Mkeflyer717 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 431 posts, RR: 12 Posted (5 years 3 months 1 week 9 hours ago) and read 19250 times:
I never exactly thought I would get around to making a trip report for this, but I have a little extra time on my hands now that I’m home for the holidays. This trip was from quite a while back in March during my spring break when I was on the Celebrity Summit’s Eastern Caribbean cruise. My mom flew down from MKE, then we both flew MCO-SJU on B6, but I’ve decided the focus of this report to be exclusively my experience at SXM. Time permitting I may in the future make a report covering the flights to/from Puerto Rico and the rest of the cruise.
The cruise began in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the first port of call was St. Maarten. This was my second time to the island, however my first time to the famous Maho Beach. On my past Royal Caribbean cruise we were on an excursion the day we stopped at St. Maarten and were unable to make a visit to SXM. Passing up that opportunity, I knew I had to get back and make every effort to fulfill my spotting dream! One of the main reasons behind our cruise selection this time around, other than trying out a cruise line we hadn’t been on before, was that this particular cruise stopped in St. Maarten on a Sunday which meant we’d be there on one of the busiest days of the week for SXM. I’ve heard from various sources that there are significantly less flights to SXM during the weekdays so I made sure we didn’t choose a cruise that stopped there on one of those less busy days.
Upon docking at the port in Philipsburg, we wasted no time in disembarking the ship for we wanted to maximize the time we would have spotting. We conveniently found a cab right outside the port gates and made our way across the island towards the airport. The only risk in doing this was making sure we got back to the ship at the end of the day. Through excursions you are guaranteed to not be left behind, but taking a cab like we did places that responsibility on us.
It wasn’t a problem or anything for us, but we just had to pay attention to time, since we knew we would be driving back to port at a somewhat busier time of the day when traffic might have been backed up.
Driving past the terminal entrance… almost to the beach!
We arrived at Maho Beach around 10AM and at that early time it was pretty much deserted…
The famous Sunset Bar & Grill where we spent the next 6 hours.
Initially I checked out the area before things would certainly pick up and get crowded before long once more and more people left the ships.
Very quiet, but I knew that would be rather short lived.
Ahh The famous Danger sign… sure wouldn’t keep me from getting close to all the action.
I also quickly realized that the weather had changed dramatically since we left port. Skies were rapidly clouding up on the westside of the island, thanks to the strong prevailing easterly flow over the mountains.
Eventually the rain came down, and I mean really came down. Typical tropical soaker for sure! In the meantime my mom and I just mingled with a few other guests at the bar while we waited for the weather to improve. Met some very interesting people during this time, some were regulars to the area and others first-timers like us.
The board where they write all the day’s flights. Unfortunately chalk doesn’t last long in the rain, and the flights simply vanished before my eyes! I think they were rewritten again later in the afternoon when the rain moved out.
For about the first hour or so I was one of the only crazy persons who actually ran out in the pouring rain to get as close as possible to the arriving/departing aircraft, and let me say, the combination of rain and sand in the jet blast made for an even more painful encounter! The heat from the engines of the departing aircraft felt nice since the cloudy skies and precip kept the temperatures below my tropical expectations at first. Eventually a few other brave souls stepped away from shelter and joined me on the sand. At that point we all hoped the weather would clear up. I did not want my entire SXM visit to be a washout. Even if it was though I knew I would enjoy myself… after all I had finally made it to one of my top destinations.
One of the many private jets that arrived that afternoon
Finally some of the bigger stuff started show up…
The lowest approach during my stay... at least for jet aircraft.
Quick turnaround on this Insel aircraft. I remember the blast from this jet being one of the best.
Soo many 757s!
Oh no, where’s the winglet?
Faceoff! Who’s going to win? I was surprised to see 3 aircraft on an active runway all at once.
My view of this UA A320
And my mother’s view of me taking a picture of the same UA A320 lol
The weather did get better, and the crowds got larger. A group of us onlookers (I’m in the bright green shirt) getting taking on the jetblast from a 757. I find it amusing how there were like equal amounts of people taking pictures of planes as there were taking pictures of those watching the planes close up. Everyone’s reactions were hilarious. Some people were soo dramatic but it was all fun. The best was watching everyone’s belongings (mostly hats) blow into the water.. as if they didn’t know that would happen. The only real danger I saw in all of this was the occasional small rock/stone that would get picked up by the blast and strike your skin.
Me again spotting this Us 757 over the threshold.
Thanks to my mom for capturing these awesome shots of me! I did not know she was even taking them, but I’m glad she did.
By this time, several of the aircraft that I had watched fly directly over my head a short time before were now making their way back to the U.S. Most of the pilots made clearly visible waves. One of the Jetblue pilots thought he was cooler than the traditional wave so he expressed the “rock-on” sign. Lol I just wonder how much fun it has got to be for these pilots to fly in and out of SXM. I mean on landing they nearly skim our heads, then on takeoff they get to intentionally sand blast hundreds of onlookers. What an adrenaline rush!
Standing behind the CO 757 just prior to its takeoff roll down runway 9.
Basically this picture sums up what it’s like right in the middle of all the action while getting ready to be struck by the strong winds. The worst part probably has to be all the sand that gets into your eyes, but it’s not really that bad. Most of the people at the beach with us that afternoon were from our same cruise ship. Even though it was only about a day into the cruise I still recognized a few of the faces. The cruise lines don’t run any of their own excursions to Maho Beach (which surprises me), but by word of mouth, plenty of adventurous people make it there anyways. One would think they could somehow organize busses from the port to Maho, provide a lunch in coordination with the Sunset bar & grill, and make it an official excursion. The demand is certainly there. On the ship that night many people were talking about their experiences at Maho Beach. Celebrity also includes a rather thorough segment of Maho Beach in their trip summary videos available for purchase at the end of the trip.
I made some good conversation with people during the hours spent running all around the beach that day including this guy who’s UND shirt caught my eye. Being from ERAU I only thought it was appropriate to make a few comments haha (don’t worry everything was in good humor, I don’t intend on upsetting any UND students/alumni on here). A lot of people even eventually began coming to me as a reliable source for information because the word had somehow spread across the beach that I had done some research and brought my own accurate schedule of the day’s flights. So when there was a brief lull in the action I informed everyone what to expect next. The attention wasn’t expected, but it was nice
Now back to some more photos…
Another fairy low approach
Crowd building shortly before the AF A340 arrival.
Here she is, looking a little dirty I might add…
Unfortunately I didn’t get many pics because I switched to video.. same was true for the Corsair 747.
ATR vs. A340
Back taxiing to the terminal
US 757 taking the centerline.
This never got old! These little guys would dive in on short approached one after another. The winds were also gusty the entire day, so that made some of the landings even more interesting to watch.
IIRC this plane had to make a go-around... there just wasn’t enough landing distance remaining by the time he turned “final” haha
Burning calories running around for hours straight, having the time of my life only meant that I eventually needed to grab a bite to eat. After struggling to find an open table at Sunset we eventually succeeded and enjoyed some terrific food.
View from our table…
So many distractions while trying to eat. My head was continuously swiveling back and forth from my plate to the airplanes.
My fake “fence-holding” pose lol
Look at all that metal! Busy busy day at SXM just like I anticipated.
Now around this time I, as well as everyone else, anxiously awaited the arrival of the Corsair 747. It apparently was running a little late, then all of a sudden I caught a glimpse of it to the north turning downwind. The moment had everyone waited for finally had arrived.
Once that rush was over we lingered for a few more minutes before deciding to call it a day by finding a taxi to return to the port. Our van ride had a delayed start since we were held up in a line of traffic that had to momentarily hold short of the runway for a 757 to takeoff.
Overall, my experience at SXM was absolutely incredible. It was very surreal to actually be there in person and to witness all the excitement close up. I wish I would’ve been able to stay to watch the heavies depart because I really wanted to experience their powerful jetblast, but they just didn’t depart early enough. In total I took around 600-800 photos in about 6 hours and several videos as well. I really hope to go back someday, maybe for a longer stay in the future. Originally we were going to just go to SXM only for a 5 day vacation, but those prices got quite ridiculous so we opted with the cruise. If you have been to SXM already you know how addicting that true aviation enthusiast’s paradise really is. If you haven’t made a visit yet, I think it goes without saying that I recommend this destination for you future travel plans. You will not be let down!
Thanks for reading,
Oldman55 From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 1525 posts, RR: 30
Reply 4, posted (5 years 3 months 1 week 3 hours ago) and read 18606 times:
Great report Gaston; Its a little dissapointing that you didn't get a closer shot of the 747. Gravelly Point at DCA is close to the airport also; but not THAT close lol. Nothing goes there larger than a 757 either, and not many of them.
too bad most of us get too soon old and too late smart
MadameConcorde From San Marino, joined Feb 2007, 11042 posts, RR: 36
Reply 7, posted (5 years 3 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 17193 times:
Thank you very much for posting this report with all these nice pictures. This is very complete, it gives a very good idea of what the scene is like. Were there any Japanese around at Maho that day? They know about the place and are very fond of it I hear.
How many United flights to SXM every day? Where do they originate from? Any idea? How about the Air Caraibes? They seem to be operating a number of different aircraft types and I would very much liike to try them out of and into SXM if they are not too costly. I will have to see what islands they serve. Also I will have to check on the cost of the next door hotel/resort with possible in-room plane spotting. The food at the café sounds yummy not talking about the view!
Anyway thanks a lot, this was good fun looking at. I am glad you had a good time. You will make many A.netters wanting to go there!
I hope Princess Juliana airport will stay open a while longer. Never know what will come next.
There was a better way to fly it was called Concorde
Mkeflyer717 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 431 posts, RR: 12
Reply 12, posted (5 years 3 months 2 days ago) and read 16413 times:
Darn, this bandwith problem happened once in the past. i've apparently reached my bandwith usage limit for the month. An email notification from photobucket says we'll have to wait until Jan. 9th for the everything to reset so that the pictures will be visible again. The only other solution would be for me to purchase the pro upgrade thing, but I am not doing that. Ughh I didn't expect this to happen... sorry everyone.
Quoting MadameConcorde (Reply 7): Were there any Japanese around at Maho that day? They know about the place and are very fond of it I hear.
Not a ton from what I can recall. It was mostly Canadian and American tourists from our ship and another that docked that day.
Quoting MadameConcorde (Reply 7): How many United flights to SXM every day? Where do they originate from? Any idea? How about the Air Caraibes?
According to wikipedia, United flies to SXM from ORD and IAD. I'm not sure how often though.
Air Caraibes destinations from SXM are: Pointe-à-Pitre, St Barthélemy, Paris-Orly, Port-au-Prince.
Quoting MadameConcorde (Reply 7): Also I will have to check on the cost of the next door hotel/resort with possible in-room plane spotting.
That's would we originally we're planning on doing. The Sonesta Maho Beach resort was fairly reasonable, but the airfare spiked suddenly and it became more practical to go with the cruise since flights to SJU were rather cheap out of MCO. In my opinion cruises continue to be the best way to see the Caribbean and I'm already anxiously awating my next one this coming March on the Crown Princess out of Ft. Lauderdale with 2 days at sea and stops in Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Roatan Honduras, and Princess Cay (the cruise line's private island) in the Bahamas.
Quoting Lukeyboy95 (Reply 11): oh, purely speculation! But we know how 747's are very sadly meeting their demise and being phased out....God save the Queen
Oh Ok gotcha. I thought there may have been some sort of announcement that Corsair was switching to only A330s on that route, but I hear ya about the 747s. Beautiful aircraft, that Ive sadly not have had a chance to ride in yet hopefully some day I will
WideBodyroga From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 613 posts, RR: 14
Reply 14, posted (5 years 2 months 3 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 15650 times:
How about providing us with the link to your photobucket account so we can see the photos from there? Will that not work? I think that even if you exceed your limit, one can directly see the photos from there? Or am I wrong? In a ny case, a great report. Can't wait for the photos.
Visit my aviation page: http://widebodyroga.weebly.com/
DrJCraig From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 18 posts, RR: 0
Reply 17, posted (4 years 11 months 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 12980 times:
Bravo! I am finally going to get there in 2 weeks - staying at a small hotel adjacent to the pad where the jets turn around to head back up the rwy to get to the terminal. Your report is the very best I've seen on this board.
UA777222 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 3348 posts, RR: 11
Reply 20, posted (4 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 23 hours ago) and read 11806 times:
Just left a week at SXM. Simply amazing. Standing under these aircraft as they take off takes your breath away. I've uploaded a few shots to A.net, we'll see how they come out.
Sunset Bar and Grill is a great place. The staff are friendly and didn't mind me taking up a table for close to 4 hours. We were eating and drinking the entire time however. While the beach and view will draw you there, Sunset (at least while we were there) was giving out 2-for-1 beers.
richierich From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 4360 posts, RR: 6
Reply 22, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 6 days 16 hours ago) and read 9508 times:
Sweet photos! Too bad the weather wasn't so good but at least it kept the sun to a tolerable level.
I was there in February and it is simply a great place to spend some time! I was at the Sunset Beach bar and Maho Beach for at least two full afternoons after spending some time elsewhere on the island in the mornings and evenings. I was fortunate to see the Corsair 747 come in as well, its quite a sight!
The mix of people on the beach was typical aviation geeks (nothing wrong with that - heck, I was there!), other curious tourists and lots of cruise ship passengers. In fact, part of the cruise crew was there on one of my days, and let me say that is the freaking life! These young guys and girls work hard but also play hard - they were frolicking in the sand and enjoying the same $3 Presidentes as me, only they would be sailing on to another island and another beach tomorrow. This cycle gets repeated almost daily for weeks... wow, got to love it! (Not to mention one of the girls, an Australian, was amazing looking and really caught my eye!) I also talked with some WestJet employees who arrived - not by WestJet - but by the same cruise ship which was at port in Phillipsburg some 7 miles away from Maho Beach.
Anyway, thanks for letting me relive memories from just a few months ago!
ps76 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (4 years 10 months 3 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 8364 times:
Just to say many thanks for the report/pics etc. Yup must be quite something being a pilot and flying into there(!) A pilot called Captain Tony Valillo for American Airlines I think did a trip report of it on Flightsim.com and it was pretty cool how self-conscious he was of being photographed by onlookers on the beach(!)
Glad you enjoyed the spotting trip and the cruise sounds pretty sweet too.