The Approach to this Airport in Paradise is One of Aviation’s Greatest Challenges
The Gustaf III airport, commonly referred to as St. Bart’s, has earned a title as one of the most challenging airports in the world. With only 2119 feet of runway to land on and an approximate 6-degree glide slope to follow, the pilots at the controls of these aircraft are specially trained and certified to conduct their operations. The most common airplanes operating here are the Pilatus PC-12, Cessna Caravan, DHC Twin Otter, and the occasional BN-2 Norman Islander.
Check out this video by Luxe TV showing this super unique approach into St. Barts. It’s not for the feint of heart whether you are the pilot or a passenger.
What’s The Deal?
Everyone wants their toes in the water and rear end in the sand…and St. Bart’s delivers! This small volcanic island is a French territory that is fully encompassed by shallow reefs with crystal-clear blue water. It boasts some of the finest in French cuisine and culture, while simultaneously allowing the rich/famous to adventure and relax. And occasionally some truly awesome airshows take place there too.
The Risk for the Reward
With such a short runway and an extremely steep approach angle, there is very little room for error. Pilots landing these turboprop commuters must be properly configured and stabilized on speed in order to stop in the available landing distance. A water approach requires an early decision to go around. With the rapidly rising terrain, a late decision might mean your aircraft lacks the energy to make the required climb gradient.
Headed down the hill to land on runway 10, the pilot has to be on speed so that they can flare with enough distance remaining to touch down and stop.
Any extra speed can easily put you into an overrun situation. With gusty winds and thermals, this can be extremely challenging. And unfortunately, not every landing is a successful one. For example, check out this infamous video of a pilot who wasn’t stable and landed long.
For many of us aviation enthusiasts, traveling to St. Bart’s is often out of reach for a myriad of reasons. Nevertheless, we live on vicariously through these awesome plane-spotting videos! Would you be willing to try your hand at landing here? Let us know in the comments!