It was considered one of the scariest landings in the world–depending on if you were in the plane or on the ground. The famous runway at Princess Juliana International Airport on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean was the home to a unique event that involved one of the largest airplanes in the world, the Boeing 747. Just feet from a road and a sandy beach was the runway of the airport, and spectators could get as close as anyone could get, or want to get, to a landing 747.
KLM Airlines flew their last regularly scheduled 747 to the island on October 28, 2016 and have since moved to the smaller (although not that much smaller) Airbus 330. Crowds gather at all times on Maho Beach to watch many different aircraft land and depart the short runway at Princess Juliana, but the one to really see and experience was the landing and takeoff of the KLM 747.
When an aircraft is about to land or take off, the small two-lane road next to the airport perimeter fence is shut down to crossing traffic since signs everywhere warn of the jet blast from departing and arriving flights that could cause injury or even death. This doesn’t stop people from staying on the beach while a plane usually flies less than 100 feet overhead to get to the short runway. They even hang on the fence of the airport or brave the sandy beach to feel the full effect of a plane taking off. The takeoff from Princess Juliana is just as harrowing since there are high hills on the other end of the runway that planes have to turn from just after lift off.
While there are still some chartered 747s that still arrive at the island, and other large and small aircraft continue to wow spectators, the real show was the scheduled KLM 747. See for yourself how close these aircraft came to the beach and how powerful they are on the videos below.
Sources: Popular Mechanics, USA Today