Photo credit: Benny Zheng
Princess Juliana International Airport is best known for very low-altitude flyover landing approaches due to one end of its runway being extremely close to the shore and Maho Beach. The airport serves as a hub for Windward Islands Airways and is the major gateway for the smaller Leeward Islands, including Anguilla, Saba, St. Barthelemy and St. Eustatius. Continue reading to see more.
Because the approach to Runway 10 is over water, pilots can become disoriented regarding their perceived altitude when operating under visual flight rules. Normal instrument checks, coupled with experience and situational awareness, mitigate potential problems. The departure from Runway 10 presents more “difficulties” than the approach, with a turn required to avoid mountains in the departure path.
Arriving aircraft approach the island on the last section of the final approach for Runway 10, following a 3° glide slope flying low over the famous Maho Beach. Pictures of low flying aircraft were published in several news magazines worldwide in early 2000. The thrilling approaches and ease of access for shooting spectacular images, made the airport one of the world’s favorite places among planespotters. To meet changing international and local regulations a 150-metre (490 ft) safety extension was required.