Saint-Barthélemy Gustaf III Spotting Guide

Saint-Barthélemy is a small island in the Caribbean Sea, located between the islands of Sint Maarten and St. Kitts. The island is an oversea collectivity of France and with only 21 square kilometers, it is one of the smaller islands of the Caribbean. Its a popular place for the rich and famous and the luxury  resorts are nothing for the ‘normal’ tourist.
Anyway, the airport is well know by aviation enthusiasts because of its famous runway 10 approach. At the end of the threshold is a steep hill, while on the other side is the ocean, so altogether makes SBH one of the world´s most dangerous airports! Aircrafts on arrival for 10 have to pass the hill by push the nose extremely down during the final approach and pull it up just a few seconds before touching down. The distance between the hills edge and the plane can be less than two meters.

The runway is only 650 meters long and due to the difficult approach you see no jet aircrafts and only props. The biggest aircraft is the DHC-6 Twin Otter operated by Winair with flights to Sint Maarten and Air Antilles Express offering flights to Guadeloupe. Other schedule carriers are Tradewinds Airlines with PC-12, Saint Barth Commuter with Cessna Caravan and Windward Express and Anguilla Air Service both operating the Britten Norman Islander.

Please, never stand directly under the flight path at both ends of the runway. Planes are very very low and there is always a chance of getting hit. An American tourist was struck and killed by a departing aircraft at SBH in 2008!

Written by Julian Mittnacht (visited January 2015), Luís Sousa (pics for spot3)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information    Runways 10/28
650m (2.133ft)
Asphalt
Terminals Terminal
All airline are served at the same Terminal
Spotting Information Ladder No need. Its just a small wooden fence.
Car Everything within walking distance
Restrooms Inside the terminal
Drinks/Food Inside the terminal
Hotels Plenty of Hotels on the island.
Season The temperatures and daily sun hours are the same all year round but more rain and hurricanes between July and November.
Runway Usage  10/28
10 is the main direction for arrivals and departures. 28 arrivals are very rare.

Spot #1 – The Hill
WHERE To get on top of the hill just exit the terminal at the rental cars offices and pass the parking lot. You will be on the sidewalk of the road which is parallel to the runway and leads up the hill to the roundabout. It takes just 2 or 3 minutes to get there! You can stay on the sidewalk or just walk up to the roundabout for a different angle.
WHAT You see the planes arriving from the ocean, passing the roundabout and starting there steep approach into RWY 10. If you stay a little more down the road, closer to the terminal, you can spot the departing aircrafts too.
TIME You can stay here the whole day and easily move to the other side of the runway if the sun turns around in the summer.
MISC. There is shadow on the other side of the road otherwise its getting very hot.
FOCAL LENGTH  Between 30-150mm. Depends on the position.

Spot #2 – Terminal
WHERE There are two locations within the terminal. One is landside on the first floor where the cafeteria and toilets are with a big window where you see the apron and runway. The other one is airside, behind the security within the waiting area.
WHAT You see all apron and runway movements. The spot on the first floor has a better view of the runway as the sight is not blocked from the aircrafts. At the gate, planes can obstruct your sight.
TIME During the winter you have good light for the whole day.
MISC. Everything you need is within the terminal, even an air condition 🙂
FOCAL LENGTH 80mm for the samples. All pictures taken from the gate area.
Spot #3 – Beach
WHERE The spot is on the opposite site of #1. Exit the terminal to your left and follow the road along the perimeter fence to the beach. You can even see it when you leave the terminal.
WHAT From this spot you can take pictures from 28 arrivals and departing aircrafts on 10 (bad angle). Its possible that you get some arriving aircrafts on 10 when they turn around on the threshold but usually they already turn in the middle of the runway and you will miss them.
TIME You can stay here the whole day and easily move to the other side of the runway if the sun turns around in the summer. They build a fence at each side of the runway so its no longer possible to walk on the beach under the approach path.
MISC. Everything you need is within the terminal.
FOCAL LENGTH Equal focal length as on Spot 1 and 2.

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One thought on “Saint-Barthélemy Gustaf III Spotting Guide

  1. Bensoussan Yohann

    Hi,

    I am a french journalist working for the weekly tv show “Reportages” – 4 million viewers – broadcast on the first french private tv channel TF1. I am working on a tv story about St Barthelemy airport and I am looking for french spotters planning to come to St Barth in the months to come in order to take pictures of the planes.

    I was wondering if you would be able to share my message and help me find this kind of people.

    If you need any other precision please ask me.

    Best regards,

    Yohann Bensoussan
    Tv journalist
    ybensoussan@sequence3productions.com
    +33 9 80 66 43 19

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