|ICAO Code:||TNCM/SXM||Info Last Validated:||09-2013|
|City:||St. Maarten||Position:||18°02'28"N 63°06'32"W|
Princess Juliana Airport on the island of St.Maarten needs no introduction. World famous for it's spectacular approach over Maho Beach, St.Maarten tops many aviation photographer's wish lists. This guide has all the tips and tricks you need to make your stay an unforgettable one! We have listed the main spots in this guide, but as the airport is very open, you will probably find yourself more interesting options. Just go and enjoy the great atmosphere!
Mother nature determined not only the fantastic location of the airport, it's expanding possibilities are limited by her too. All aircraft activity takes place on the northern side of the runway.
Whether their destination is Dutch Sint Maarten or French Saint Martin, most travelers arrive at Princess Juliana Airport, although a few ferry connections with nearby islands do exist. The airport is situated on the Dutch side of the island, at an equal distance from both capitals Philipsburg (Dutch) and Marigot (French). Coming from Philipsburg head west over the hill, from Marigot head south towards the Dutch side. Both roads lead to a T-junction just east of Simpson Bay. From Marigot take a right, from Philipsburg take a left, to the airport. This road leads under the 28 approach. For those not hiring a car there is a minibus service on certain routes. One of the routes is from Mullet and Maho to Philipsburg and passes the airport terminal, Simpson Bay, Cole Bay and onward to Philipsburg (it also passes the YS11). There is no set timetable but there are plenty.
The premier spot for aviation enthusiasts visiting Sint Maarten is the Sunset Beach Bar at Maho Beach. From your beach chair ($7 per day) you can watch the aircraft on finals at runway 10. The approach is extraordinary low over the beach and many people come here just to watch aircraft. Aircraft lining up for departure can be watched as well and easily read off. Moreover, this spot provides great views of the north western ramps, where most bizjets are sometimes parked. Arrival and departure times of the larger aircraft are published on a surf board... Light conditions are favourable until 01.00 PM. Another option is a small powerhouse just past the curve in the road, near Bliss restaurant. Standing on top of it will give good views of the ultra-low approach as well as aircraft lining up for departure. Basically, the whole area around the beach is great for photography and you can spend the entire day here playing with your camera.
After 01.00 PM this is the place to be for the same spectacular views as described with spot 1. If you have enough of the sand for the day, try the swimming pool of the The Royal Islander, across the approach from spot 1 or one of the beach chairs at Sonesta. A deck has been constructed here so you can view the aircraft from above. Apparently, you don't have to be a hotel guest to visit the pool. The Sonesta hotel also offers excellent views of the approach. Late in the afternoon the seaside pool is the place to be. Some have even recommended the roof of the main hotel building, which can be found on the 9th floor and is usually accessible....
Another interesting spot to view the 10 approach is located at Beacon Hill. From Maho Beach just follow the road and keep left at the first junction. After few hundred meters you will find an open spot on your left with an overview of the airport and the approach. Only good in the morning though.
Continuing your drive from spot 4 on Beacon Hill, keep the runway on your left and drive as far as you can get. Park your car near the holiday homes and walk on the large beach adjacent to the runway. For about 700 meters the beach stretches along the runway enabling you to photograph aircraft in take-off. Great views of the ramps across the runway can be obtained from here as well. With photography on the runway best until about 01.00PM.
Bored of making pictures of aircraft coming in low over the beach ? This spot might be a good option, although a good lens and some luck are required. Because of the mountain range in the departure path, the aircraft make a sharp right turn just after take-off. La Vista Resort in Pelican Key (south east of the airport) is situated at a height of 360ft and offers great views of aircraft turning away from the mountains, towards your lens.
Although approach 28 is actually never used by large aircraft, smaller aircraft may use it occasionally, particularly in September and October when the north eastern tradewinds are not gusting. The best way to reach this spot is to round the airport and turn right just after passing the 28 threshold. Until 05.00 PM this spot is good for photography. Some small aircraft are dumped in this corner as well, a helispot can also be found, very close to the fence. Aircraft turning sharp after take off can be graphed from here too.
Heading back to the terminal from spot 6, just after passing the 28 threshold the road makes a sharp left turn. If you can find a spot to park your car at the right of the road, you might be able to spend a couple of hours here after 05.00 PM and watch some smaller aircraft bending sharply over Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Light aviation is concentrated on the north eastern apron. A bit further to the west is the main bizjet apron, although during the weekend you can find bizjets all over the airfield. If you have not read them all off from Simpson Beach (spot 4) you can make a few stops on Airport Road.
- (PJ-WIK)This YS-11-111 is in use as a restaurant along the road to Philipsburg with Air Lekkerbek titles.
- Official site of Princess Juliana Airport.