Straight & Level 5 February

St Maarten lands best approach

St Maarten in the Caribbean – where airliners cast a shadow over seaside sunbathers as they come into land – has been voted the world’s most spectacular airport approach.

The holiday destination beat another island, and last year’s winner, Barra in the Outer Hebrides – the only airport where scheduled aircraft land on a beach.

The other top 10 landings in the poll by were Los Angeles, Paro in Bhutan, Las Vegas, Phinda in South Africa, London City, Aruba, Mustique and Nice.

One voter described St Maarten as a “gorgeous approach over the clear blue sea, white sand beach with hills in the background”, adding: “The beachgoers can almost touch the landing gear as planes make their landing. It’s an aircraft lover’s dream.”


St Maarten.jpgBlind panic

You would think it would be hard to confuse sliding open an aircraft window blind with activating an emergency slide – but that was the mistake made by one passenger on an Austrian Airlines Airbus A321 at Larnaca last month.

Flight OS832 had just landed in Cyprus from Austria on 25 January when the crew instructed those onboard to open the sunshades for arrival. Instead, the traveller, sitting in the second left-hand exit row, pulled the door handle inwards and upwards.

The door – which itself has just a porthole with no sunshade – opened and its evacuation slide deployed. No damage was sustained and the aircraft was able to return to Vienna after removal of the chute. But the number of passengers had to be reduced in line with regulations for flights with an inoperable escape slide.

No word on whether the suitably embarrassed passenger was tempted to make an escape down the chute.


Investigators believe excessive icing contributed to the crash of a veteran but still fully serviceable Bombastic Learmount 65 on 24 January.

The Learmount – the only one of its type in operation and known for its elegant appearance and distinctive noise signature – had departed from Sutton to its overnight base in Surrey and was reaching cruising speed when it experienced an uncontrolled tumble into terrain, damaging its landing gear and putting it out of action for several weeks. Commenting on the incident from his hospital bed, where he is making a speedy recovery, Flight International’s operations and safety editor noted: “Accidents of this sort, while rare, can occur in unfavourable conditions. I’m certainly not blaming the pilot.”

Wings clipped

The latest review tome to hit our desk from leading military history publisher Pen & Sword is an authoritative-looking account by Martin Bowman of the US Eighth Air Force in Europe… spoiled only slightly by the glaring proofreading error on the large subtitle: The Eagle Spreads It’s (sic) Wings.

Jumbo Jet

A release from Jet Aviation informs us that its Zurich FBO “handled 747 movements” during the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Yes,” asks Ian Goold. “But who handled all those not arriving by jumbo?”

Croaking aside

And finally, is the name of Air France’s new airline – Hop – a self-deprecating national joke?


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