First Flight to St. Barths, I was the Co-Pilot

When my husband, Doug, and I visited St Martin, our friend Gene invited us to stay with him on St. Barths which is a quick flight or boat ride away. Two cultures split St Martin, French and Dutch. We flew from the French side of St. Martin, because St. Barths is French, and we wanted to avoid the customs’ hassle.

Gustaf III Airport Runway in St. Barths

We hired a pilot who owned a small plane to fly us to St. Barths.

The night before our flight, strong winds blew through our villa and knocked over a lamp. I awoke, worried about our dangerous flight into an airport with one of the shortest runways in the world. The runway is 2,133 feet long.

St. Barths’ airport nestles between two mountains and the Carribean Sea. If you land too soon or to late, you crash into the sea or the mountain.

The next morning, we met our long -blond- haired-laid-back pilot Christian at the St. Martin’s airport. I was surprised when we climbed aboard a plane that had only three seats. My husband wedged himself into the back seat, and I climbed into the co-pilot seat. My first thought was — if Christian had a heart attack, we were doomed.

When we took off, I watched Christian put on head phones. I hoped that he was listening to instructions from the airport control tower, but I feared that he was listening to Jimi Hendrix.

The flight was quick, about 15 minutes, and the Caribbean Sea sparkled. I started to relax, but that changed abruptly. The nerve-racking part about landing in St. Barths is after the plane clears the first mountain. (We were elated when it missed the mountain.) The plane stalls than dives to approach the runway. Butterflies invade your stomach.

Gustaf III Runway and St. Jean Beach

It is a frightening but exhilarating feeling. The pilot must break quickly after landing to avoid the Caribbean at St. Jean Beach.

After we landed, we saw a small plane wing jutting out of the sea at the end of the runway. Christian said that the plane didn’t make it. He said that it was not uncommon. This is a clip of a plane that missed the runway. Usually passengers only receive minor injuries, thank goodness!

Since that first flight into St. Barths, when I fly on a commercial flight, I watch and listen for the passengers’ reaction during the approach to St. Barths. When we make the approach, someone always gasps.
Sent from my iPad

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15 thoughts on “First Flight to St. Barths, I was the Co-Pilot

  1. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far | dorothyadele's customer experience with retail, dining and travel

  2. Wow! What a ride! Loved your description of the pilot- laid back and probably listening to Hendrix. My heart would have stopped If I’d seen that plane wing sticking up. Great clip too.

  3. I love “usually only receive minor injuries”. That feels so laid back and islandy. And the vimeo? AAAK! You can just tell he isn’t going to make it by how long it takes for the wheels to touch down, but then you think he’ll make it after all, but then he doesn’t, and the flop is so sudden, but then they all pop out the door like “so, this happened”.

    • The photographer did a good job filming the landing and he didn’t seem upset about the plane missing the runway. I guess that it is a regular occurrence, but I won’t think about that.

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