WestJet Denies Close Call Caught on Camera at St. Maarten

March 9, 2017 / 212 Comments

Christine Garner captures the WestJet flight. This photo is copyrighted and can be used only with permission from the photographer.

Air travelers to St. Maarten expect a thrilling view approaching Princess Juliana International Airport. But thrills turned terrifying for passengers and observers of WestJet Flight 2652 from Toronto on Tuesday.

When the Boeing 737 descended through the clouds it went well below the minimum descent altitude. The scene of the jet skimming the surface of Maho Bay was captured by aviation photographer Christine Garner,  shooting from the roof of a nearby building. She said she thought the plane was going to crash.

“When this plane came out of the cloud, I was so shocked,” she said. “The surprising thing was he was lower than me. Normally they pass at my height or slightly above.  For once I actually thought he was going to crash into the ocean.”

The pilots on the plane with Disney’s Frozen livery, executed a go-around and it landed about 45 minutes later.

“According to the information I have been given there was nothing unusual about the first approach,” said Lauren Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Calgary-based carrier. Citing FlightAware logs, Stewart said the plane was never lower than 500 feet before the go-around. But professional pilots confirm Garner’s observation that the plane was much closer to the water and I have been told that FlightAware does not have coverage to the ground at SXM.

“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. ”

NTSB photo of UPS Flight 1354

Both pilots referenced recent landing disasters, the 2013 crash of a Lion Air 737 in Bali, Indonesia in which investigators say the plane was below the minimum descent altitude when it hit the water half mile short of the runway. No one was killed.

Later that same year, an Airbus A300 UPS cargo plane crashed 3,300 feet short of the runway in Alabama, at Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International Airport. The captain and first officer who were the only people on the airplane, were killed.

Kyle St. Hilaire, a passenger on the flight, described the first approach saying, “It was a normal flight, and then a normal descent, but we came into rain clouds during the end of it.”  St. Hilaire had been reading a book but when he looked out the window at the clearing sky, he said the plane was “way too close to the water.

“I felt a violent acceleration and an aggressive pitch up, felt like a roller coaster and I’ve grown up on planes.” St. Hilaire reported the plane banked to the right and “during the whole rapid ascent nobody on the plane said much, but it was tense.”

WestJet 2652’s second approach to SXM is higher. Christine Garner photo used with permission.

The second approach 45 minutes later came in much higher and for the passengers and crew of WestJet Flight 2652, the flight had a happy ending.

As my 737 captain helping me with this story reminded me, its a good thing someone in the cockpit spoke up, because at 50 to 100 feet, if the plane was in a 700 foot per minute descent, “those folks were seconds away from crashing.”

Folks knowledgeable about safety are quick to say that pilots must remember; go-arounds are nothing to be ashamed of. Resisting a missed approach will more likely end in tears.

WestJet declined to answer questions about what kind of special training or airport-specific qualifications are required for pilots flying into Princess Juliana Airport. Instead, Stewart told me the airline has had service into St. Maarten for seven years without incident.

WestJet’s statement about the plane’s altitude isn’t supported by Christine Garner’s photo. To live up to its claims of safe operations the airline should examine what happened and look for the lessons. And it must acknowledge that its seven years of incident-free flying into St. Maarten, ended on Tuesday.

Two flights two very different descent profiles. Garner provides these comparison photos. WestJet is top. Christine Garner copyrighted photos

Profanity, name-calling and personal insults will not be tolerated in the comments section. They will be removed.

Categories: Flying Lessons, North America, Photos
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

212 responses to “WestJet Denies Close Call Caught on Camera at St. Maarten”

  1. Pablo Guerrero says:

    There is a lot on information popping up when I look at this two pictures, first these are two different size aircrafts, KLM Airbus 330 a lot bigger of course than a 737, second the shade over the water is almost the size of the airplane and the altitud is about the wingspan of the 737 (113 feet), that is about the altitud it should the crossing over the runway threshold, wich probably is 1/2 mile in front of the airplane, following a 3 degree vertical path from the runway should take 500 feet higher than that just like this KLM A330. I have 6500 flight hours, currently fly Airline passenger jets, and it could be fun to fly but not irresponsible, this is way too unprofessional.

  2. Sherman Bird says:

    So… my question is…. Why doesn’t the terrain alarm go off sooner? Maybe it had? but there was very little reaction time?

  3. Fraser says:

    As Gary Larson might caption;

    Say….what’s a school of dolphins doing way up here on the glide slope to SXM?

  4. An Aviation Engineer says:

    Looks like Photoshop to me, the shadow on the water in the “low” image doesn’t look at all right to me, nor the attitude of the aircraft, at that angle it would appear he was Climbing, which means he’d have had to be even lower earlier??

  5. Rich "The Colonel" Gage says:

    Very poor reporting if you ask me. Quoting pilots to add credibility is misleading – they are looking at a photo which is a snap-shot in time. There is always more to a story than a single photo. Do you even know whether or not they where in the process of doing a go-around when full power is applied and a lot of thrust comes out of the engines; it would most certainly disturb the water.
    This IS a prime example of what Trump refers to as “Fake News”; half truths, partial information and conjecture by so-called experts.

  6. atco1962 says:

    I agree. The thrust coming from those engines couldn’t produce the disturbance on the surface of the ocean at that angle. Photoshop!

  7. . says:

    Right Rich Gage, using Trump as a reference for the truth……?, you’re very funny and innocent!

  8. Laura says:

    The GPWS won’t go off if the aircraft is in landing configuration ie gear down with flap extended. This aircraft is clearly in that configuration so no warning would be issued.

  9. Tony J. says:

    The GPWS would most certainly go off. GPWS Mode 5 would have set off a “Too Low. Glideslope” aural warning with the flight directors showing a need to climb.

  10. Anthony says:

    It’s photoshopped. As a Graphic Designer, I have taken the opportunity to test the “Missed Approach” image in comparison to the “Good Approach” image and found many inconsistencies and artifacts which comes from a manipulated image.

    • Christine Negroni says:

      Anthony, Christine Garner is a professional aviation photographer with whom I have worked in the past for the prestigious Air & Space magazine. She is a woman of integrity and both of us take our professional responsibilities seriously. The image presented in the post is the image she shot and is NOT photoshopped. The final image with the caption, missed approach and good approach is a montage produced by me from her original images in the Picasa photo program. If there are “inconsistencies and artifacts” or something that suggests manipulation it must be related to putting two photos in one composite image. Christine Negroni

  11. David says:

    I would like to know why the go-around took 45 minutes?? Seems like an extremely long time.

  12. Daniel Patterson says:

    In this article I see a lot of exaggeration and drama, speculation and very little fact other than a photo that may or may not have been photoshopped.

    Then there’s this gem:
    “But thrills turned terrifying for passengers …” followed by a quote from a passenger which tells a complete opposite story ‘“during the whole rapid ascent nobody on the plane said much, but it was tense.”’ You’d think “terrified” passengers would have more emotion lol!!

  13. Corkey says:

    I don’t it matters at what point the photo is taken, the point is there is a photo of the aircraft clearly well below glide path and thats the “close call” the story title refers. Whether it’s in the go around phase or not is irrelevant, what is relevant is the fact the aircraft is way out there bugger all feet off the water and had been in a decent (even if the decent was before the moment of image capture, which we don’t know)

  14. Adam Person says:

    Taken at 15 seconds intervals, Flightaware shows no unusual altitudes (Below 500′) during the final moments of the flight. There is evidence of one go-around, and some holding, but that’s it.

    • Christine Negroni says:

      Adam, as explained in the post, FlightAware has no coverage below 500 feet at SXM. That is why the data does not show the low altitude. Christine

  15. Trevor says:

    Allow me to address some of you experts – this photo was not photoshopped – I was in St Maarten and also witnessed the whole incident. I have been coming here annually for 16 years to photograph the aircraft and have never witnessed an aircraft so low. Rather than blame the pilots I prefer to give them a “great save”. The reason it took 45 minutes for the go around was that ATC closed the airport after the first Westjet approach. I was listening on my scanner

    • Christine Negroni says:

      Trevor, your point about “great save” is a good one. The 737 captain in my story suggests the same glass half full approach and I do too. At this point we do not know what contributed to the plane being so low, but as I said in the post, it is incumbent on WestJet examine all the factors surrounding the event to identify weak points that need strengthening. That’s a key principal in air safety. Blaming the pilots has the opposite effect. Christine

  16. Adam Person says:

    I see. I guess there’s also a minute’s worth of missing data below 500′, with a significant change in heading. Hmmm

  17. A Pilot says:

    It’s not caused by the thrust from the engines, but from the wake of the airplane.

  18. Anthony says:

    The evidence tells otherwise. It looks like someone wanted celebrity and exaggerated the incident – whether it happened or not, the photo has been retouched. If this is a result of Christine moving it from one program to another, perhaps, but these artifacts would have been found on both photos which it was not.

  19. sxmlover says:

    Absolutely NOT Photoshopped! I can’t stand when people claim this. I know the photographer and I guarantee the photo has not been altered in any way.

  20. Carroll Price says:

    The pilots needed 45 minutes to clean up the cockpit seats.

  21. Anthony says:

    It does not matter if you ‘know’ the person it doesn’t change the fact artifacts of manipulation show up within the photo. If I could post the photos I would show you them plain as day.

  22. Bill Garner says:

    If you knew my mother (the photographer) you’d know that the image has not been photoshopped. It just isn’t in her character to fabricate something like this. Has anyone considered that they may have hit an air pocket and dropped suddenly?

  23. Jeff says:

    So, since it created waves on the water, would this be called “wake wake turbulence”? 🙂

  24. Greg Lacle says:

    Please allow me to give my two cent on this possible scenario. As a private pilot myself, and being involved in aviation and being updated of various aviation accidents, I can say this, it takes just a stupid article to tarnish the record of professional pilots and even an Airline. We as pilots besides dealing with many technical things, like maintaining course, dealing with heavy gusty crosswinds, handling other checklist items, sometimes are confronted with unforeseen conditions, like weather phenomenons like Downdraft and shearwinds, which does not show on our instruments, however being in a landing approach with gusty cross wind conditions and on Glide Slope, it could happen that you might encounter Heavy Down Draft, which will throw your aircraft immediately under the glideslope, and by the time you increase thrust, it takes a few seconds for the aircraft to respond and being able to request for a go-around because you have just missed the approach. So I do not really appreciate articles that are in a way, indirectly are creating innuendos where people starts to doubting the pilots, because believe me, no pilot crew will take their own life and of the aboard passengers in jeopardy to go and fly that low. Something out of the ordinary must have happened. So I am stating this, this article has no other intentions other than to blemish the airline or the pilot crew reputations. Like I said it takes a stupid article like this, to tarnish an airline and mostly their pilots. If the images are fake or not, It does not matter, I look at Intention, because Articles like this, would mostly do damage than do any other thing. I hope the writers of this article focus on more positive things, because if you are not an aviation expert / Pilot / NTSB Investigators, you definitely do not have the expertise, nor the knowledge to give your opinion on Glide slope approach, and not even being able to judge photos and compare, because there is something called Perspective, and this is can change depending the angle, the distance and the Lens Wide angle and mm. So as an Architect, a Pilot and a Photographer as well, I can say that I find this article more damaging than it is constructive. Please focus your energy on better articles. This is Crap, misleading and damaging.

  25. Wally says:

    Not necessarily. Not too sure he was making an ILS App in the first place. The Capt could have disabled that function of the GPWS to allow him to ‘get in’. All speculation but it appears there are questions than need to be answered.

  26. Simmer Pilot says:

    Hellow, do TNCM have ILS already??

    The thing is that the pilots saved the day doing the go around!

  27. Trevor says:

    There is no ILS at SXM

  28. Andrei says:

    Princess Juliana airport does not have an ILS approach. TAWS and GPWS would still emit a warning since it was still over open water and not on the descent profile for the runway

  29. Graeme says:

    The fact that it took 45 minutes for the aircraft to return for the 2nd approach would indicate that there is a lot more to this story.
    I totally agree that is crap for someone to report this stuff before having all the facts.

  30. Rob says:

    Imma wager that the KLM jet is a 757 and not an A330.

  31. Dave says:

    I have flown WestJet many times and are a professional airline. WJA Pilots would not put anyone at risk.

  32. Dan Slan says:

    Had to change their underwear!

  33. ... says:

    Here! Here!

  34. ... says:

    Here! Here!

  35. Matt says:

    It’s not an ILS approach

  36. Matt says:

    It’s not engine thrust causing the disturbance, it’s turbulence off the wings.

  37. Cal says:

    The terrain alarm on the b737 is inhibited when the gear is down and the airplane is below 800 feet above ground. If it wasnt inhibited it would sound on almost every landing

  38. Maros Hana says:

    hats crazy low! – Last time i was at SXM WestJet landed halfway down the runway -> http://www.hanafoto.com/plane-watching-at-maho-beach-st-maarten/

    but check out that private jet 4ft above the fence!

  39. Mark says:

    Can you provide evidence in words, then, if you’re going claim “fake” based on expertise? There are plenty of non-graphic designers who’d like to know how constantly changing sea height, constantly changing wave patterns, constantly changing cloud conditions, constantly changing light conditions, all during a constantly changing weather occurrence known as a storm, during the constantly changing continuum called time, couldn’t account for anomalies between the photos.

  40. Scott says:

    I read all the conjecture and plain disrespect (not to mention blatant miss spellings), and finally someone answers the question I want to know, if there is in fact an ILS approach on that runway. Seems there isn’t. So, all the “experts” are in the dark here too. As there could be absolutely no warning from any of the systems on board except possibly the radar altimeter. And just for the “Private Pilot” types commenting, I am a 20 year career Air Traffic Controller. And yes, the pilots involved here DO need to be talked to about this. They lived, look at the UPS plane again, they DIED!

  41. Pedro says:

    Christine, I think there are aspects to your article that imply blame on the pilots, certainly the comments you cite from other pilots seem to lean that way. As you well know, there are many possible contributing factors leading to situations. People are very passionate one way or another so I think it’s important to qualify what is being said and not discount some of the more obvious potential reasons. I feel that most pilot comments in your article are based on initial impressions without deeper analysis, creating a very divisive response from your readers.

    Looking at the image and reading the passenger comments I can’t help but think that we’re looking at a windshear event. Even the closeness of the wake disturbance seems to suggest that.

    Having said that, this is a single moment in time and it doesn’t tell us what happened in the moments before. If there were a video, that would certainly answers some questions. What I’m curious to see is the original image uncropped at it’s native resolution, I’m sure that would satisfy all those who believe this has been Photoshopped.

    People, whichever side of the bench you’re on, the world and your sanity will be a happier place if you patiently wait for investigation results to be released. In the mean time, we know WestJet is a quality airline operated by professionals, everyone has a bad day so let’s wait and see…

  42. JP Jones says:

    Greg Lacle has the best scenario to rebut this article, It does happen at times with unforeseen weather conditions ie. wind shear and or cross wind but if the altitude is high enough, there are plenty of time for experienced Aircrews to recover from a missed approach and get the airplane back on the ground safely. St Martin is not ILS equipped Airport as I know of and the runway is not favorable to certain wind conditions. It may have been looking like a close call landing, but the final decision belongs to Aircraft Captain and I am sure he is looking forward to see his wife and kids at the end of the trip.

  43. Every landing at St. Maarten is a “close-call” 🙂

  44. Scott Banning says:

    The terrain alarm would not go off because the aircraft is in landing configuration, within the airport area. Same reason it doesn’t go off on a normal landing.

  45. Trolls! Why the squawking about fake news and photoshopping? The photo appears valid and is backed up with ADS-B data showing two approaches.

    Too bad the ADS-B data has gaps, but you can compare the lat/lon data and see that the second approach was better.

    Yes, ENHANCED GPWS would alert for low altitude at an off-airport position, even if configured for landing.

    Yes, the plane should fly a safe descent in LNAV / VNAV autoflight modes, but the pilots can override that and fly into the water.

    Maybe there was wind shear. Maybe the pilots were off their A game. Maybe something else happened. Good save; they get to live another day.

  46. G. Scott says:

    There is no ILS at SXM (TNCM), so no flight director.

  47. G. Scott says:

    No such thing as an air pocket. Maybe windshear was involved but we won’t know until the airline or the Aviation Authority in SXM say something as to why the aircraft got to this point in the approach.

  48. Rodney says:

    The photo is rather grainy. The plane position and the jet blast seem out of sync and the passengers account makes it seem like normal but states they grow-up on planes. After taking the same flight a number of times there are certain things you look for and it they don’t happen you start to wonder.

  49. John H. says:

    45 minute delay caused by lock down of control tower and ATC.
    This in order to properly document the event.
    Bells and whistles must have been going of in the control tower.
    Most likely tower observed the pending crash and instructed an immediate go-around
    Somebody must have a copy of all the ATC transmissions.

  50. Pro-Pilot says:

    They were not doing an ILS approach, so there would not be a glideslope warning

  51. L. D. says:

    There is no ILS on Runway 10. The MDA for the RNAV approach to this runway is no lower than 700 feet 2 miles from the runway. There is a PAPI but the runway has an visual illusion of slanting up hill (looks shorter) than its 7500 foot length. This aircraft was within a wing span of the water at least a mile out. Evidence is the wing vortices, downwash and engine thrust on the water behind and underneath it. I’ve done many approaches to this runway in both the 737 and 757. It’s dicey, especially on a non precision approach to the 700 foot minimums.

  52. J.S. says:

    All the answers are available to Westjet via the aircraft’s FDM data download capability. The entire flight can be recreated in a 3D graphic replay. Anytime there is an ‘event’ like this this data is reviewed. WJ will know exactly what the cause was whether it was pilot error or some other factor(s) or a combination thereof. They presently, or shortly will, have the answer.

  53. Mike. says:

    Greg Lacle, get off your soapbox buddy. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Ok, you’re a private pilot. And you’ve read articles. Good show. I have been a professional pilot for 20+ years and can tell you that pilots will do stupid things. I’ m not suggesting they did here. But it happens. Who knows what really happened here. Other than the two pilots in the front. I have some very close friends who fly for WestJet amd i respect their abilities. Let the facts tell the story. Anything else is just conjecture. There are far too many “experts” voicing their misguided opinions.

  54. Bill says:

    I was watching the Ptztv Maho beach cam when this plane had the missed approach.It happened just as the photo shows. The airport closed just after this because of weather and the planes needing to land were on hold for at least a half hour. Because it was storming the beach was mostly empty of tourists. KLM was the first plane in after the airport reopened.

  55. Tim Kern says:

    Wake turbulence wake. 😉

  56. David says:

    To the people who don’t believe any of this, why are there several posts on the SXM Facebook groups that include witnesses and their confirming stories – all unrelated, all from different viewing locations, all saying the same thing? Guess its just a conspiracy and those were all just fake news. Seems to be the thing these days, if you are pre-disposed to think something, you’ll think that, regardless of facts.

  57. Commander Andy says:

    Here, here. I agree. For the sake of flight safety every pilot critiques their performance from the previous. And why would someone put their life, aircraft, and passengers in jeopardy for the sake of a circus stunt flyby? Innuendos are damaging. The flight continued with a missed approach and landing. What story? You got nothing but hypothetic conjecture. A picture ? is worth a 1000 words. And these words are trying to damage not help. A story by someone who’s not a pilot, or aviation expert by trade or profession is just that — a story. Flying is not a spectator sport.

  58. Yaman says:

    The pilot made the right decision.
    He did not like what he saw, knowing that you can not hand flight a jet below the glide slope, he didn’t try to be a hero, went around land the airplane safely and put up with the comments.
    Good decision making.
    Why the aircraft was below the glide path or lower than it should have been will be determined while the passengers are roasting on the beach

  59. Derek says:

    My two cents: 737 Radio Altimeter systems are notoriously problematic, especially over water. Probably an F/O ILS approach and they were unaware of a problem until they came out of the clouds and had a visual cue. Reference the following report: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwilxLGP-83SAhUTz2MKHW_JDrEQFggaMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fnsc.nasa.gov%2FSFCS%2FSystemFailureCaseStudyFile%2FDownload%2F541&usg=AFQjCNG-w4lbBQ5rm6xxyAgKZPLUsu6CUw&bvm=bv.149397726,d.cGc

  60. Derek says:

    Also, they have an SB issued for this problem, but I believe it is not mandatory to comply with it, at this time.

  61. Jeremy says:

    Useless article pretending to include some investigation. There’s a lot more to write about aviation, but near misses and crashes do sell more huh ?

  62. CONRAD SMITH says:

    Considering the hours these pilots worked miracles (don’t know if they worked rotation times-sleep patterns,and the weather conditions)to get on the ground safety they will always have my respect!

  63. Jet Black says:

    I’m NOT surprised at seeing a WJA aircraft so far below a glide path! I worked for that company for 5 years! Everybody in that company has a ‘get er done” attitude! The company fosters that kind of atmosphere! I have on many ocassios questioned their mentality. But was told “You don’t have a WestJet Attitude, do you”? I didn’t and I still don’t! This company pushes its’ employees too unsafe limits. Questioning the companys managers and directors will get you ostraxie! Many have done as I have done, and left with clean hands!! Anybody on the ops side of ths company are NOt happy there! The FA, and rampies, will give you the song and dance, But it ain’t what is seems! I fly anybody but Worse Jet! I have no desire to be a culty on their first major incident!

  64. Bill Franklin says:

    Bullshit. Not photoshopped. Real photo. They were real professionals by going around. I applaud the pilots in their recognition of the error and correcting it. Great job…They saved lives.

  65. Trevor says:

    First of all to JetBlack – I totally disagree with your comments on Westjet – they are a world class airline and my first choice when flying on a route they serve. As for all the nonsense about photoshop – any of you that are photographers will know that all DSLR images have to processed in photoshop or another program. This image was probably cropped, horizon levelled, exposure corrected but did not have the position of the aircraft in the image adjusted

  66. Tony says:

    They closed the airport. I was here.

  67. Trevor says:

    Let me clear up a few things – I was in SXM listening to ATC all afternoon. American Flight 2219, a Boeing 737 from Miami had just landed before Westjet and reported to the Tower that they only picked up the field at the last minute (I presume that meant before they decided to go around). The Westjet approach was next and lets be clear, ATC did not advise them to go around, it was the pilots decision. ATC did comment that the decision to go around was very late – Westjet did not respond – ATC advised them to climb to 4000 feet and hold at Ivaci – the airport was then closed to arrivals and departures. About 20 minutes into the hold, Westjet was informed that the visibility on approach had improved from 11/2 miles to 2 miles and asked if he wanted the approach. He declined, indicated he had plenty of fuel to hold and would wait for further improvement. KLM Flight 729 then arrived, an Airbus A330 and was told to enter the hold. He indicated he did not have sufficient fuel to hold and wanted to try the approach – ATC complied with his wish and he landed safely – he reported that he picked up the field at 3 miles. Westjet then decided to make the second approach and it was flawless. As an aside, Insel Air was also in the hold, a Dominican Wings A320, and he decided to divert to Guadeloupe

  68. Ollie says:


    “Calibrated Altitude” goes to 0ft just before the go-around, and you can then see the path of the flight during the go-around, holding and second landing.

    Also registration confirms the photo of the “Frozen” livery.

  69. Ollie says:

    To add to my previous comment, Maho Beach Cam have footage of the aircraft and will be uploading the footage soon. This should provide more evidence.

  70. This video shows what the go-around and landing looked like from our live streaming webcam’s point of view.

  71. Pro-pilot says:

    Since when is a radio altimeter used to determine MDA on a non-precision approach.

  72. Smooth says:

    The probably had to change their shorts.

  73. Smooth says:

    Yup. Ground effect.

  74. Sam says:

    This morning Maho Beach Cam published a video of the same event from their archive. Now it’s very visible (see 0.02 of the clip) it is way low before pull up for sure. https://youtu.be/0uPTdKwWo78

  75. Don Keye says:

    This says it all. (
    Video starts about 20 seconds after loaded)


  76. James Snave says:

    NOT a 57. Defintely. a 330. KLM doesn’t even have 57’s ffs. Lots of nonsense and drivel spouted on here. Definitely an incident here. How and why remains for the investigation.

  77. Scott says:

    Does anybody know anything about TNCM airport? When did they add a glideslope to the approach? To my limited knowledge, there is NO GLIDESLOPE or LOCALIZER; just a VOR. St Maarten uses VOR, GPS or Visual approaches. I can find no source on the internet or confirmation from anyone I know in avation that there is an ILS (lOC/GS). So no GPWS warnings for glideslope exsist for thie airport. However, Westjet’s 737 fleet is equipped with TAWS. GPWS could still go off despite “landing configuration” for terrain warnings. I have personally experienced an Airbus on an ILS approach in good weather where the terrain warnings were still audible during the entire approach.

  78. Kate Sonnenberg says:

    Could this be tower error and not pilot error, I did read the plane was totally engulfed in cloud?

  79. Sixtydriver says:

    I sincerely cringe at these types of articles. Not because it was a “close call”, but because it’s nothing more than what a few others have pointed out above – HALF of a story. Poorly executed reporting in my opinion. If the company said there was nothing to report on it then why the sensationalism and picture?

    One with no experience in these matters would immediately chastise the pilots for being “unprofessional” and “dangerous”. It’s been mentioned before about the damaging effects of this type of B.S. reporting.

    Also, in the aviation world, there is an epidemic of folks who (for lack of a better phrase) have nothing better to do with their time but look for situations to inflate to garner attention. Calling out, dropping dimes, blue falcons… however you wanna address it, these types are out there, and it is absolutely infuriating to see it go on.

    This touches a nerve for me. I was that pilot… I was a victim of a picture taken at the wrong second (or exactly the right second if you were the bravo foxtrot type) that put me and my crew in a bad light. Not one person involved in the investigation was inside that aircraft, not one person who ever saw that picture ever gave us the benefit of the doubt that we were doing what we were supposed to, and not one person who rushed to judgment ever apologized when we were all acquitted of wrong doing. The damage was done however.

    My incident was over the water as well, and I was avoiding an R22 that buzzed in between two hotels right in front of me, while already at 200 feet following a banner plane at 400 feet. Luckily ATC had transcripts and radar to back my story uo, but it certainly didn’t matter until I had an investigating officer tell the command they absolutely could not charge me with reckless operation.

    The man who took this picture provided a narrative however, that made us look as if we were making gun runs on beach goers and return to targets, aerobatic flight, being “airshow Dan” is how we phrase that behavior, and it damaged mine and my crews reputation for a LONG time. A liar, who had nothing better to do than try to torpedo someones career because he happened to have a picture of a low flying helo, and he happened to work across the hall from a project manager for that airframe. All to inflate an ego, make himself look good, who knows? I can only speculate.
    I at the time was a 19 year officer, an instructor pilot, and had a 3000 hour incident free career, but again, none of that mattered.

    I can certainly sympathize with these pilots. Does the normal person have any idea how quickly 3 or 400 feet can go by on an approach, especially with the gusty conditions you find around the open ocean and high terrain as in that picture? I can. With that size aircraft and that speed I can only imagine a 3 degree glideslope probably puts them at a descent rate of well over 1000 fpm.
    There could quite possibly be an area of negative pressure if that wind is coming off that cliff where the photographer is sitting that caused some pretty good down drafts, like a mini leeside wave. Maybe their terrain avoidance alarm was faulty. Maybe they had an equipment failure past the FAF that put them a couple hundred feet off and didn’t realize it till they came out of IMC. Maybe between the time they realized and corrected that’s where the lost altitude came from.

    There’s plenty of explanations that would support them making a good decision and making a go around safely instead of a bad one – and 90 percent of you are SO quick to look for that bad. That is what’s wrong with the aviation community today.

    Yes we need to analyze scenarios that are safety of flight related, but to do so in this matter is unprofessional and quite frankly not worth my time if you don’t have the other half of the story.

  80. Jim Packer says:

    Absolutely not a 757! The second photo is a wide body. In addition, the shape of the fuselage in the tail are is a distinctive Airbus design. The profile is totally different from a 757.

  81. L wildabeast says:

    Those are 330 winglets. Absolutely not a 757.

  82. DAVE says:

    Saw it live as I was watching the Maho Beach Cam on PZT TV. No photo shop here. The landing lights were below the fence at the end of the runway. I was sure I was about to witness a crash.

  83. G says:

    Don’t wager too much because you are wrong. KLM does not operate 757s, they do operate 330s. It is a 330. Look at the angle of the winglets and go look at some 330 pics on the net and you will see.

  84. Mike says:

    In the picture the vis is much better than 1.5 miles, in the second picture vis looks unlimited. And the are cumulus clouds in the background and the skies look blue. The ceiling appears to be much higher than minimums also. The water shows the winds are relatively light and the approach is over water so mechanical turbulence should be light which suggests windsheer is also unlikely the cause. I dont believe those comments about weather being a factor.
    This is an example of how much pressure we are under at work. Pilots get into scenarios that require immediate action all the time. It’s what we do. One little mistake and the whole world has to know about it…. we don’t get paid enough for what we do and how public or actions can be. If passengers are so concerned about safety don’t worry so much about what we have to deal with on final approach sometimes. Start asking why pilots are so under paid why we are putting kids fresh out of school with no experience into wide body aircraft, why we hire temporary foreign workers (canada) who don’t have the same required training as us or care about our companies image because they are only here to take our money not pay taxes and disappear after a short term.
    Westjet working hard to keep flying safely shouldn’t be the headline. The poor working conditions pilots are facing should be.

  85. DAVE says:

    Just noticed, a truck getting ready to cross in front of the fence stops suddenly as the WestJet approached.

  86. Harvey says:

    I appreciate the author being an aviation enthusiast. That being said – the picture is just a snapshot of one moment in time. In the absence of supporting data, parameters or other information to provide context, it means nothing.

    While I believe the photojournalist who took the picture did not photoshop it, occasionally due to light, distance, angle, or other factors pictures do not provide a complete perspective on images.

    The approach the aircraft would have been using was the RNAV GNSS Rwy 10 with the OTMUT transition. WestJet flight standards dictate that every approach is done with a vertical glideslope, be it ILS or VNAV from an instrument overlay, RNAV or RNP approach.
    The pilots in question wold have crossed OTMUT which is a part of the T, turned south to AVAKI, and then towards LESOR. The distance from LESOR to the threshold is 5.1 nm, and the aircraft would have been at least at 1700 per the VNAV profile.

    There is nothing exceedingly challenging about performing such an RNAV approach. The Captain in question would have been at least a 9 year veteran of WestJet operations, likely more, and almost certainly had been to SXM many times throughout his/her career. Additionally, the Captain almost certainly would have been flying only the 737 throughout their employment with WestJet, as they are mostly 737 operator (they have a small fleet of 767s) and so were well-experienced on the various ins and out of 737 FMS usage, VNAV approaches, Caribbean flying, etc….

    Occasionally the automation can have hiccups, but there is nothing exceedingly difficult about this approach. They did the right thing by doing the go-around – that it was the RNAV 10 is evident by the immediate right turn they performed on the go-around video.

    I would caution everyone to take some of the commentary from passengers or aviation enthusiasts with a grain of salt. They are well-intentioned, but are just providing their version of events, which in the absence of hard figures or data doesn’t count. Aviation is a precise science and it will be known if that aircraft was too low, and by how much. Forgive me for being skeptical of much of the commentary on the FB groups as “it looked too low” just doesn’t cut it.

    Here’s something else to consider. A perusal of many of Negroni’s other articles leaves it apparent she specializes in half-truths. For example, in this article, http://www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/From-Greenwich-to-Zimbabwe-a-gift-of-fire-trucks-2457271.php
    she describes Solomon Mujuru as “a national war hero and husband of the country’s vice president.”

    Mujuru was also a murderer and a thug with countless acts of blood on his hands from the Rhodesian Bush War onwards, a leading proponent of seizures of white farms by black gangs, and a man who enriched himself by stealing companies, business or farms from others. That she described him in glowing praise is disrespectful to a generation of Zimbabweans / Rhodesians and shows how little research she does.

  87. James Bond says:

    I wonder if the pilots paid the pizza to the passengers after…

  88. Steve says:

    Jet Black. You are so full of it. The company does NOT condone that type of flying. Everything, and I mean everything on the 737 that you do when flying gets recorded. If you fly 270 knots below 10,000 you get called by the gate keeper as to why you were 20 knots over the speed limit. So don’t go babbling that the pilots at WJ are cowboys. In fact, in a lot of airports, especially the states, wj get asked “well why don’t you fly this way because XX and YY airline always do it”. It’s because WJ has a stabilized approach criteria. You break the criteria you go around. These pilots did the exact thing they were training to do and they should be given a thumbs up. Do you ever look at case studies and see how many airlines will NOT go around and put the flight in jeopardy? KSFO 777 ring a bell?
    As for the EGPWS and people commenting on the fact it will not issue an alert on approach your facts are incorrect. It WILL issue and alert if you break certain parameters. The parameters do tighten up when you are set up or an approach but will issue alerts nonetheless.
    Until for data is released. O one knows what actually happened so lease keep the arm chair quarterback comments out of it. It very well could have been a wind shear that cause do this. The way I look a it is these pilots did the right thing and should be commended on their final decision.

  89. Jacinta says:

    Nice manufacturing fake news. “it must acknowledge that its seven years of incident-free flying into St. Maarten, ended on Tuesday.”

    “WestJet should be commended for continuing it’s flawless record of incident-free flying into St. Marten”. There. Fixed it for you.

  90. Gary Hamblen says:

    I have been into SXM many times with our company jet. Maybe they were given the incorrect altimeter setting.

    Anyway the pilots did a great job on the MP.

  91. Bertrand says:

    Please check this at 19h34 :

    Altitude = 0ft

    Then after the go around, the altitude at the same spot is 300ft

    Sooooooooo it looks like something is going on

  92. NYBanker says:

    For those who doubted the photo, do you also doubt the various videos now surfacing?

    Glad this turned out fine…but indeed a close call.

  93. Stan says:

    The plane wasn’t too low. The ocean was too high.

  94. Kevmeistah says:

    This article is a smoke-screen. The real story that I see is a KLM aircraft with way too HIGH of an approach into St Maarten, undoubtedly in danger of over-shooting the runway. And this opinion is from my experience flying as a passenger and landing safely at close to two dozen airports in the past 45 years and from landing safely by cruise ship in St Maarten as recently as 2015! ;-p

  95. M R Thompson says:

    Exactly – lower further back during approach, disturbed water further back confirms your suspicion, I agree he’s already well into the go around and starting to climb in the picture.

  96. airborne para says:

    Hat off to the flight crew. Great job guys!

  97. airborne para says:

    As they say “any landing you walk away from is a GOOD ONE….any landing you walk away from and get to use the A/C again is a GREAT ONE !

  98. Amr says:

    Might have been a miss-set QNH

  99. Jim T says:

    WHy was the truck crossing in front of the runway at a time the warning light should have stopped traffic?

  100. Quique says:

    Very good video of the event! Check it out!


  101. Moyeen says:

    For those of you who question authenticity of the photographs by Christine Negroni please watch the video of the aborted takeoff first at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNhAYKM-7LQ (courtesy: AtcPilot) and see how low the aircraft is flying.

  102. Bill says:

    Another garbage “article” written by an aviation “expert”.

    The pilot can descend below MDA in visual conditions, which is clearly the case here.

    The video shows that the go around was initiated close to the runway. There is no ILS at this airport, just non precision approaches. So, they were a little low on short final, and went around. Happens. Not a close call or near accident by any means. Drama dog author needs to get a bit of a dose of reality.

    Signed, instrument rated private pilot.

  103. Christine Negroni says:

    Sixtydriver – I appreciate this comment. With the exception of calling my reporting “B.S.” I am in agreement with you. There is nothing in the post to suggest the pilots were to blame. I reported the facts known to me including the response of WestJet. It is the job of air safety authorities to look into the circumstances and see what needs to be done to prevent something similar. That is the point I made in my post. That is how aviation gets safer.

  104. Trevor says:

    A response to Mike re the weather conditions at the time – the visibility definitely was not unlimited – the tower indicated 1.5 miles on the approach during the first attempt and 3 miles during the second. Low cloud base and winds were far from moderate – they were talking sustained at 15 knots with gusts to 25 knots from 070 degrees so undoubtedly weather was a major factor

  105. billebob says:

    45 minutes is because the pilot had to change his shorts!

  106. Ken says:

    You spelled ‘misspellings’ incorrectly.

  107. Ravee Kurian says:

    Here is video of both the first and second approaches. This should settle the debate that the first approach was too low and more than likely below minimums.


  108. Marble blovedavich says:

    That is an A330. A 757 is a narrow body, and it either does not have winglets or traditional winglets. The A330 has the slanted winglets yu you see in the picture.

  109. ANGELO S DROUTSAS says:

    Hey photoshop man, look closely! The shadow in the lower half of the pic is of the aircraft and the long trail behind it is JET BLAST.

  110. ANGELO S DROUTSAS says:

    Love it, thanks for the laughs☺

  111. ANGELO S DROUTSAS says:

    So I guess their instruments weren’t working, right??

  112. Steve Johnson says:

    The photographer simply published the photos. It is all you supposed aviation experts that have been adding 2 cents into the photo. Most of you most likely fly Cessna’s .
    I have been to this island and have seen low approaches. Go A Rounds happen daily, SO WHAT.

  113. Hello says:

    This airport doesn’t have ILS, just RNAV and VOR approaches ( not sure about the NDB )… So no ILS – no Glideslope warning… 😉

  114. Dan Imhoff says:

    Nobody has mentioned a false glide slope event, and they are very real…nothing to do with the skills of the pilot they may have just been following the slope guidance and then when realised it was a false slope error performed a go-around.

  115. Michael Green says:

    What does KLM have to do with this (Pablo-first 2 photos)? The aircraft was a West Jet in the Disney livery. Yes, I believe KLM was the first to land after the airport reopened but this article is about WJ. (which I remind you, have had several flight incidents/emergencies in the last 4-5 weeks)

  116. Cam V says:

    I believe you but will everyone else? Too bad you didn’t have some sort of proof to support the story. I guess the black boxes and the crew know the truth but will we ever know the truth?

  117. J says:

    Oh boy…you better talk with your mother and have her discuss “air pockets” with you. Maybe talk a bit about “chemtrails”, also…

  118. David Vail says:

    One of the reasons for the misjudgement is that there is no ILS approach for Princess Juliana airport (ICAO: TNCM), so it’s purely a visual approach for the pilots. You basically have to get down to about 1500 ft above the water and stay there until you see the white/red PAPI lights.

  119. Larry Winds says:

    I think the jury is still out on this one.
    First, I don’t see any precision approach to TNCM.
    Second, they may not be “too” low. Could be normal for a non precision.
    Third, There is not such thing as air pockets.
    Fourth, This may or may not be a good photo, and someone from the ground may or may not have good info as to their altitude. And we don’t know if it was an appropriate altitude at all.
    Fifth, why the two different photos, anyway.
    Sixth, most of you have no clue how GPWS or Enhansed GPWS or any other warnings work, or even if they were installed in this plane.

    I’ve got 25K + hours and 8000 in the 737, and I’m calling BS on this whole story until we find out the facts, which may not be an issue at all.

  120. Lew B says:

    Must be nice to go to work and have the entire internet critiquing you. The weather is poor and the pilot does what you are supposed to do when things aren’t right (missed approach) and all of sudden every half-wit journalist knows better.

    Micro-burst, equipment, wind shear, and who knows what may have caused or contributed to where they were, but they did the right thing. That buoy is not far from shore or the end of the runway. It’s very hard to get perspective from these photos. Also, the top photo has been altered slightly – the perspective is not right.

  121. ___J___ says:

    artifacts of manipulation… the pixels are wrong.

    I’m embarrassed for you.

  122. ___J___ says:

    Just to be clear, “you” is referring to the expert photoshop guy spouting nonsense, not the photographer.

  123. Capt James Ball says:

    )0 years in everything with wings tells that what is happening is the danrous trend of airlines wanting to save money
    Isisting the only “hand flying is take off to 400′ then engage autopilot. Which can be 3-5 percent fuel savings.. through the flight and autopilot approaches down to minimums. That aircraft has (at 500 on decent/ calls an Audible through speakers and headset “500-!-400-300-200
    MINIMUMS at which time capt or FO MUST SEE OR DECLfe “Runway in sight”
    To continue descending below minimums
    Is both illegal and stupid. At dh decision height/ minimums he may hold till he passes the safety threshold. This Airport
    Is so short that if you’ve not gone visual
    Sight of field you got 5-8 seconds to commit to land if you see airport or Declare. MAP” missed approach.
    So since these guys only hand fly so littl they sheepishly come back to a certified flight instructor, take any plane and get some “Real stick time” leave confident
    That they are PILOTS instead of video
    Archade or simulAtor jox
    Someone asked why ;5 more mins till second shot and landing. Sorry but stupid question. First he’s gotta spoil up power on Jet is NOT immediate :-8 sec to full power maintaining runway heading.
    Clean up gar n flaps and climb, get spacing with other traffic and circl accfing
    To arc controller and star or standard terminal arrival proceedeurs, and start over, slower , flaps power settings , glide slop angles and more to flare just over beach on runway touchdown, derogate nose a jump on full thrust reversers and 747 does this all time. You have to have special clearance/training to land princess Julianna. It can kill you. Can’t take even one mistake or you’re a dead
    Man or at. Eat run off the overrun. And get wet. My take.

  124. This is horrible journalism says:

    This I see terrible journalism. The article is riddled with speculation, outward suggestions and not facts. Your “737 source with more than 20k hours of flying” would have been proud to give his mane if he wasn’t an old drunk sitting in a bar. A sketchy source at best and yet, you state his comments as fact! Did you fact check orjust use his/her word and then hammer this article out as soon as possible? The company hasn’t commented because THERE WAS NO INCIDENT.

  125. Brian Duxbury says:

    Looking at the Youtube video posted it looks like the 737 could have flown through a microburst. Evidence would be the near nil visibility of a rain shower behind the aircraft at the start of the video, and the squally conditions as seen in the parasols blowing at the beach bar. If so, good recovery. Let’s not flame the pilots until all the facts are in.

  126. Coo L. Ade says:

    re: its never too late to go-around. Umm, yes, it is sometimes too late. SFO crash. They were going around.

  127. Richard.O says:

    And your background in Aviation?

  128. Richard.O says:

    Thank You for the insight and finally someone with knowledge of this incident.

  129. Barry O says:


  130. Tony says:

    So for all of those that say this is photo shopped……… Is the youtube video photo shopped as well???? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNhAYKM-7LQ

  131. Jaybird says:

    I am an airline pilot with over 25,000 hours over 36 years. We should first recognize the decision to go around rather than try to salvage a bad approach. The crew should be commended for that.

    The wake that is seen appears real. I have seen such wake many times following aircraft into airports like San Francisco.

    There are many illusions that can trap a crew. First, a runway that slopes uphill will make you feel that you are high when you are not. I have studied incidents where aircraft have landed in the overrun or even taken out the airport fence because the crew got caught by this illusion.

    If the approach end of the runway is visible but the rest is not, it is very easy to descend too early. The visibility over the water looks good but the tower was reporting low visibility so this scenario is very plausible.

    Again, kudos to the crew for recognizing that they were out of position and going around rather than trying to salvage a bad approach. Too many crews view a go around as a ‘failure’ but exactly the opposite is true.

  132. Coo L. Ade says:

    If it was a microburst, then indeed it was a great save.

  133. Coo L. Ade says:

    A microburst is the most reasonable explanation. After passing through the rain shower, they would have encountered a tailwind in combination with a downdraft. This would have caused them to descend below the normal profile. Major airports in the US and worldwide have detection systems for this; because as a pilot you can not know if it is occuring and it can exceed the aircraft’s capability.

  134. Anita says:

    We all learn from one another’s incidents. There is always something to take away from it.
    The airline denying that the aircraft was too low when a missed approach was conducted is ridiculous. An airline that is not transparent about their incidents is creating an unsafe culture.

  135. Jumbybird says:

    Because they’re a bunch of trolls with nothing better to do.

  136. Dave T says:

    That would be true if they were flying an ILS approach. However, SXM only has non precision approaches to runway 10. One is an RNAV and two are VOR approaches. No Mode 5 alerts possible at this airport.

  137. Terry says:

    To: Greg Lacie
    Cut this article out and tuck it away in a book somewhere. When you grow up past the 300 flight hours you must now possess and get to be a real pilot, get this article back out and look at what an ass you just made of yourself. You don’t even have a clue of which you speak. At least learn the correct terminology if you are going to try to pawn yourself off as a seasoned knowledgeable pilot.

  138. John Craddock says:

    You are mistaken because there is no ILS approach for SXM. The common approach used is the VOR/DME.

  139. Todd says:

    Not sure how many of you have made this landing I have 4 times it was different every time. I have watched hundreds of landings from the beach none the same . Watch the video it’s a missed approach the pilots were in control and in front of there plane great vacation story I say.
    Ps watch Asiana crash into San Francisco these pilots were not in control and in front of there plane

  140. Jim says:

    It ‘looks’ pretty low but not sure as bad as suggested. The zoom is clearly different which would change much of perspective. You can see that in the relative size of the buoy. The angle of the photos are different which they might be due to plane elevation however a lot more water in the foreground of the KLM shot. Part of that is zoom as well but can’t help thinking the photographer is at a different elevation. That alone helps highlight the difference the zoom creates.
    No doubt the pilot was lower than wanted to be which of course led to the fly around. As the nose is brough up as we see and throttles for the fly around would that also result in loss of altitude?
    I have the sense this is mostly an effort to create controversy and that was a bit affirmed when I had to submit my email address. Now I’ve fallen for the phishing of that.

  141. Mariela says:

    I completely agree with you Jim! The article should have been: Great save by Pilot! Instead it went the other way. This article was definitely not written in a glass half full perspective like the writer says in numerous comment responses. It was written in a fashion whereby the pilot and the airline have to defend themselves. If it had truly been written with a glass half full position, we would be commending the pilot’s efforts.

    No one ever blamed Captain Sully for flying into birds. He was commended for his quick actions and the ability to avoid a tragic situation. He saved lives and became a hero. I’m not saying that whoever was flying this flight is a hero, but at least commend him or her for his or her quick response.

  142. George Boehm says:

    You are looking for publicity, no one knows how close to the beach landing the plane was. Shadow on the water indicates height of aircraft well over its wingspan, and calling a “Perfect 7 years of accident free landing” just ended is irresponsible scaremongering.!!! Have a nice day!

  143. George Boehm says:

    Why are two pictures taken from different height perspective?

  144. Ace says:

    There is no such thing as an “air pocket”

  145. matt says:

    It’s not always possible to verify height from a photo…Depth of field can throw that off, I mean look at the buildings, they look 10 feet from the water… Deceiving photograph…Nothing unsafe about this

  146. Chris says:

    I wonder if all the “experts” above that were calling this picture fake are going to apologize to the photographer now that all of the other pictures of this incident have come out including this video. Somehow I doubt they will…


  147. Jurgen says:

    SXM does not have na ILS approach, so a below G/S will not be issued.

  148. V.N. says:

    I do love how everyone says no big deal. If this had been AirCanada there would be experts, reporters, passenger testimonials about the whole event and every asshat agreeing why they don’t fly with them.
    Gods airline does it. Westjet themselves and no worries. It’s got to be a fake photo.
    You people make me sick. Admit you screwed up and deal with it.
    A video isn’t enough evidence to me. Nope it’s all fake. They’re perfect.

  149. Sandyb78 says:

    My family was on this plane and all you people saying it is fake really have no idea what you are talking about. It was very real and vry scary..my nephews and niece were abord. And yes the piolets made a great save. If not for them this plane could have been in the water.

  150. Ben says:

    Here is a great video of the incident: https://www.instagram.com/p/BRjqWyFjX_w/

    The photography ‘experts’ in the comments need to have a look at it. It was clearly too low. Why exactly is not known by us, but those winds look gusty and could easily cause an undershoot. Pilot error is a possibility but frankly unlikely.

    A problem you’re having with the airline is that there are actually set definitions for what is an ‘incident’ or not. Going a bit low on a visual approach usually doesn’t meet this definition, but it does require a go-around. So from the airline’s perspective, this was simply an operational event that was handled properly by the pilots.

  151. Tim Tom says:


    Likely a microburst/windshear. They got too low, executed a missed approach…and then simply had to get back into landing sequence, while waiting for the airport to reopen. While the photo seems dramatic, video shows proof of a missed approach in bad visibility conditions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uPTdKwWo78 It’s really that simple. But hey, this is just another example of “Alternate News”, right?

  152. Shawn says:

    My family and I were on this plane on vacation and we still are on vacation. I can tell you that very one was terrified . I was looking out the window of the left side seat over the wing and everyone thought we were going in the water! Your not hearing much from passengers because most of us are still on vacation but I will be looking for answers when I get home!

  153. don j says:

    A lot of nothing. I have flown into that airport and the landing is just over the beach. I have been on several flights where the winds have changed , the visibility wasn’t the best and the pilot has to fly the plane with changing conditions. Any pilot that goes around for a second approach is professional and then you have to take your turn . Not many landings are so smooth that you hear the wheels turning before you realize you have landed. I regularly land in Toronto like last week through clouds then rain with vicious wind gusts . The pilot(s) lined up with a few adjustments for the changing winds made a great landing with one or two bumps. A lot of foey about nothing other than something happened and the crew acted safely by deciding to make a second approach. Maybe they weren’t having an “A” approach or weather changed but landed safely.

  154. don j says:

    Have flown commercially a lot and taken flying lessons. Very likely your description is right on. I still remember my one and only A+ landing with a lot of missed approaches as I learnt. Changing wind and weather conditions plus the plane handles different when changing from plane to land based.

  155. Greg Lacle says:

    To those who stand behind more than 20 years of experience and said that what I was talking was BS, well is especially for you. And as you said “some Pilots can do stupid things”, well news for you; Your 20 years experience does not necessarily make you a good Pilot.

    please read the reply of West Jet here, and its exactly what I assumed.


    I rest my case.

  156. acebailer says:

    its downwash off the wings

  157. Don Keye says:

    CTV news article 15 March

    Let’s back up a bit and discuss the incident like adult, and hopefully seasoned pilots.
    The first item is that none of us were in the cockpit so what went on in there is a non-issue and the CVR has long been over written.
    It is apparent that many of the initial comments were from WJ employees bolstering the argument that the photo was fake.
    That issue has been resolved by video.

    It is important for all of us to sit back and wait for definitive proof of the approach and in this case it was a very telling video.
    Opinions now change and many advocate a “micro-burst” yet again, there is no definitive proof and no record of the crew advising ATC that they had encountered a micro burst so that info could be passed to other aircraft….which is what every pilot would do.

    The end result is that the crew put themselves into an unstable approach prior to being video taped and, as to be expected, decided to go around and flew out of what could have been a very untenable situation.

    From a professional point of view, my opinion would be that they did have an unstable approach and waited a bit too long to correct the situation, however, they did fix the situation and no harm was done….skill/luck..you decide and as hard as it is for some to accept, the entire episode should not have happened had the crew decided to go around as soon as they realized the approach was “unstable”.

    I would only wish that all of us that fly have learned a lesson from the video and realize that it is pointless to toss disparaging remarks towards those that were participants in this incident.
    Fly safe guys and gals.

  158. Jim G says:

    It’s an A330. Look at the gear and winglets, nose of aircraft, and general appearance.

  159. Max says:

    There is a YouTube video showing the go-around in a good angle (not sure if this has been posted before here)


  160. Maarten Bais says:

    The KLM aircraft is an A 330 – KLM does NOT have and never even had 757s.

  161. Don Keye says:

    Jim G says:
    March 17, 2017 at 7:00 am
    It’s an A330. Look at the gear and winglets, nose of aircraft, and general appearance.
    Really?, I mean really !!! If you had read the thread you would have seen that it was a WESTJET aircraft and if you had gone to the Westjet website you would note that they DO NOT have any AIRBUS aircraft.
    And Westjet does not have 757s either

    Please folks, do a little fact checking before you jump into the fray and look rather (fill in the blank)

  162. Stephen Leftly says:

    I would suggest that those who have stated with such absolute authority that the photo was photshopped and fake should look at the following Youtube video of the same approach and then apologize to the photographer and author…

    See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNhAYKM-7LQ

  163. Gene says:

    Assuming the flight article is factual or even close to it, why would it take 45 minutes to make another approach for landing? For a small, low traffic airport such as this the go-around until landing should have taken 5 minutes or less. Also after a long flight how much fuel does he have left? 45 minutes of additional must have use up most all extra fuel that would be used to go to his alternate airport.

  164. Aqua says:

    Twin jet blast trails in the water, widening and extending off the frame stood out to me. Very clearly in the 50′ regime.

    I agree with the author with some healthy take-always:. De-stigmatize go-arounds. Admit mistakes. Learn from others’ mistakes. Anything can happen to anyone at any time.

    Hope to hear details of what happened. Please post again on Flight Aware. Good object lesson.

  165. YVES says:

    The aircraft is definitely NOT a 757. How can you confuse this. The 757 has a very unique nose shape. Like someone mentioned before, some people will post unchecked, unsubstantiated comments.

  166. Don Keye says:

    Assuming the flight article is factual or even close to it, why would it take 45 minutes to make another approach for landing?


    The aircraft commenced a hold after the go-around and was asked if they wanted to commence their second approach. They declined with the comment that they would “wait awhile to see if the viz improved”
    (((Recorded ATC)))

  167. Picman says:

    With few exceptions the comments here demonstrate little other than the general absence of facts. Many don’t seem to know much about flying airliners. Fortunately some of those who do have recognised that little is actually known about the specific flight. About the only established FACT is that witnesses both on the ground and in the aircraft were seriously alarmed by a go-around by a Westjet aircraft that was initiated at a much lower altitude than would be expected from the aircraft’s position on the approach.

    When asked about it, it appears that the airline’s spokesperson initially flatly denied that any alarm was justified, and implied that the flight had been entirely routine. Maybe the spokesperson was as uninformed about what actually happened as anyone else who hadn’t been a witness. Maybe they DID know more than those witnesses, but downplayed any significance to avoid adverse comment. If so, it didn’t work, as it seems to have been the trigger for this blog article – which has resulted in more comment not less.

    According to the Canadian TSB (quoted in the Aviation Herald), the known facts are simply that “during the approach to Runway 10 at TNCM, the aircraft descended too low on final and the flight crew executed a missed approach. A second approach was conducted and the aircraft landed without further event.”

    A missed approach is not a reportable safety event, but the TSB has opened a “class 3 investigation”. Reasons for doing this could include significant public expectation that the TSB should independently make findings as to cause(s) and contributing factors; or the potential for better understanding the latent unsafe conditions contributing to a significant safety issue.

    Even if the TSB didn’t need a report for a go-around, possibly one might have been required by the airline. So the absence of one may have been the reason for the initial official comment. That will no doubt be part of the TSB investigation. But for an airline spokesperson to use data from FlightAware and not official internal information seems less than professional.

    Other factual data seems to be that there was significant deterioration in the weather about the time of the incident – a drop in temperature and pressure, and a spike in wind speed, a major drop in visibility, and rain showers at the airport itself. However, there is no suggestion of major thunderstorm activity. (https://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/TNCM/2017/3/7/DailyHistory.html?req_city=Juliana+Airport&req_state=&req_statename=Sint+Maarten&reqdb.zip=00000&reqdb.magic=110&reqdb.wmo=78866&MR=1).

    The airline’s statement on the 14th says “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.”

    What this does not make clear is whether the descent was as a result of the weather itself (e.g. downdrafts or windshear), or action the crew took as a result of the weather change. A deliberate descent below the glide path would certainly be something to question. Either way it provides an incentive for the TSB to look into it. Until more facts are made public, anything else is speculation.

    Whatever shows up in the investigation seems likely add to concerns about the way pilots make the transition from instrument approaches to visual cues – especially without instrument vertical guidance. The Lionair and UPS accidents cited are but two of many dozens of such events over the decade or so. Fortunately WestJet did not join that list as an actual accident, but merely a nasty fright for many people.

  168. Matt says:

    There must be another side to the story, right? At least that feels better than what the experts are saying. So let’s just ignore the experts, and conclude there may be another side of the story.

    This moral relativism might feel comfy to you when it comes to politics, and it may afford you the ability to sound wise without actually having an opinion, but there’s no “room for two sides of the story” with physics. Moreover, this “wishy washy”, “there are only shades of grey to any situation” snowflakism is causing you to get upset about ridiculous things. I suspect that you find the gender pay gap to be quite problematic no? Just a hunch.

    Anyway, with respect to the picture of this aircraft, I make the following statements as an airline pilot with ~10,000 hrs of experience, a vast majority of it on Boeings: if that photo is real, there is no other side to the story, period; something is seriously wrong and it should have never have gotten to that point. They are well below minimums, and way outside the tolerances of a “stableized approach”. As such, there must be a public investigation, and I suspect that WJ is already quietly conducting one on its own, by way of their FDA (flight data analysis, which tracks hundreds of aircraft parameters on each aircraft, in real time). If this is the case, their best play is to own up to their pending internal investigation, and withhold all speculation until they know what happened.

    The only “other side” to this story that I hold out for, is the possibility that the picture was faked (I’m doubtful of that).

  169. P Kats says:

    The terrain warning is suppressed when in the landing configuration.

  170. Joseph says:

    Because they were configured for landing.

  171. Meanious says:

    Wordy – but the best reply of all.

  172. Picman says:

    Matt, if your remarks are addressed to me I am not quite sure what the relevance of the stuff about ignoring experts, gender pay gap and moral relativism is. In my opinion is that there are not many experts on anything posting comments here. I simply pointed out what is actually known, and added a few bits of factual information, and at that point didn’t make any judgemental assertions!

    An independent investigation IS now happening. From experience (not within WestJet) I wouldn’t put too much faith that an internal one will dig into contributory causes to what appears to be at least a final approach that was rescued from disaster at the last moment. An airline I flew for had a few of those way back in the distant past. Independent investigations at least have the chance to look into contributory causes like inadequacies in procedures, training and other issues. Airline internal enquiries tend to simply hang everything on the individual pilots for screwing up.

    My opinion: based only on the photos and videos it seems that this was yet another a non-precision approach that went seriously adrift in conditions which deteriorated after the approach was started. If the go-around started more than 2 miles out, it was a seriously miss-flown instrument approach. If it was less, then it appears that the visual references the crew had at and below MDA were inadequate to maintain a safe approach path to the runway.

    Christine Negroni’s pilot friends both referred to the UPS A300 and Lionair Bali accidents as having similar characteristics to this event – absence of a timely go-around from approaches with no ground-based instrument vertical guidance, and inadequate or deteriorating visual cues. The same is true of other events such as those in Kathmandu and Hiroshima in early 2015, and it may turn out to be the case in the Halifax accident around the same time.

    IF this was like so many other events with similar external characteristics, likely contributory factors could include the crew not being adequately prepared for a “minimums” approach, because the weather was reported basically “good” prior to top of descent.

    Approaching MDA, the sea surface may well have been easily seen, leading the pilots to assume the runway would soon also become visible. With the autopilot disconnected, both pilots then stayed head up looking for the runway over a featureless water surface, which merged into cloud or rain with no clear horizon. Precipitation close to the runway decreases visibility and leads to illusion of pitch up; descent rate increases without pilots realising it, as neither is concentrating on the instruments. Then a go-around is triggered by the sudden realisation that surface is actually very much closer than it should be.
    It will be interesting to learn if, as in all events cited, the crew had been trained to use procedures with an exchange of responsibility for instrument monitoring around the minimum altitude (“Decision Height”), with the Pilot Flying being initially advised by the
    Pilot Monitoring of any visual cues when the aircraft was approaching the MDA.

    As long ago as 1976 the NTSB recommended that with this procedure, the pilots should be trained to make specific callouts to signal this change of responsibility, to ensure that there is continuous instrument monitoring to touchdown in instrument approaches. However few if any airlines do so, leaving crews and passengers very vulnerable to the possibility that in fact both pilots will be “head-up”, trying to see external cues. This leaves no-one watching the instruments, and neither pilot fully expecting to actually perform a go-around. The go-around then comes very late if at all.

    All these risks, as well as the infamous dilemma of the co-pilot having to switch from assisting the pilot to reversing the pilot’s mistakes, can also be dramatically reduced by using the alternative “Pilot-monitored Approach” technique. This simply has the Co-pilot fly the approach, staying on instruments and going around at minimum UNLESS the pilot has confirmed having adequate visual reference to take control and land. It’s recommended for “all IMC and night approaches”, but not done by many airlines. So these events continue to occur.

  173. Jeff Berger says:

    It is amazing to me — a lifelong journalist who to this day continues to write about aviation and in particular about its relationship to and service at TNCM (SXM Airport) — how much CYA B. S. is being promulgated and published here by West Jet and its peanut gallery. If you folks had bothered to investigate this incident instead of knee-jerk refuting it (which is NOT what any savvy PR people would have EVER recommended to you), everyone would be far safer and you would not look like you are not interested in investigating anything honestly and effectively. Do you job instead of criticizing people who are simply ASKING FOR YOU TO DO YOUR JOB! Find out what really happened and if anything was wrong FIX IT! Kill the CYA BS!

  174. Teresa W says:

    I’m not a pilot, not do I have any idea about flying a plane. However, I’m a labor and delivery nurse who loves to travel. After seeing the pic and watching video of this first landing attempt, I can tell you that had I been on that flight and looked out the window, I would have been scared. I don’t care if the plane was within it’s limits or not. That was too close! I do appreciate the fact that the pilot recognized he was in trouble and opted for a second try. So….don’t be hating on this non-pilot person. I like to bring life into this world, not watch it depart…LOL

  175. Charles Chambard says:

    Our group was there to see it abort the landing. We were sitting at Karracters Beach Bar on Simpson Bay, halfway down the runway. This jet was already well into its aborted landing before it got to us. I stated to the group that “That jet left the ground incredibly fast.” Turns out it needed to abort. With this in mind, I’m guessing that the pilots hit GA well before the fence at Maho Beach.

  176. Greg Lacle says:

    to Terry: You made an ass out of yourself. I was on point. Ass.

  177. Michael Gagnon sr. says:

    I My wife and friend have been flying into Sxm for the last 15 years yes we have seen some very scary landings, but as the famous pilot once said any time you walk away from a plane landing is a good one our bad experiences wwere monumental (EX) we land en in Detroit michigan or Toronto international and we have had to wait as long as 3 hours in the plane to unload so when i read the reporters so called dangerous landing all i ask is was there a accident or was it close to one ? the landing strip is almost as short as a aircraft carrier any landing is a good one if you dont walk away it was a bad one . have fun traveling

  178. Michael Gagnon sr. says:

    how about the tenerife accident the worst in history ST Maarten is a dream landing most time when i see drunken tourist standing at the landing strip not 15 feet from the landing gear now that should be the story not a scary successful landing we have flown on that airline many times we have seen many close calls but it was the weather or another problem never the staff i would fly with that pilot any day than the experience we had out of Detroit on a DC9 and airline called Allegro air the door to our plane was taped up with duck tape it was the shortest trip we have ever been on it was crewed by Mexicans on a charter it was the scariest trip i have ever been on. but im still alive crap happens sometime were called out for what we write im sure the reporter was frightened and put it to paper as i am now ,
    but i remind you at least i’m still alive and well. fly safely make sure you see their name on the plane and check out the pilot if he has a white cane and a leader dog ask for a change.

  179. Dan says:

    Soooo photoshopped it’s not even funny. The weather is VFR! The “journalist” account doesn’t even make sense. “Credible Journalist” is a contradiction in terms just like “Government Intelligence” or “Civil War”.

  180. AJW says:

    Just an observation from an instrument rated PP. If they had broken out of the base of the clouds and the airport was in sight the minimums of the published approach no longer matter, they had gone visual.

  181. James says:

    I hope all you ‘fake news photoshop’ spouting folks are eating crow and issuing apologies right now


  182. Ryan says:

    I can’t believe it’s been over three years since this occurred. My wife and I were seated on the patio of a house overlooking the shoreline. We were talking about the crappy low-lying marine-layer. We heard an approaching jet but couldn’t see it. Suddenly a big blue airliner popped out of the clouds in landing configuration with the gear down and flaps extended. I did not think something that big could recover from the angle it was at and how low it was to the water.

    The jet blast churned white-water for about a quarter of a mile. Then as it passed us we heard really loud acceleration as the engines spun up faster than I’d ever expect something like that to react. The rear-elevators were what I assumed were full-up and the flaps were retracting. The nose almost just popped upward and the plane was at such a sharp angle that the water splashed outward at first and then trailed off as the plane began to ascend. The landing gear retracted as it climbed and off it went.

    People around us were at first chattering loudly but immediately stopped when the plane dropped from the marine-layer. Everyone on the patio was silent until the plane pulled up and there was a collective sigh of relief and some people clapped.

    It was stunning and and alarming to see. I felt my head pounding from the adrenaline boost but I calmed as the plane ascended, telling my wife those pilots knew their s–t and should get a medal for their actions. I didn’t realize it was actually a bad thing happening at the time; just bad weather and the pilot trying to stay on the glide-path.

    I don’t know how long it was but what I assumed was the same plane, dropped out of the marine layer farther away that time. It going much slower with the flaps and the landing gear down. The wings were flexing and bouncing from I assumed turbulence of some kind, but I was amazed how they just almost flapped like wings on a bird. Nothing eventful that time.

    I have never seen this page before and it was only by coincidence I opened it. I didn’t really think about it afterward but it made for some exciting discussions when I told friends about it. The plane in the photo with the small water disturbance behind it was already climbing when the water calmed as the jet ascended. I’m not a math whiz so I cannot relate the angle of the photo to how high the plane was off the water at that point, but when I first saw it I agree with the pilot who said it was barely “half a wingspan” off the water when it accelerated.

    I did not think there would be so much excitement and debate three years later, but theories and alternate theories colliding in argument will probably not move the airline into addressing it or settle the questions. Westjet is a Canadian airline, so aside from the USA pretty much owning them they are much more thoughtful and reflective than we are here in the “let’s kick some ass” USA. Very interesting discussion.

  183. Peter says:

    Another three years gone. Today Mentour Pilot released a great video of this incident. https://youtu.be/218DQqAVkoQ

  184. Charles says:

    All the negative comments didn’t age well. Turns out the lowest reading was actually 39’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enter to Win

Want to receive some free swag from Christine? Sign up for the mailing list!