Located on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin (i.e., Sint Maarten) is the famous Maho Beach. While it has the characteristic white sand and turquoise water of a Caribbean paradise that is not what makes Maho Beach such a popular tourist destination.
Rather, it has much to do with the Princess Juliana International Airport directly adjacent to Maho.
Arriving aircraft must touch down as close as possible to the beginning of Runway 10 due to the short runway length of 2,180 meters (7,150 ft), resulting in aircraft on their final approach flying over the beach at minimal altitude.
Watching airliners pass over the beach is such a popular activity that daily arrivals and departures airline timetables are displayed on a board in most bars and restaurants on the beach, and one bar even has a speaker on its outside deck that broadcasts the radio transmissions between pilots and the airport’s control tower.
It’s important to note there is a danger of people standing on the beach being blown into the water because of the jet blast from aircraft taking off from runway 10. The local government warns that closely approaching and departing aircraft can “result in serious injury and/or death”. An additional fence has been added recently behind runway 10 to prevent people from hanging on to the main fence surrounding the runway in order to experience being blasted by the jet flow. [Source]
Saint Martin vs Sint Maarten
Saint Martin is an island in the northeast Caribbean, approximately 300 km (190 mi) east of Puerto Rico. The 87 km2 island is divided roughly 60/40 between France (53 km2) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (34 km2). It is one of the smallest sea islands divided between two nations, a division dating to 1648.
The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern French part comprises the Collectivité de Saint-Martin (Collectivity of St. Martin) and is an overseas collectivity of France.
On January 1, 2009 the population of the entire island was 77,741 inhabitants, with 40,917 living on the Dutch side, and 36,824 on the French side. Collectively, the two territories are known as “St-Martin / St Maarten”; sometimes it is referred to as SXM, which is the airport code for Princess Juliana International Airport. [Source]
Photograph by Aldo Bidini