Up Close Airplane Take-Offs and Landings

Before arriving on St. Barths, I had only heard of the spectacular daily air shows provided by the famously short runway at the airport in St. Jean.  The location of the airport, lodged between Gustavia and the beach at St. Jean, provides an unprecedented opportunity to get up close to planes landing and taking-off.  If you’ve ever experienced flying on or off  the island, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  To be in the plane during arrival and departure is quite exciting, but I enjoy watching the show from the ground just as much, if not more.

Watching the planes take off over the blue water in St. Jean is a must.

Watching the planes take off over the blue water in
St. Jean is a must.

One of my favorite spots to get some sun and watch this airshow is on the beach in St. Jean, either to right or just to the left of the runway.  I like to relax and listen for the occasional whirring of planes waiting to take off.  Usually, I don’t even get up from my beach blanket; with one hand, I shade my eyes from the sun and watch as the planes begin their ascent, sometimes very low above the white sand and blue water.  There is something very romantic about it for me, and it’s a reminder of exactly where I am.  If I happen to be taking a stroll and I hear the humming of an engine about to begin its reach into the sky, I like to stand just outside of the marked runway zone- sometimes it feels as if I’m almost eye level with the passengers.  If I’m lucky, I’ll be at the beach on a day with little or no breeze and the planes will be landing over the beach, so close that it feels like I can reach up and touch them.  Of course, it is not advised you do this- it is a moving aircraft and one would not want to be in its direct path as it glides over low dunes and waves.

Watch the planes take off from the beach at St. Barths

Watch the planes take off from the beach.

On most days, the planes arrive by way of Gustavia.  The roundabout at the crest of the hill is another great opportunity to watch as the planes dip down through the valley and gracefully (fingers crossed) land on the short runway towards the beautiful back drop of the beach at St. Jean.  The best times of day to catch a number of landings and take-offs in a short time frame are between 10am and noon, and in the afternoon between 3pm and 5pm.  Again, it is not permitted to block the path of the planes, but if you park along the flanks of the rotary, you can get close enough to feel the breeze of the wings brushing past you.  Truly, a remarkable experience.

Airplanes regularly land above the roundabout towards St. Jean.

Airplanes regularly land above the roundabout towards St. Jean.


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