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Princess Juliana International Airport (IATA: SXM, ICAO: TNCM) (also known as Saint Maarten International Airport) serves the Dutch part of the island of Sint Maarten. In 2007, the airport handled 1,647,824 passengers and 103,650 aircraft movements. The airport serves as a hub for Windward Islands Airways and is the major gateway for the smaller Leeward Islands, including Anguilla, Saba, St. Barthélemy and St. Eustatius. It is named after Juliana of the Netherlands, who as crown princess landed here in 1944, the year after the airport opened. There is also an airport on the French side of the island, called Aéroport de Grand Case or L’Espérance Airport.
The airport was started as a military airstrip in 1942. It was converted to a civilian airport in 1943. In 1964 the airport was remodeled and relocated, with a new terminal building and control tower. The facilities were upgraded in 1985 and 2001.
Because of increased passenger traffic and the expected growth of passenger traffic in the near future, Princess Juliana International Airport is being heavily modernized following a three-phased masterplan, commissioned in 1997.
Phase I was a short-term program in order to upgrade existing facilities and improve the level of service at various points. This included widening, strengthening and renovating the runway, increasing the bearing capacity of the taxiways, construction of a new apron and an upgrade of the (old) terminal. Phase I was completed in 2001.
Phase II included the construction of a radar facility and a new air traffic control tower, the construction of a new and more modern, 27,000 square metres (290,000 sq ft), terminal, capable of handling 2.5 million passengers per year, and the construction of a Runway End Safety Area (RESA) of 150 metres (490 ft), including a 60 metres (200 ft) overrun, on both ends of its runway, to comply with ICAO rules. The new air traffic control tower and the radar station commenced operations on March 29, 2004, while the new terminal opened in late October 2006. The terminal has 4–5 jetways for large aircraft like 747s.
If traffic develops as forecast, Phase III of the masterplan will be executed, consisting of an extension of the new terminal building and the construction of a full parallel taxiway system. The new terminal building will also have more jetways and services etc.
However, the oil price increases since 2003 began impacting discretionary air travel worldwide by early 2008, and the prospect of further price increases threatens to reverse the recent expansion of tourist travel by jet which began with the 1980s oil glut.
Runway and facilities
Video of Continental 757-200 landing at Juliana International Airport
Because the approach to Runway 10 is over water, pilots can become disoriented regarding their perceived altitude when operating under visual flight rules. Normal instrument checks, coupled with experience and awareness, mitigate any potential problems. In fact, the departure from Runway 10 presents more “difficulties” than the approach, with a turn required to avoid mountains in the departure path.
Arriving aircraft approach the island on the last section of the final approach for Runway 10, following a 3° glide slope flying low over the famous Maho Beach. Pictures of low flying aircraft were published in several news magazines worldwide in early 2000. The thrilling approaches and ease of access for shooting spectacular images, made the airport one of the world’s favorite places among planespotters. To meet changing international and local regulations a 150-metre (490 ft) safety extension was required.
Despite the reputed difficulties in approach, there have been no records of major incidents at the airport, though ALM Flight 980 crashed 30 miles (48 km) from St. Croix on 2 May 1970, after several unsuccessful landing attempts at PJIA.
In late 2008, Runway 09/27 was renumbered as 10/28.
The main apron measures 72,500 square metres (780,000 sq ft) with another 5,000 square metres (54,000 sq ft) on Eastern apron. For freight handling a dedicated apron of 7,000 square metres (75,000 sq ft) is available.
The new four-story terminal building offers 27,000 square metres (290,000 sq ft) of floor space and is fully air-conditioned. Available facilities include 42 check-in desks, eight transit desks and eleven boarding gates. There are ten immigration booths for arriving passengers and five exit-control booths for departing passengers. The building also features 40 shops and food & beverage units—some unique to St. Maarten—promoted under the retail theme ‘So Much More’.
To accommodate the growing international and local traffic of private aircraft, PJIA has a Fixed Base Operator building, offering office space and private lounges with dedicated customs.
Since official opening of the new control tower, PJIA air traffic controllers have two radar systems at their disposal with ranges of 50 nautical miles (93 km) and 250 nautical miles (460 km). PJIA controllers manage 4,000 square NM of airspace around the airport. Besides providing approach, tower and ground control at PJIA, these controllers also provide approach control for Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport (Anguilla), L’Espérance Airport (French Saint Martin), Gustaf III Airport (St. Barths), F.D. Roosevelt Airport (St. Eustatius) and Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (Saba).
PJIA is equipped with VOR/DME and NDB. The airport’s official opening hours are 07:00–21:00.
Joint border control with France
In 1994, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France signed the Franco-Dutch treaty on Saint Marteen border controls, which allows for joint Franco-Dutch border controls on so-called “risk flights”. After some delay, the treaty was ratified in November 2006 in the Netherlands, and subsequently entered into force on 1 August 2007. Though the treaty is now in force, its provisions are not yet implemented as the working group specified in the treaty is not yet installed.
In popular culture
Princess Juliana International Airport of Saint Marteen is the airport featured in the free demo version of Microsoft Flight Simulator X. In the full version of the program, it is the destination on the mission called “Caribbean Landing”.
World’s Top 10 Airport Approaches
In 2010, the airport of Saint Marteen finished second and in 2011 finished tenth in PrivateFly.com’s survey to find the world’s best airport approaches.
More about Saint Marteen.