3737116278_eb6e632195.jpgToday was my day to fly to St. Maarten to spend the whole day planespotting at the legendary Maho Beach, one of the world's most epic locations for photographing airplanes. Maho Beach is a beautiful sand beach at the very end of the runway for St. Maarten's Princess Julianna International Airport (SXM), the second largest airport in the Caribbean (behind San Juan, Puerto Rico's). The planes fly in low for touchdown right over the sand, which makes for some amazing photography.



My flight to SXM from V.C. Bird International Airport in Antigua was a 6:30am flight on a Liat Airlines DeHavilland Q300. When we boarded we were told there would a slight delay as they had to do some repairs on the port side engine due to it making "noises". I could see the engineer's body as he worked inside the wheel well underneath the engine. After an uneventful flight to St. Kitts then SXM, I walked from the terminal the short distance to Maho Beach. Because it was only 8am it was quiet. The first of the airlines wasn't due to arrive for a few hours, so I had some time to get my settings right on the various commuter airlines that fly in, a mix of Q300s for Liat, Twin Otters for Winair and Britten-Norman Islanders from St. Barths.



3737095598_22cfc06c2f.jpgWhile waiting for the day's real action to begin I met another American spotter who turned out to be a Continental 757 pilot who was spotting during his 25 hour layover. It turns out his original a/c was being serviced due to a forward slat failure. Anyways, his flight was to depart and 1:30pm and he asked me to get some photos of his departure. No problem.


The weather was forecast for cloudy and rainy, but I was used to that kind of forecast for Seattle meaning overcast with occasional rain. In the Caribbean that means blistering sun between intermittent clouds and the occasional torrential downpour. Some of the hardest rains I've ever seen interrupted the day 3 or 4 times sending everyone for cover in the Sunset Bar and Grill.



The highlight of the day for aviation was the KLM 747-400 that was due in the afternoon, however the period from 1-4pm had a stream of 737 and 757 traffic about every 15-20 minutes. However, not ever arrival was in bright sun, so about half of my shots are in overcast.



3736294161_ac9d39abda.jpgAfter shooting everything that was scheduled to arrive in my time window, I started walking back to the terminal. On the way I found a low spot on their security wall where someone had conveniently position a large boulder giving me a great view of the taxiway and runway, and just in time as the Air France A340 and KLM 747 were departing. So I got a few bonus runway shots of these two widebodies.



The Liat flight I was scheduled to take back to Antigua was for 6:30. However, due to delay after delay, and watching other Liat flights delay and cancel I was beginning to get concerned. To make things worse, my phone didn't work in St. Maarten and I locked up the SIM card, so I couldn't get any numbers on it to call on another phone to tell Jenn I was delayed. I finally managed to contact her on IM on a PC in the First Class lounge and tell her I'd be way late. It turned out that my flight was going to be used for the Tortola run THEN return and fly to Antigua, so it wasn't until 11:30pm that I finally landed in Antigua. The DeHavilland Q100 they used for the run was the most ghetto airplane I've ever been on. Granted a Dash-8 Q100 is an older model, but the condition of the interior. Wow. Liat is supposed to be the best airline in the Caribbean, too?


Finally got home, exhausted.