctored!


VFE is offline  
Old 10th Jun 2003, 22:03
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If I remember rightly from a photo I had seen some time back the beach is right next to the threshold of the runway and that would be one reason why the approaches look so low!
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Old 10th Jun 2003, 22:08
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Post it is not as bad as it looks

Hello VFE,
I flew the Boeing 747-300 for almost 15 years and in that time flew into St. Maarten on average twice a year. It was part of a triangle through to Curacao that we still fly today. I know of the pictures, and I must say that I never found the approach into St. Maarten particularly difficult. The thing that is essential is that you touch down in the touchdown zone. Always important, but when you have only a little over 2100 meters (less than 7000 feet) it makes it doubly so. For most aircraft these lengths don’t pose much of a restriction, but for the older version of the 747 the amount of braking that is required makes the cooling time part of the operational equation. The pictures that are pretty well known are of aircraft that dip below a normal approach path. The fence at the beginning of the runway has been knocked down twice by a certain French airline. So I can confirm the pictures are real. There is a lot of opportunity to take pictures from the road or the beach and there are always people there. The instrument approach is a VOR/DME but usually it boils down to a visual.

The take-off has more restrictions than the arrival. You take off right towards the hills, and it requires an early right turn to avoid. An engine failure requires a visual climb-out between two of those hills, to guarantee obstacle clearance. Usually you have a nice little headwind to help you out.

Take-off’s by big aircraft usually get a lot of attention, you backtrack onto the main runway, do a 180. Right behind the aircraft there is a fence followed by a small road and than a public beach. Some to the more adventurous souls think it is a good idea to get up to the fence and hang on as we bring up the power. The road closes during these take-off’s. Several of these brain surgeons have been hurt in the past. Having been blow back across the road and the beach into the water. Worth your time if you want to visit a nice tropical location and aircraft are your passion. BUT as far as pucker factor goes this airport only brings slight tension to the muscle, there are others that make it clench a lot more.

Regards, O.

Last edited by Otterman; 11th Jun 2003 at 03:17.
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Old 10th Jun 2003, 23:35
  #4 (permalink)  
Dancing with the devil, going with the flow... it's all a game to me.
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What can I say? Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I shall show my chums what you have just written and they should accept what you've told me! Thanks for the insight into the procedures at this airport, your post was very interesting.

Ray Ban,

Thanks also to you!

To all the others out there,

Would still be interested to hear anymore stories of flights into this airport, especially from anyone who is gonna admit to knocking the fence over!

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Old 11th Jun 2003, 01:17
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Photos are for real. FO always gets the landing at SXM so Capt. can eyeball the beach on the left. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.
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Old 11th Jun 2003, 05:21
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I've never been there myself, but checkout the videos on this link:

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Old 11th Jun 2003, 05:48
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Just returned from a cruise that stopped on said island and I can confirm that the pictures are real!!

Landings are pretty cool to watch from the adjacent bar and take-offs are not recommended if you are standing on the beach.

The fence could be jumped by a one-legged pensioner so it is the ideal location for non-spotters but controllers like me.

I never saw traffic stopped during take-offs or landings so take your chances boys.

I can recommend the burgers in the bar just to the right of the final approach by the way.

Hills on the climbout lead to tasty takeoffs and landings are pretty awesome too.

Pitty AF use A340s rather than 747s now but still worth seeing. It's a nice island too if you find yourself there.

Did I mention that I wasn't a spotter?

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Old 12th Jun 2003, 10:13
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Talking True!

HAHAHA, I flew an ole C207 outta this place myself for awhile.

I can tell you : The pictures are probably for real, have seen some crazy sh*t there. Nothing compared to the neighbouring island of St Bart's though...

I remember sitting behind the concrete wall at christmas eve there (full daylight) and waiting for the AF 747 to take off. I ended up trying to breathe fresh air through my shirt to survive this (cocktailsoaked) adventure. I was scooping sand out of my as*s for the next two days!!!

A spectacular approach , but not neccesarily dangerous.
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Old 13th Jun 2003, 00:23
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Approach picture of SXM from the cockpit.

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Old 14th Jun 2003, 01:35
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Although with much small machines ... many bush pilots have to make a pass over the field at a specified height and angle to indicate intentions.

Whilst one is driving, the other pilot is checking the airwaves and the skywaves for locals that might not have noticed the F27 or J41 heading in to 'their' airport. Eyeballs all round! That sounds more tricky than St.Maarten.
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Old 16th Jun 2003, 00:44
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used to take a DC6 in there. Landing was no big deal, but the take off was kinda wierd trying to miss the mountains!!
Felt sorry for the folks sleeping in their sailboats. We would go roaring over at takeoff power 50 feet above them at 9 am. what a lot of fun!!!!!!!!!
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Old 18th Jun 2003, 20:03
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I've been into SXM several times in both the 757 and the A320. I agree that approaches are not particularly harrowing. And, yes, I will also confirm that the photos you've seen are authentic.

My best memory of SXM, however, involves one time when I went there in the 757. After landing and making a 180 at the end, we were taxiing on the runway to parking. I was the F/O, and the IRO (international relief pilot) in the jumpseat looked out the left window and gave out a shout. All three of us (me, the Captain, and the IRO) looked left at the beach just adjacent to the runway. There was a drop-dead gorgeous girl wearing nothing but a thong bikini bottom walking her dog on the beach. The Captain was so captivated that he started turning the tiller left as his head swivelled. We might have gone right off the runway had he not recoverred his wits!

Another fond memory of SXM involves a 4 hour ground time on Christmas day several years ago. The entire crew (flight & cabin) put on our swim suits and went to the beach just off the end of the runway. Lunch and swimming with 4 pretty young F/A's in bikinis. I did have trouble, however, explaining to my wife how I managed to get a sun tan on a one day trip to the islands and back.
Old 19th Jun 2003, 07:56
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I take it that you fly/flew for KLM. I would be interested to know more about aerodromes that make the pucker factor clench a lot more…
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Old 19th Jun 2003, 08:59
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All good stuff, and it's for real, I fly a Twin Otter in to TNCM(StMaarten) daily and the F/O always does the landing, Capt's head is literally outside , we fly slow enough to do that,so that we scan for potential beach bunnies, a local type of indigenous species.............lol, BTW That was probably my wife walking our dog next to the runway, we live about 50 mtrs to South side of the touch down markers,almost on the beach, finalschecks did you fly for Ep Lohman, (only 207 operator I knew in SXM) Bet you lived in the same area as we do now.
StBarths is whole 'nuther approach,I fly daily in to that runway as well, ....always taxi to the end of the runway,the end of the runway sits on the beach it self , no fence or nuthin, beach go'ers sometimes run up to the edge of the runway while we are turning around, to take a quick snapshot!
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Old 19th Jun 2003, 10:08
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There's some good photos on caribbeanalpa.com ....click on SXM pictures.....# 7 is quite good
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Old 19th Jun 2003, 22:14
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Here's a nice one

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Old 19th Jun 2003, 23:15
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I just finished a trip sequence in which we flew in and out of TNCM/St. Maarten a couple of times. Yes, I too can confirm the reality of the photos. It does amaze me how many people get as close as they possibly can, not only for arrival, but also for departure -- as Otterman points out, I can easily see how people might get severely blown backwards as we set takeoff thrust!

Lovely place - now I just want to go back and stay a while, for a proper vacation! Any recommendations from any of you who happen to live locally?
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Old 24th Jun 2003, 23:52
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This was posted in another forum

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