Friday, June 20, 2008

Airplane mecca

Last month I went to airplane mecca, if you will - yes, that's right: St. Maarten. If you are at all familiar with this island, beyond the knowing where it is and that it's a glorious vacation spot, you would know that it has one of the best airports in the world.

Princess Juliana Airport (SXM) has one runway that runs out into Maho Bay. Beyond the end of the runway, there is a small two-lane road, a strip of beach, and then nothing but the Caribbean. The great part about this is that you can stand on that strip of beach and have planes landing literally right above your head.

It gets better - planes take off from that runway also, meaning that if you're standing on that same strip of beach, you get blasted with jet thrust.

Some family friends send me and my gf there as a graduation gift. They got us a timeshare right next to the airport. For one week, I was able to indulge in my three loves: the ocean, the gf, and airplanes (not in that order, but you get the idea).

One of the pluses of SXM is that beyond the small island hopper prop planes, you get to see the big time commercial jets. AirFrance has a daily (I think) flight in an A340, Corsair flew in a 767 and 747 while we were there, KLM flies in a 747 and MD DC-10, and the US carriers (US Airways, Delta, American, Continental, United and JetBlue) get there with 757's, 737's, and A319/320's).

The first time I was able to go stand under one of the landing planes, I was terrified. It turned out to be an American 757, and in the short finals, I could just see it hitting me. I could already see the headlines: "Tourist run over by plane." In any event, I ended up "getting out of the way" and then feeling completely foolish about it. I go the chance to redeem myself a bit later, and it was a thrill.

The takeoffs were a lot of fun. There were definately some pilots that got a kick out of it because they would linger with their engines blasting for a bit longer than necessary. The thrust was so powerful that you literally could not keep looking at the plane as it left. You could not stand still, it was hopeless to attempt it. The sand blasted so hard it would become engrained in your skin - which was not bad because the Caribbean was conveniently 5 feet away so you could go wash off.

This is definately a must for any plane enthusiast - you will not be disappointed. Pictures forthcoming...


Anonymous said...

what is the order anyway??

sparticus said...

well, there's really no contest...the ocean is fun, playful, and, if necessary, i will travel great distances to see it - just like the gf. planes, especially CRJs which I have a huge crush on, are sleek, beautiful, delicate and when i see them i am completely overtaken by their presence - also like the gf. unfortunately for the ocean and planes, the gf has many other qualities i desire, like talking and holding hands and cuddling, thereby making her the favorite among the three. good question adb.

didier said...

Actually, the airbus is a A330/400 with about 295 passengers.

sparticus said...

didier -
i had not heard of the any airbus other than the A340 and A380 that had four engines. i went to the airbus webpage, and they don't list an A330/400. airbus has studied the options of stretching out to an A330/400, but as far as i know, they have not. check this out:

but, let me know if i missed something.