St Maarten landing 1. Wellington landing 1,996,786

There’s been a lot of coverage of landings at St Maarten airfield, where mega-jets skim the beach during final approach to the short runway.

Air New Zealand link flight arriving at Wellington on a good day...
Air New Zealand link flight arriving at Wellington on a good day…

To which I say ptooey. If you want a place for regular dodgy landings and hairy takeoffs the place to go is my city, Wellington, New Zealand.

Back in the late 1920s, the local council asked Kingsford Smith where to put an airport. ‘Anywhere except Rongotai,’ he said. But club flying was already under way there and that’s where it went. That means, today, a short runway that can’t handle some aircraft.

The other problem is Wellington’s diabolical winds. They say you can’t beat Wellington on a good day. True, sort of. But a bad one has to be experienced to be believed.

I’ve had landings there where the aircraft’s scorched down the runway canted up on the port-side wheels before banging down and screeching to a halt (the pilot and co-pilot came out of the cockpit and personally thanked and greeted customers as they disembarked…)

I’ve had landings that have skidded and slewed down the runway before aborting and climbing back up for another go. I’ve had takeoffs where the aircraft’s immediately hit a downdraft seconds after getting airborne. I know people who’ve been in aborted landings where the pilot’s turned around and flown straight back to Auckland again.

Check this out (watch for the 737-300 go-around at 3:16 especially):

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016


12 thoughts on “St Maarten landing 1. Wellington landing 1,996,786

  1. I have been a passenger on a number of landings there in large and small aircraft. Always interesting, especially when everyone onboard claps to celebrate landing safely despite the wind!

  2. Darn it, Matthew, I have a report I have to write! I can’t just look away from stuff like that!!

    Anyway, is it just me…or does that windsock wag like the tail on a happy dog?

    1. It does! The wind there is diabolical sometimes. The city used to be renowned for its wind – a funnelling effect due to Cook Strait. That’s diminished in the last generation as the climate has changed, but there are still days of high wind. And when it gets going it really rips.

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