SXM is one of the biggest and most popular, if not the most popular airport in the Caribbean. Every spotter has seen the famous pictures or videos from the KLM Jumbo´s or the Air France A340´s which are making a low approach over the beach above the visitor´s heads and dreamed about to visit this location one day. The airport is located on the dutch side of the island whilst the french side has with Grand Case its on small regional airport. With only one active runway and a terminal equipped with four jet bridges, the aeral of SXM is not that big. But for all that, the apron is totally cramped and full with biz jets in all sizes, from the smaller Cessna Citation up to the huge BBJ or Gulfstream. The airport is compared with other airports in the Carribean one of the bigger ones, has a nice variety of airlines and offers a huge number of movements with a lot of connections to other surrounding islands.
The traffic is dominated by business jets in all sizes and the small regional airlines like Winair or Windward Express, which operating a shuttle service between SXM and the island of Saint Barthelemy. Thereafter you will see a lot of airlines from the USA like United, Delta, AA/US, Spirit and Jetblue. KLM use the A330 (no longer the 747) for its flights to/from Amsterdam whilst AF takes the A340 to and from CDG. Corsair and Air Caraïbes using heavy equipment too for their flights to France. Amerijet operates a 727 freighter service from MIA, so you get some rare equipment too. The morning is a bit quiet and the bigger stuff begins to arrive at noon. There are many movements at this airport, especially from the smaller props which are flying frequently between SXM and SBH so it is not becoming boring.
Written by Julian Mittnacht, Cedric Valence and Marlin Lehmann (last update May 2017)
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|All airline are served at the same Terminal|
|Spotting Information||Ladder||No need.|
|Car||No need. A taxi between SXM and Grand Case airport cost 35 USD and the ride takes up to 30 minutes.|
|Restrooms||Sunset Beach Bar at Spot 1 or inside the terminal.|
|Drinks/Food||Sunset Beach Bar at Spot 1 and inside the terminal with a KFC, Snack Bar etc.|
|Hotels||On the north side there are some Resorts where you can stay and take your pictures from your room or the pool area. But you have backlit for almost the whole day.|
|Season||More traffic during the winter season. Lot of US citizen spend their winter holidays in the Caribbean.|
|Runway Usage||10/28||RWY 10 is used for all arrivals as there is a high mountain on the other end of the runway. Departures usually taking place on 10 too but I have seen few departures from 28 if there is less traffic. Some US carriers prefer a 28 departures as it offers an easier departure route towards the US.|
|Spot #1 – Maho Beach – Arrivals & Departures RWY 10|
|WHERE||The most popular location is ‘Maho Beach’ which is located under the approach path of Runway 10. The Beach is very easy to find! When leaving the Terminal just follow the airport road westwards until you see the beach and hotels in the distance after 10 to 15 minutes. If you start elsewhere on the island just use a cab and usually the driver knows where the beach is.|
There is not really an exact location where you have to stand as you have so many different angels and can move around like you want. You can also visit the ‘Sunset Beach Bar’ and take a snack there while you photograph the planes.
|WHAT||All 10 arrivals are possible. For RWY10 take off and taxiway line up shots you just need to climb up the crash barrier to shot over the perimeter fence.|
Not all aircraft are that low like you may have seen on the web, where people almost touch the landing gear. Majority is still pretty high from this point of view so don´t be dissappointed.
|TIME||In the winter you can spend almost the whole day at Maho Beach.|
|MISC.||The beach can become very very crowdie with 1000 visitors and more. When I was there, two cruise ships made a stop at Sint Maarten and the beach was full of tourist and it was not easy to find a gap between all those people. The Sunset Beach Bar was crowded as well and I was not able to get a seat.|
A surf board shows the most popular arrivals of the day (see picture below).
|FOCAL LENGTH||For a full frame BN-2 100mm, full frame A320 50mm|
|Spot #2 – Airport Road|
|WHERE||This spot is located beside the airport’s access road connecting the south of the airport with the terminals. It’s the same route when walking to Maho Beach but just stop when you like the angle. There are holes in the fence, enabling you to take pictures thru the fence. When you leave the terminals just walk down the main road southwestern.|
|WHAT||All landings, departures and taxiies to the runway. Runway 28 departures may have already lifted up.|
|TIME||In the very early mornings and from late afternoon in summer – winter in the afternoons only.|
|MISC.||You can take photos thru the holes which have been made|
|Spot #3 – Spotters Paradise Apartments|
|WHERE||If you are sick of the crowded Maho Beach and watching for a quiet place to take a break, the SXM Spotters Paradise Apartments is the perfect place to stay! From Spot #1 just continue on the road along the perimeter. Its easy to reach! There is a terrace where you have a great overlook of the airfield and even above the fence.|
|WHAT||Good for almost all operations. Runway 28 departures may be too high already but its a rare direction.|
|TIME||In winter you have light for almost the whole day.|
|MISC.||We really recommend this location as you have your private apartment, free WiFi and a terrace with a fantastic view.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||18-200mm, 35mm for a 737|
|Spot #4 – White Sands Rd.|
|WHERE||This spot is directly at the perimeter fence at the White Sands Rd. Just continue from the former spots until the fence. You are directly next to the runway.|
|WHAT||Perfect for all operations. You can photograph different angles from here as you can see on the samples below.|
|TIME||In winter you have light for almost the whole day.|
|MISC.||You can shot trough the mesh there but a small ladder or chair is recommend to shot different motives.|
The Zafiro Beach Bar is just behind you with all the amenities you need.
|FOCAL LENGTH||10-200mm. You are very very close so have the correct lens with you.|
|Spot #5 – Simpson Bay Rd.|
|WHERE||The spot is on the opposite site of the other spotting locations. Coming from the Airport Rd. turn into Sr. Patientia Rd up to the end. You come straight on crossroads Simpson Bay and Sr. Agnes Rd – Turn right and drive until you see the fence on the right. Look for something to stay on to shoot over the fence.|
It is possible to sit on the wall of the Karakter beach Bar & Restaurant. But ask before spotting and order something! The samples below without the fence in the frame are taken from there.
|WHAT||Best for landing on RWY10 when the aircraft make the U-Turn. Otherwise also perfect for RWY28 departures (rare) or on RWY10 if the heavies rotate.|
|TIME||In winter you have light for almost the whole day. Depends on which direction you shoot.|
|MISC.||Parking is possible at Simpson Bay Rd, but don’t block private property. Plenty of restaurants in that area.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||35 to 120mm as you are very close.|