St. Maarten Airport

Landing – This one is a little close to the end of the runway.

This one is close too.

Takeoff – Notice the fence is bent from gawkers hanging on to it.

  1. Uncle Dave says:

    I was there last December for work and can attest to this crazy airport (really nice, new, surprisingly big terminal, though). That road is the only one going from the airport toward the main part of the island. Have to say that plane landed a bit lower than the ones I saw (a bit higher, so land further down the runway), but for a jumbo jet, I guess they need all the runway they can get.

  2. Frank IBC says:

    The approach to the old airport in Hong Kong (Kai Tak) was pretty crazy, too.

  3. B. Dog says:

    Always wear eye protection.

  4. BubbaRay says:

    Good Grief !! I’ve come that close to power lines before, and hope to never repeat that close one again. Students!

    Here’s one plane that wasn’t that fortunate, trying to make an emergency landing on a highway. This is exactly why being a flight instructor isn’t just a bunch of fun.

  5. Peter Rodwell says:

    In Microsoft Flight Simulator there is actually a sign at that end of the runway saying, “WARNING! Low flying and departing aircraft blast can cause physical injury.” Presumably the sign really exists.

  6. Major Jizz says:

    I was there in 2003, stayed at the Maho Beach hotel, which is right near this attraction. It was kind of interesting eating burgers and watching planes land. All inclusive baby!

  7. bobbo says:

    The “worst” airport to land at has a runway 3 miles long (if memory serves).

    La Paz, Bolivia. High altitude makes the plane slow to respond in a way pilots are not used to seeing and not reproduced in a simulator.

    Short runways aren’t that bad, as long as you allow yourself to go around when need be.

  8. James Hill says:

    Memo to terrorists: Forget the shoulder fired missile, just bring a rock.

  9. Frank IBC says:

    Yes, the La Paz airport (in El Alto, the city’s “twin”) is at 4,100 m (13,400 feet) above sea level, where the air is only 61% as dense as it is at sea level – planes must be travelling at a much higher speed when taking off or landing, due to the decreased lift in the thinner air.

    The runway is 4000 m (2.5 miles) long – in spite of that, it seems like forever before the nose finally starts to lift – by that time the plane is going much faster than for a normal liftoff, and it feels like it’s going to vibrate itself to death from the bumps on the runway.

    And barely 2km after the (south) end of the runway, the Altiplano (high plateau) on which the airport is built (El Alto) drops off sharply into the canyon which contains La Paz proper, 500 m (1,600 feet) lower.

  10. OhForTheLoveOf says:

    It’s a shame that in America we are so damn concerned with tethering every last one of us and wrapping the country in Nerf “for our protection” that nothing this amazingly cool could exist.

  11. BubbaRay says:

    #9, Frank, yes, I used to fly in and out of Albuquerque NM, 5100 ft. MSL, and at 110F the density altitude approaches 10,000 ft. Cheese, it’s like taking off at near the service ceiling of a light twin. Nothing like a 13,000 ft. runway to help!

  12. RBG says:

    Click on the Penticton Airport photo (4th one down)(BC, Canada) for a bigger, more inclusive view

    Not in the same league as St. Maarten but likewise just across a road from a beach where you can swim & watch the jets land.


  13. bobbo says:

    #10—Thanks for the clip==it gave me the willies. And it is more unnerving to take off than it is to land. The take off roll becomes less controllable as time goes by while landing is just the opposite.

    Interesting Factoid (or not?)–we had to take off and land early in the morning at La Paz because of what limitation of our aircraft??????

    ——- think and scroll down——

    Sorry bout that, but some might want the exercise.

    Answer==as stated, the higher you are (density altitude) the faster your true air speed is. So, before the air got heated up by the sun thereby raising the density altitude thereby increasing the takeoff and landing speed, my aircraft was limited to a tire rotation speed of 162 mph. Above that rotational speed, tire fatigue (blow apart) could happen rather quickly==especially on landing with the extra heat.

    Night landings were fun too what with no instrument landing service.

    Over and out.

  14. BubbaRay says:

    #14, What, no IFR, not even a VOR or NDB/ADF approach? Cheese.
    And some small airports in Colorado in the summer are fun, too! At least St. Maarten is at 0 ft. MSL.

  15. Frank IBC says:

    Bobbo –

    Interesting. I noted that both my flights into La Paz from Miami were very early in the morning, but I didn’t know why.

    Another complicating factor – for the above reasons and others, the weight of planes flying into La Paz is restricted. On my previous trip, when the plane was preparing to take off from Miami, it was determined that there was too much weight and 10 passengers were volunteered to take another flight. Unfortunately, as they were removing the luggage of the people staying behind, they took out my checked bag and didn’t put it back on the plane. So I spent the first day in Bolivia with just the contents of my carryon bag and the clothes on my back.

  16. Frank IBC says:

    Tegucigalpa, Honduras has a hair-raising approach and short runway.

  17. Slappy says:

    Awesome, some new candidates for the Darwin awards.

  18. T-Rick says:

    Anyone that close to an American runway, or even making an effort to watch planes take off and land (see plane spotter stories) are treated like potential terrorists.

  19. bobbo says:

    15–Correct. No ILS. That was back in 19 and 73 so things must have improved? There was a VOR with a swinging needle with an outer marker and that was it.

    I have a total of 5 war stories. Will inject them only when tangentially relevant?

  20. bobbo says:

    18–Another great video. I noticed he was in a bit of a crab when he touched down, so its windy too?

  21. Frank IBC says:

    By “in a crab”, do you mean that the plane was slightly askew to the runway when it touched down? I was guessing it was windy, too.

  22. Phillip Wade says:

    Hadn’t been there in almost 40 years but Goose Bay, Labrador used to be interesting. The runway was built between the plateau and the ocean, so you had to lose about 2500 feet in less than 3 miles to land. First time, I thought I was dead for sure! San Diego is fun too

  23. Frank IBC says:

    Hey, I was right about the runway at Tegucigalpa Airport.

    The runway here in TGU is very short compared with many runways in other countries. It is the second smallest international airport in the world. The actual length of the runway is 6,132 feet (1869 m).

    Wow, that’s actually shorter than the runway at my home airport, Washington (Reagan) National, which is 6,869 feet (2,094 m). Brrrr.

  24. bobbo says:

    23–Yes, thats a crab. Actually strong crosswinds are relatively “easy” to handle, its the variable direction, and worse yet, the gusts that can kill you. Small aircraft are built to land in a crab. The structure of large aircraft makes the landing gear subject to failure if the side forces/shear are too great such as experienced when landing in a crab==so the procedure is to land “wing low” by applying rudder to line up the aircraft and cross ailerons to prevent drifting.

    I was ordered once to land at Andrews AFB with strong gusting winds 90 degrees to the runway. I reported that the gusts (over 50 mph) where outside the range of my aircraft. The tower responded to “land inbetween the gusts.” Well, I have called BS before, but I was intrigued—can I get this beast down???????

    So, I lined up using maximum asymetrical control and was doing ok, but the aircraft was drifting slightly. I guess the landing charts are correct, 50 mph was the max! What to do????????

    ———scroll down for those interested———-

    ——–and yes I apologize—————-

    ——–This is War Story No 2————

    So, the only thing left was to use asymetrical engine power and that did indeed work. Once on the ground we taxied in and stopped and the plane was immediately unloaded. I asked the loadmaster how he got the cargo off so quickly and he asked what I meant. We were just parked. The aircraft was being buffeted around like I had never experienced, while parked!

    I could have died. Not that big a deal, but I would have taken my crew with me. I swore never to show off again – – – and I never did. That lead to War Stories 3 & 4 for another day.

  25. BubbaRay says:

    #26, Ah, such a late post no one will read it anyway. Bobbo, it’s alway fun to emergency land an 800 lb. taildragger that runs out of rudder at 30 kts. in a 35-40 kt. crosswind. Nothing you can do but head out into the grass as the airspeed dies off. Watch out for those runway lights. And taxiing? Nah, just shut her down in the field and call for a tow and two really big guys to help hold down the wings.

  26. RBG says:

    Can I use that next time I’m in a bar full of ladies?

    When I have a dinky 172 on final in a crabbed configuration, normally I would swing the aircraft parallel to the runway at the very last moment.

    Not too many war stories here.

    Once had a coyote run out of the bush and chase the tire as I was on the roll for take-off.

    Dumbest Moment: Low time, landing a 152 at an Int’l airport. Taking my sweet time and causing a heavy to have to do a last minute go-around. Geez, I’m sorry….

    Weirdest moment. On a night final, a bird flying straight at the aircraft somehow flits over the prop and bounces off the top of the cabin.

    Weird moment #2: Passenger pees into a coke bottle and drops it onto a farmer’s field.

    Is This Nuts Or What Moment: Solo spin practices (Canada) with only 17 hours of flight time.

    Most Exhilarating Moment: Probably night flights over the big city & subsequent landings.

    Most dangerous Moment: Seeing the face of the other pilot as we both cross the VOR at the same time.


  27. bobbo says:

    27-28 Its never too late. “Recall em while you can!” Use em as you wish, but only the rare lady enjoys a good war story. Tell her instead how you flew over a meadow and the field of yellow poppies were in the shape of a heart, and you turned the airplane around to be with her.

    ((Ha, ha, I crack myself up!)) If she is real stupid, say the flowers spelled her name!! That one can work on a real smart gal too if she knows you are full of shit and having fun.

    Life offers Lots of “incidents”. Hopefully we can learn from them all.

  28. Frank IBC says:

    I was in Bolivia on May 24, hhopper. 🙂


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