Tag Archives: St. Maarten

Close call: Boeing 737 almost crashes into the water while landing into St. Maarten

A WestJet B737 Demonstrates How the Famous Princess Juliana Approach Can Be Tricky.

Every aviation enthusiast knows about the approach to St. Maarten’s famous Princess Juliana Airport and the remarkable views of aircraft landing there from Maho Beach directly in front of the runway threshold.

While this has always been a great place to celebrate aviation, it can also turn dangerous.

On March 7, Tuesday, WestJet flight 2652 from Toronto was making a descent through a low ceiling to Princess Juliana. The first attempt through rain and low cloud cover was videotaped and photographed by plane spotters who are almost always at Maho Beach to watch incoming aircraft. On that Tuesday they caught a near miss: a near Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).

The first approach puts the Toronto flight short and low, low enough that jet wash from the Boeing can be seen creating turbulence on the surface of the water. The flight crew does an excellent job of immediately applying power and going around for a second approach. Commercial flight crews, and especially those trained and, in some cases, specially certified to fly into airports with unusual approaches, are well-drilled both in the simulator and as 2nd officers for flights into these airports before captaining a flight there.

Even with the low cloud cover the second approach in the video has a higher trajectory, is more on glide slope presumably and has no problem coming in safely over the water and clearing the famous fence at Princess Juliana.

The video is noteworthy since incidents like this at Princess Juliana, St. Maarten are actually very rare. According to at least one source, there has never been an accident recorded on the final approach to the famous runway 09/27 at Princess Juliana (even though it’s pretty obvious there have been several near-CFIT incidents and actual mishaps by civil and military aircraft crashing short of the runway at the end of a final approach in both good and bad weather in aviation history). This further speaks to the special training commercial pilots undergo to fly the route.

While there have been conversations about closing Maho Beach to the public for safety reasons it has remained open since there have really been no significant accidents for observers on the ground and it remains a sensational attraction for tourists and aviation enthusiasts alike.

Video credit: ATCpilot.com


A "strange" picture from St. Maarten – Princess Juliana airport

I have often criticised media inaccuracy when talking about aviation matters. Usually, this happens when aviation emergencies are technically analysed, but today’s inaccuracies have nothing to do with technical details. On Jan 9, Repubblica.it website (the most visited media website in Italy) published a set of pictures of aircraft taking off or landing in the World famous Princess Juliana (SXM) airport, located in St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles. Most of the pictures (displayed at the following address: http://www.repubblica.it/2006/05/gallerie/esteri/isola-aeroporto-antille/1.html) are among the most viewed on Airliners.net and Jetphotos.net websites, some come from elsewhere and at least another is at least weird. The picture shows a B747-400 of an unknown company (Air Pays Bas) with registration PH-RIP and with a livery that is a mixture between the Air France and the KLM ones. That picture, that is the number 19 of the series by Repubblica.it, is obviously a fake and interestingly it is an edited version of another picture, the number 10 of the series showed.

The real image was taken on Jun 26, 2003 by Aric Thalman and shows a KLM B747-406 with registration PH-BFL. How do I know this? Simply because that picture is also on Airliners.net and can be viewed at higher resolution at the following address: http://www.airliners.net/photo/KLM—Royal/Boeing-747-406/0385938/L/.
As you can see, I just provided the link to the A.net photo (the original one) here, because pics on that website are copyrighted. Airliners is clear enough on restriction for the use of the photos uploaded on that site: “You may not use these photos on any web page, commercial or non-commercial, for profit or non-profit, without written permission from the photographer. You may however link to the photos in the manner described below….”. The manner described later foresees the use of Javascript code that was not used in the Repubblica.it page so I wonder if who prepared the page did contact the photographer of each picture taken from Airliners. For sure he didn’t check whether the images were real or not (btw there are also some doubles).