Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Beach Like No Other

How fun, I get to be a guest columnist for my own blog. Kim normally writes the fantastic posts that you get to read every day or so, but she deferred to me on this next topic.

For airline and airplane enthusiasts, there are numerous "must see" locations, but few leave us shivering with delight as Maho Beach in Saint Maarten. Princess Juliana International has one runway and features a short approach that has to be seen to believe.

There are signs posted to warn you about
how much fun you're about to have

The very end of the runway sits next to Maho Beach and aircraft pass over and land literally feet away from you. In addition, due to prevailing winds, nearly all departures occur from the same end of the runway. This results in a jet and sand blast experience like no other. People come from all over the world to get the chance to see this, simply search "St. Maarten Airport Landing" and you'll see what I mean. The airport is quite busy and accepts long range widebody traffic from carriers like KLM and Air France, as well as numerous domestic and Caribbean based carriers. This keeps the runway very busy and us airplane geeks quite happy!

Play this video for the experience yourself. This is not our video, but exactly what we saw!

This was a dream come true for me. I had always wanted to visit St. Maarten simply for the airport take offs and landings, not to mention the beautiful escape it makes as Minneapolis is receiving 20 inches of snow. Kim was happy because there was a beach and warm weather; that's enough for her. I am thankful she puts up with me!

I had business to attend to and so I chose a hotel right next to the airport, with a room that looked at the airport; how convienent! This left us within walking distance of Maho Beach and our first evening there, we just happened to time it right to be at the beach when Air France took off. When airplanes land, people stand directly under or just to the side of the fIight line. When the airplanes takes off, adventurous individuals choose to stand mere feet from the engines. When the aircraft spools up to take off speed, it leaves behind jetblast and you get hot, windy air that kicks up an incredible amount of sand. I never intended to participate in the fun, but instead wanted to take pictures of it. I expected the aircraft to straighten out and take off, but instead, he left at slight angle and I ended up directly in the blast zone!

Air France A340 bound for Paris
This is the aircraft that I ended up behind

One last fun aspect, there is a resteraunt right on the beach that is wholy dedicated to serving food (good food at that) to folks watching the aircraft. They have ATC radios and pizza's named after all the airlines. I had always wanted to sit there and watch the aircraft and was very happy that I got to do this too.

Yes, it's real. This is American Airlines Boeing 737 landing at Maho Beach.

Lined up on the airport fence for the chance to be jetblasted


The guys and me at Maho Beach

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