When Airplanes Get Too Close


Maho Beach in 1985
Image: auteur du fichier Maho Beach in 1985

Imagine lying on the beach, a good book in one hand, drink in another, feeling the cool breeze in your hair, when suddenly, that breeze gets stronger and stronger and is accompanied by an unbearable loud noise that you think will shatter the windows of the nearby shacks. As you look up, you’re face to belly with a commercial airliner. After a few seconds, it’s all over. Fiction? We’ve found a few places where it’s not. Before you scream ‘shopped’, wait for the videos…

St. Maarten
Image: Todd Neville In case of a beach landing, use your blanket as a beach towel

The beach in these first two images is famous Maho Beach, adjacent to Princess Juliana International Airport on Saint Martin or St. Maarten, the eastern Caribbean island’s Dutch part. Planes fly by so close that sun bathers seem to be able to reach out their hand and touch them – Maho Beach therefore attracts scores of plane spotters every day. Says Drew about the experience:

“I’ve been to that beach… and there’s no way … that you wouldn’t’ve known about it, since there are signs clearly posted…. in fact, the “road” through the beach is actually two concrete trenches for your tires so that you don’t get blown away by low flying aircraft… It is still pretty cool, though.”


Warning sign Maho Beach
Image: Jj04

A current sign reads: “Jet blast of departing and arriving aircraft can cause severe physical harm resulting in extreme bodily harm and/or death.” Er, thanks for the warning.

Christine adds: “I have been to that beach, and been tanning when the planes come in. It is more cool then actually scary. It is one of those [instances where] the picture looks worse than it actually is but the picture is totally real!”

If you say so, Christine. We’re still skeptical about the entertainment value and want to see for ourselves. Next up, a video of various landings (so turn down the volume!)…