Not that way you perv! For plane spotters, traveling to Sint Maarten is like traveling to Mecca - this is their Holy Grail. I'll start this story at work, It was a average February day nothing exciting until I was directed to a contest poster by a supervisor and friend that frequently enjoys hearing about my photography adventures and likes to see the images that come along with them. The contest theme was "Sint Maarten aircraft spotters paradise" but this would later on be changed to market the best way to enjoy the locale and why people go there in the first place. The first and main rule was that all photos needed to be shot in Sint Maarten and during a particular week in March. I found out about this contest just in time to grab a airline ticket and book a hotel (for two) my wife was as excited as I was. Actually it was quite a funny and surprising conversation when I told here about it.
[Just a tidbit on my pre-planning: as soon as I have a location set I research the best possible place to get "the shot"; I do this for every trip I go on, even vacations!]
Anyhow..by the time I fly out to St. Maarten, the contest is in full swing, it started earlier than scheduled but I still had 5 days to capture two of the largest planes to fly into this small airport in the Caribbean called Princess Juliana international Airport or as the airport code SXM. One of those being the KLM Airlines Boeing 747-400, I had missed this first landing cause I had arrived in the afternoon and the second largest aircraft was the Air France Airbus A340. Of course these two aircraft had to be photographed, but where and when to get the best shot was a race. Like I said I had arrived late and time was ticking, the only thing on my side was that I had the flight schedules for these huge planes. Along with these two massive jets there was plenty of opportunity to catch the smaller commercial jets like the Boeing 757's, business jets, and some island hoppers.
Now I know you want to know where to get blown, I'm getting to that next. Day 1: scouting, I arrived noonish and had more than enough time to scout Maho beach and surrounding area including my hotel the Sonesta which is situated at the northern side of the beach along a cliff with great views of the airport. Super excited to be there for sure! So we did some walking and decided to head down the the beach for sunset, now I had already seen the place where you get blown and wanted to get blown also. I made sure I had proper mood lighting, with the orange glow of the setting sun, beautiful turquoise water, and soft-ish white sand, I figured it wouldn't get any better than that. What I had noticed is that there are two different ways to get blown, there are those that held on to the fence and those that braved the beach ready. I was the beach kinda of guy and getting ready to takeoff was a Frenchy, the smaller Airbus A320. I figured I start with a medium sized jet and move up to the larger one, the anticipation grew with every minute as the aircraft got closer to the runway, it seemed to me that these pilots enjoyed punishing unsuspecting tourist with jet blast. Now I have been around aircraft and aviation for the most part of my life, between being a mechanic, jumping out of a perfectly terrible airplane, hearing ear splitting afterburners at air shows, and other really cool experiences. I know that standing behind an airplane waiting to get blown isn't the brightest idea I've had but I had always been curious about the feeling. So here I was watching this jet roll to the edge of the runway, business end pointing straight at me. The engines spooling up, HOTT air blowing into your body, not as bad as I thought at first but this jet hadn't even started yet, it was as if had the parking breaks on and they wanted to burn rubber on the way out. As soon as the engines were in full throttle you couldn't keep you eyes open, the beach turned into a giant sand blasting machine, all that was left was to turn away and check out the sunset. As soon as the heat and wind subsided you were sure to see the jet climbing over the mountain and onward to its destination.
This was the best way to experience SXM in my mind. As I will later find out as the days pass during this contest. Also on the first Night I decided to capture one of my three images for the contest. You can check out the rest of the memorable images at the Sint Maarten gallery.
Business End of an A320
Blown on the Beach
Sitting won't help
First pick for the contest