Famous St Maarten airport flattened by Hurricane Irma

September 07, 2017
KLM St Maarten
Princess Juliana airport, St Maarten was destroyed by Hurricane Irma

St Maarten’s famous Princess Juliana Airport has been destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

The airport, known best for its location next to Maho Beach and resultant low flying aircraft, was ripped apart on Wednesday with 185mph winds blowing over safety fences and battering the nearby beach.

Air-bridges were slammed to the ground by wind gusts and torrential rain. Aircraft  on the tarmac were pelted by rocks and blown by the wind.

airport ruined by hurricane irma air bridges destroyed
Air-bridges have been destroyed by the hurricane and tonnes of sand cover the tarmac.

Inside the airport the check-in lounge was flooded and walkways were damaged by the storm. Photos on twitter show parts of the building that broke off during the storm lying on the runway after the storm passed.

Princess Juliana Airport suspended all operations at the airport on Tuesday as a precaution before Hurricane Irma hit.

Read: Why Irma could be an aviation hub disaster with global impacts

Plane spotting is a popular activity at the Princess Juliana international airport and is why the airport is one of the most famous in the world. The strength of the jet blast from the planes sometimes physically moves watchers on nearby Maho beach into the sea, and causes clothing and bikinis to be ripped from their bodies.

Sadly in July this year a New Zealand women died as she was standing behind a fence near runway 10 when a Boeing 737 took off. According to the  New Zealand Herald the powerful jet blast propelled her backwards, where she hit her head on the concrete and died a short time later in hospital.

Signs at the airport warn tourists to stay clear of the runway as jet blasts can cause “severe physical harm and/or death”. The airport has been described by plane spotters as both the world’s “best” and “scariest”, with a short runway of just 2,180m (1.4 miles) forcing planes to approach at low altitude.

St Maarten police said in a statement “Many tourists come to the island to experience the thrills of the landing of approaching aircraft flying low above their heads and the holding on to the airport fence and standing in the jet blast of large aircraft taking off. Doing this is, however, extremely dangerous.’