Princess Juliana International Airport (IATA: SXM, ICAO: TNCM) (also known as Sint Maarten International Airport) serves the Dutch part of the island of Saint Martin. 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 near Marigot, 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.
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.
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 facilitiesVideo of airplane landing at Juliana International Airport
Because the approach to Runway 09 is over water pilots can be disoriented regarding perceived altitude when operating under visual flight rules. Normal instrument checks coupled with experience and awareness mitigate the potential problem. In fact, the departure from Runway 09 presents more "difficulties" than the approach, with a turn required to avoid mountains in the departure path. The History Channel program Most Extreme Airports, ranks it as the 4th most extreme airport in the world.
Incoming airplanes approach the island on short final for Runway 09 flying low over the famous Maho Beach. At any other airport aircraft fly at the same altitude at that point in the approach. 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 from St. Croix on 2 May 1970, after several unsuccessful landing attempts at Sint Maarten-Juliana Airport (SXM - TNCM).
Towards the end of 2008, runway 09/27 has changed and now has a new QFU: 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 4 story terminal building offers 27,000 square metres (290,000 sq ft) floor space and is fully airconditioned. Available facilities include 42 check-in desks, 8 transit-desks and 11 boarding-gates. For arriving passengers 10 immigration booths are available and 5 emigration booths for departures. 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 Princess Juliana International Airport has a Fixed Base Operators 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 a range of 50 nautical miles (93 km) and 250 nautical miles (460 km). PJIA air traffic control manages 4.000 square NM of airspace around the airport. Besides providing approach, tower and ground control at PJIA, Juliana air traffic services also provides approach control for Wallblake Airport(Anguilla), L'Esperance Airport (St Martin, French West Indies), Gustaf III Airport (St. Barths, French West Indies), F.D. Roosevelt Airport (St. Eustatius, Netherlands Antilles) and Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (Saba, Netherlands Antilles).
PJIA is equipped with VOR/DME and NDB. The airport's official opening hours are from 07:00 - 21:00 hrs.
Joint border control with France
In 1994, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France signed the Franco-Dutch treaty on Saint Martin 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 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". Princess Juliana International Airport is also known in the aviation world because it has been dubbed the hardest approach in the world as the runway threshold of Runway 9 is extremely close to the beach and pilots fly about 100-200 feet over the beach. The most common airlines are Air France, KLM, and Delta.
Airlines and destinations
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