Photo: Photo: ATCpilot/YouTube

Watch WestJet make a rather low approach into St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana airport

Bradley Wint
By - Founder/Executive Editor
Mar 11, 2017 6:11pm AST
Photo: Photo: ATCpilot/YouTube

If you’re an aviation enthusiast, you may have heard about WestJet’s rather low approach into St. Maarten earlier this week.

On March 7th, WestJet operated flight 2652 from Toronto-Pearson, in Toronto, Canada to Princess Juliana, St. Maarten.

Weather at the airport (SXM) was not particularly favourable as there were light showers, visibility down to 1.25 miles, and winds were blowing from the north east at 21 knots. There were no reports of gusts though.

When the aircraft banked left to line up for final approach, they found themselves a bit too low and decided to go around.

Here are two videos of the approaches. The first one was clearly too low while the second was text book even in those wet conditions.

Photo: Christine Garner

Based on ATC recordings, the tower made mention that the pilots decided to go around a bit too late, even though they did not advise the crew of previous warnings of low visibility from other pilots that landed shortly before.

The WestJet pilots landed 45 minutes later when weather conditions were much more suited for their liking.

WestJet themselves say that the aircraft was not in any immediate danger, even though this aviation journalist claims otherwise. According to alleged analysis by a Boeing 737 pilot with over 20,000 hours of flying experience, he guesses that the aircraft was as low as 50 feet before the pilots throttled up to go around.

“I’ll put money on the fact that jet was at 50 feet,” a 737 captain who flies the same aircraft for another U.S. airline told me. “To be that low and not over the runway is downright dangerous.” he said. A captain at an international airline with 20,000 flight hours, who also saw the photo concurred. “It’s quite apparent that aircraft is within half a wingspan of the water.  You can tell by the jet blast trail in the water, the yellow buoy in the water, and the white little building on the cliff. ”

It’s hard to determine how low the aircraft really was as Flightaware data only records as low as 500 feet before touchdown at SXM, while Flightradar24 showed calibrated data of 0 feet at the point of the go-around.

The decision to go-around was pretty late based on the different photo and video angles we’ve seen so far, but we suspect wind shear may have had a part to play as well.

At the end of the day, the pilots opted to go around rather than risking the landing at such a low altitudes. Most of the articles and videos about this approach clearly blow the situation out of proportion.

Maybe if this occurrence had taken place with another regular WS Boeing 737, it may not have gotten that much attention, but it was a bit of bad luck that the airline decided to use their Disney’s Frozen themed aircraft to fly the route that day.

Photo: WestJet

*Update* – WestJet chimes in!

WestJet has released an official statement regarding last week’s St. Maarten go-around, calling out some of the media attention as “irresponsible”, an adjective that we can fully agree with.

Reference was made to the so-called aviation and travel journalist’s story that sparked most of the discussion.

Video and photos of the missed approached spawned articles with unfortunate and frankly, irresponsible headlines such as, “Near Miss” and “WestJet denies close call caught on camera at St. Maarten,” with some even speculating on a potential disaster that was averted.

We think it’s important to share with you what a missed approach means and how this “near miss” was anything but.

Every day our pilots safely land some 700 flights throughout our network of more than 100 destinations in over 20 different countries, many of which have unique weather and terrain. Occasionally a landing will be aborted and a missed approach initiated if the pilots determine it’s the best option. In this case, our crew experienced rapidly changing weather conditions and as a result descended below the normal glide path on the approach to the landing. The crew recognized the situation, and the regularly trained and desired outcome was obtained – a safe missed approach to a safe landing.

There can be any number of reasons why a go-around could be made. Weather or runway conditions may be less than ideal, or there may be other aircraft still on, or in the vicinity of, the runway. Regardless of the reason, pilots are trained to initiate a missed approach without hesitation, and go-arounds like the one executed last week at SXM – while not something we do every day – are also not uncommon. Relying on their skill, training and experience, our pilots who landed our Boeing 737-800 at SXM last week made the right call, and the process worked the way in which it’s intended.

All situations like this will have a fulsome review with learnings applied. Perspective is always helpful when you’re looking at a photo or video, or reading or hearing something in the news. Thanks for visiting our blog to get ours.

Have your say

Comments are closed.

Stay in check with our daily burst of news stories delivered to your inbox.

Read more

Up to 40,000 OnePlus customers have their credit card details exposed in data breach

Privacy/Security - If you’ve recently purchased something via the OnePlus website, you may need to regularly check your credit card statement as…

By - Jan 19, 2018 5:04pm AST

The 9 best vlogging cameras for 2018

Entertainment - Even with the YouTube apocalypse, vlogging is still a huge deal. Last year we talked about some of the top…

By - Jan 19, 2018 1:42am AST

YouTube and Facebook pull Tide Pod Challenge videos because people are stupid

Social Media - It’s a new year and people are already doing dumb things for their 15 minutes of internet fame. Both Facebook…

By - Jan 18, 2018 11:10pm AST

Apple will soon allow you to disable battery management software on older iPhones

Mobile - After a wave of mounting criticism, lawsuits, and PR statements, Tim Cook has announced that users will now have the…

By - Jan 18, 2018 3:21am AST

7 things the media gets wrong about air travel and aviation

Travel - When there is ‘trouble’ in the sky, there tends to be ‘trouble’ with the reporting as well. Many news agencies,…

By - Jan 18, 2018 1:47am AST

Apple issues iOS 11.2.2 to address Spectre vulnerability

Mobile - In the wake of the industry-wide Spectre and Meltdown chip flaws, Apple has issued a security update for iOS 11…

By - Jan 8, 2018 2:55pm AST

Social media “Fear Of Missing Out” detrimental to our mental well-being

Science/Space - Human beings generally see themselves in the best light possible compared to others. This psychological phenomenon is called illusory superiority….

By - Jan 2, 2018 11:50pm AST

Passengers on Hawaiian Airlines flight celebrate New Year’s Day twice due to delay

Travel - Passengers on board a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Auckland, New Zealand to Honolulu, Hawaii were able to celebrate New Year’s…

By - Jan 1, 2018 11:13pm AST

LG shows off world’s first 88-inch 8K OLED display for CES 2018

Technology - LG is stepping up the display game with the unveiling of a world first 88-inch, 8K OLED display. When compared…

By - Jan 1, 2018 10:33pm AST

How to fix Samsung Galaxy Note 8 charging issues

Technology - Some Samsung Galaxy Note 8 customers have run into a peculiar situation where their phones refuse to charge after being…

By - Jan 1, 2018 12:31am AST