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Videos: That Famous St. Barth’s Landing Fail: Here’s How It Should Have Been Done

One famous fail at landing at the popular Caribbean destination, but two others that show how it’s done right.


One of the most popular aviation videos of all time is the one that shows a Piper Seneca landing at the popular Caribbean resort. Experienced pilots will begin to pucker soon after the twin passes the 1,000-foot aiming point, still very much airborne. And we’ll be in full panic mode by the time he’s just barely down right before the 1,000-feet-to-go mark.

He would have had it nailed had there been about another 700 feet of runway, but there wasn’t. There was beach instead. So the occupants got an unexpected early dose of sand and surf.

Mistakes made? Clearly, the plane was too fast and too high. Too high is hard to avoid, as the runway is at the base of a very steep hill. Too fast becomes a problem as pilots point the nose down to get down and build up airspeed in doing so. The hoped-for solution adds to the already problematic approach.

The clear answer is to go around. But where to make that decision is the question. The usual rule of thumb is that if you’re not on the ground at normal touchdown speed in the first third of the runway, go around. This one was a no-brainer. And there appeared to be plenty of flying speed left by the time the plane did touch down, so a go-around was still a viable option at that point.

Here’s how to do it right from the pilot’s perspective. It’s not a perfect landing, and the plane does touch down a little long. That said, the plane, a Beech Skipper, doesn’t need much room to stop. And to the pilot’s credit, the stall horn was chirping during the flare.

The last video shows a handful of planes doing it right. First off is an inspirationally great landing by a Twin Otter—yeah, he’s got a reverse gear, so to speak, but still, great work. The last is a workmanlike landing of a PA-28. Not pretty, but still well done.


Oh, and the guy in the Skipper? It was his first landing ever at St. Barth’s. Nice work.


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