I saw this YouTube video about a Gulfstream jet that came into landing on Princess Juliana International airport and the landing does not seem to be by the book at all. It seems like the landing gear is only a few centimeters from hitting the fence and a meter from hitting the people on the beach. It looks like to me that he is way below the glideslope, but since I'm not that familiar with Princess Juliana I really can't confirm anything.

Is there any more information available about this incident? Was it actually a normal landing, or was it caused by wind shear or pilot error? How often does this occur?


I found this comment in the comment section from someone who claim to be a long time pilot:

Juliana is Class D so 91.129 and 703 applies:

  • FAR 91.129 (E) "An airplane approaching to land on a runway served by a visual approach slope indicator shall maintain an altitude at or above the glide slope until a lower altitude is necessary for a safe landing."

  • See also FAR 91.703 (a)(1) "Each person operating a civil aircraft of U.S. registry outside of the United States shall: when over the high seas, comply with annex 2 (Rules of the Air) to the Convention on International Civil Aviation and with 91.117(c), 91.127, 91.129, and 91.131;

They were way below the visual glide slope indicators i.e PAPIs (for Juliana), and (from flying this approach myself) it's not necessary for a safe landing. Besides ...it's just not very good practice.

Sincerely, Long time pilot. (:

I have to say that by my logic thinking: I agree with this guy. I am not a pilot myself, but here is why I agree with him:

Low approach method: If the plane hits the fence: It could cause the gear to break of (And maybe hit someone) and when the plane touches down on the runway with broken landing gear at flying speed: It could cause a rapture in the fuel tanks, igniting it. And you are essentially a tumbling fireball down the runway.

High approach method: If you fly higher to avoid the fence: The chances of hitting it and cause a tumbling fireball are greatly lowered. However: You may overrun the runway. But this would be preferred (In my book atleast). Since the plane has touched down on the runway and slowed down: You decrease the chances of fuel ignition when you overrun. And if the fuel ignites at the end: You will most likely end up with the fish. And the fire may not be put out completely, but greatly suppressed. And since the speed also is lowered: The chances of survival is greatly improved.

This is just my personal look on this. And some may or may not agree with me. But since the YouTube comment is there: I though there might be something to this.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Just search for "Low flying aircraft over beach" and you will see many similar videos, including larger airplanes like 747's. This beach is VERY close to the end of the runway, and a "normal" threshold crossing height is only 50 feet above the runway. This is low, and usually it is just the angle which makes it look even lower. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Jun 4, 2016 at 15:28

4 Answers 4


There's no incident here. St Martin has a very short runway which spans a small stretch of land between 2 beaches, it's an airport where jets need to be on the numbers. It's famous among plane watchers and there are hundreds of videos of aircraft coming in low enough it seems as if you could reach up and touch the landing gear.

So if there was a glideslope this aircraft was certainly below it, however it's not an instrument landing so glideslope had nothing to do with it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well considering that the 747 lands there: I thought a little Gulfstream didn't need to go that low? $\endgroup$ Feb 26, 2015 at 15:25
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Considering that an overrun means rolling into the water if I was landing any fast aircraft there I'd put it on the numbers. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Feb 26, 2015 at 16:44
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @AlexanderJohansen For what it's worth and in my opinion, if conditions were present that indicate possible windshear, the best course of action would be to carry appropriate extra airspeed (1/2 the expected gust value?) down to the flare, but still plant it on the numbers. $\endgroup$
    – Terry
    Feb 27, 2015 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ TNCM Rwy 10-28 is 7546’ x 150’ paved asphalt. That’s quite a long runway, given the airport elevation is very close to mean sea level. Large jets can comfortably take off and land there, even on hot summer days. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2020 at 4:52

Some of those Caribbean airports are really nuts. They squeeze them onto tiny little islands.

A 3-degree glide slope will be 10 feet high at 200 feet from the numbers, or just over the fence.


There's a few very important details to keep in mind here, although I've never flown this approach and I don't have an approach chart. Keeping these details in line it may be closer than desirable but not closer than allowed.

The first thing to remember is that even jets like this are so big they appear closer than they are, especially in a 2D image. There are many stories of people who swore a plane was just a 100 ft away when the plane is actually 1000 ft away. A GIV is twice as long as an American school bus, so if a person appears close enough to reach up and grab the landing gear but also appears much taller than the landing gear, the person is not actually beneath the plane. I've included a screenshot of the video here with some dimensions marked. It's hard to tell, but my guess is that the landing gear goes 8-15 ft over the fence, not just a 1-3 feet.

enter image description here

This close to the runway, airplane height is considered in individual feet not hundreds of feet. The fence shown is only 500 ft from the runway threshold and 1,750 ft from the aiming point (by my own measurements in Google maps). A 3 degree glideslope with level terrain puts you only 91 ft above the runway elevation at 1750 ft. If you're off and land closer, like 900 ft past the fence at the start of the rubber tire markings on the runway, that drops to 47.1 ft. I'm no expert on obstacle clearance but 40:1 obstacle clearance would take over a dozen feet off that 91 ft clearance, and 250 ft ROC doesn't seem to apply here. Even if you were to aim for a point 200 ft past the threshold, you'd only add about 10 ft/3 m to your clearance over this fence.

So overall the plane is very big and the distances above terrain in a typical approach are small, so although it's much closer than what's expected it also looks way worse than it is.

  • $\begingroup$ The threshold is ~500 ft from the fence, but the touch-down zone is another 1,000 ft further, which adds another 50 ft altitude over the fence. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Oct 28, 2020 at 22:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Jan . Thanks for pointing that out, I've update to reflect both a landing at the aiming point and a landing point short of the aiming point but still past the threshold. $\endgroup$
    – Cody P
    Oct 29, 2020 at 0:23
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent point! If we forget about perspective, we get a lady walking on the right side of the road who is a head taller than the fence. She's taller than the car she's next to, but not the fence - not by a long shot. Without considering perspective, her hair would have been blowing in the wind! $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Oct 29, 2020 at 17:31

St. Marteen Juliana Intl (TNCM) is under Dutch control, so FARs do not apply; you’ll have to find pertinent ICAO regulations to determine legality. As to the approach itself: Most likely the crew was showing off for the beach goers (macho hazardous attitude); it was almost certainly below the visual glideslope generated by the PAPI lights on RWY 9. They were lucky they didn’t clip the fence with the main gear with that damn fool stunt.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with Carlo. No legit reason to fly this low. Just none. When talking about pilots, pro or not, you have to understand there are douchebags among them too. Pilots are not a superhuman group. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Oct 28, 2020 at 21:04

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