Thrill-seeking aviation buffs with deep pockets might soon get a chance to embark on a trip of their dreams.
PrivateFly, a global booking service for private jet charter, has launched a travel itinerary that takes passengers on a tour of the Caribbean’s most dramatic landing strips.
For $72,000 per person, plane enthusiasts can enjoy the part-scenic-part-terrifying landings at St. Maarten, St. Barths and Saba, nicknamed roller-coaster runways for their challenging approaches.
“I have been lucky enough to land at all three as a passenger, experiences I’ll never forget,” says Adam Twidell, PrivateFly CEO and former UK Royal Air Force pilot.
Fly from New York or Miami at half the price
From starting points in London, which carries the highest price tag, or New York and Miami, passengers will be ferried to the Caribbean on-board a Gulfstream G650.
Tickets go for between $30,000 and $72,000.
The elite G650 is the hottest – and fastest – private jet on the market, with director Peter Jackson and inventor James Dyson among famous owners.
The first of the three stops, chosen by travelers in a PrivateFly poll, is the island of St. Maarten.
Planes that descend over the resort’s popular Maho beach on their final approach to the airport look like they are about to scrape vacationers’ heads.
“You’re so low you can almost read the sunbathers’ newspapers below,” says Twidell.
In recent years the landings have become a tourist draw, with crowds gathering for scheduled arrivals of large jetliners thundering by only a few meters above.
Twidell says thrill seekers hang on to a fence at the end of the runway as the blast from a departing 747 hits, but authorities warn against this as it could result in injury and even death.
Playground of the rich and famous
Next stop on the tour is a private charter flight to St. Barths, a retreat of the rich and the famous which is also known for its dizzying airport approach.
Planes descend down a steep slope, over green hilltops with the turquoise sea beyond, onto a 650-meter-long runway.
The ticket also grants passengers an audience with the president of St. Barths, Bruno Magras, and lunch with the managing director of the island’s airport.
The world’s most aptly named volcano
Next up is the tiny volcanic island of Saba with its even tinier runway perched on the side of a volcano, Mount Scenery.
The aptly named Mount Scenery is covered in rich green forest and surrounded by deep blue waters.
“The runway appears, framed in the island’s rugged outline as you approach. Depending on wind conditions, pilots can land on both ends of the 400-meter strip. It’s like landing on an aircraft carrier, with a deep drop-off into the sea,” says Twidell.
Crews in charge of planes landing at St. Barths and Saba, which has the world’s shortest commercial runway, have to undergo specific training to get certified to operate there due to difficult terrain and wind conditions.
“This includes many years of training and a high number of flying hours before they can take the controls,” says Twidell.