A dream came true when I landed in St. Maarten on 7th of march, just about one week ago. Maho Beach is famous in all over the world. Planes get very close to the beach landing into Princess Julina Airport TNCM. The runway starts just a couple meters from the beach, giving a great photo opportunity for planespotters.
Even though the weather was not very good after our arrival at the hotel, first thing I did was checking flightradar24 for inbound traffic. I saw a Westjet Boeing 737 with a special Disney-painting 30 minutes from the Island, which I definitely wanted to get on camera. So I grabbed my backpack and walked over to the sunset bar, when a rainy storm came in. Clouds dropped down to about 1500 - 2000 feet. When the Westjet came out of the clouds I saw the airframe descending very low, being maybe one mile out from threshold. The pilots perfomed a go around just a few feet over the water. Assuming a normal descend rate of 700 feet per minute on the approach, the Boeing was just seconds away from hiting the water. Everybody at the sunset bar was shocked but then relieved when the pilots performed the go around.
The crew entered a holding over the airfield and performed another approach about 45 minutes later for a safe landing. The flight 2652 from Toronto was just over 4 hours enroute before the incident happended. Here is the video I took from the approaches:
Meanwhile the video can be found on various news channels around the world including "The Sun", "Daily Mail", "Forbes" and "the Telegraph". Copyright remains with ATCpilot though. To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org since licensing fees may apply.
Stay tuned for my planespotting photos from Maho Beach and St. Barths, which I will upload in the following days and weeks. You can also follow me on Instgram (@atcpilot_photography) and Facebook (ATCpilot) .
UPDATE 03/22/2017: Passenger video "Oh my god we are so low"
Today, www.ATCpilot.com received new footage concerning Westjet flight 2652, showing the perspective of a passenger. You wont see much unfortunately because the camera focus was set on the window itself, but you will definitely hear the engines of the Boeing 737 spooling up. Go-Around-thrust was set even later then I thought. The descend was stopped by adding just a bit of thrust in the critical moment. Take-Off-Go-Around or TOGA-power was set when reaching the beach.
I still would rate this as a serious incident. Draw a line from the airframe to the shadow on the water in the image above. It must have been a height of 50-100 feet (wingspan of a 737 is 111 feet). The normal descendrate of a Boeing 737 is about 700 feet per minute on a normal 3° glide path. After leaving this glide path at about three to four miles final, the rate of descend must have increased to maybe 1000 feet per minute. Putting that together, pilots were 3 to 6 seconds away from a catastrophe if they had not added sufficient power to stop descend.
Here is the passenger video of which ATCpilot holds all the necessary rights. However, the passenger filming does not want to be named.