What is it like to land on the shortest commercial route in the world?

(CNN) – It is not for the weak to fly to Saba. The cliffs and cliffs of this five -square -foot island in the Caribbean don’t leave much room for landing a plane. But Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, located on Saba’s only flat land, is a testament to what can be done.

With a piece of asphalt only 1,300 feet long (about 400 feet), only 900 feet “in use,” the runway is no longer than a carrier.

Falling into the sea on either side adds a layer of excitement to what is considered to be the world’s shortest trade route.

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is one of the holy grail for avgeeks, but it’s a lifesaver for Saba, bringing in tourists and taking locals in need of medical care.

The runway is displayed on one of Saba’s flagships, and a memorial shop in the village of Windwardside sells shirts emblazoned with the words, “I survived landing on Saba. ! “

You can take the ferry to get here, but flying is often seen on the lists of the “most dangerous destinations in the world,” and that’s why it’s worth a try.

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An elite class of football

There are 15-minute flights from Sint Maarten on the 19-seater de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otters, STOL (short takeoff and landing) aircraft designed to handle difficult and fast-paced aircraft, an advantage to be seen. when the wheels hit. and Saba.

An elite group of specialized pilots fly to the island, with Sint Maarten-based Winair being the only airline to serve aircraft that are deployed in and out.

Captain Roger Hodge, the pilot of the Winair, trained the Twin Otter, and taught each of them. “Once the people are fully trained and we’re comfortable, we’ll broadcast the performances that gave birth to another Top Gun. That’s what we call them,” he said.

Before I boarded, I asked him what he thought of the 15 -minute flight. “The Lord be with you,” he said sincerely, before laughing and telling me I would enjoy it, and sit on the right side to see the wings flutter on the side. the mountain to the last end. I knew my heart was hard.

“Flying to Saba is kind of hairy at times, but in knowing what to do, we make it easy and calm,” Hodge said.

Those hairy features are related to common emergency features such as the engine running at close range, but there are other features due to the shortness of the trail and its descent. . There are limits to weight and wind speed. So it is with the rain. If the land was wet, nobody would fly in. On the way to this short, there is no room for error.

“As a pilot I like to go to Saba because that’s when you implement your vision,” he said. “There’s always adrenaline because you’re being watched by cars and people around the world, but you have to jump on that machine.”

It was a flying journey

While the excitement is to come, a stay at Sint Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport is a great vacation.

There is no designated space so the pilots looking for the pilot’s face will first have to look to grab the hot seat – 1B – in the front in the middle. With no door separating the cockpit from the office, it was like sitting between the Captain and the Commander.

The green mountains of Sint Maarten, golden beaches and turquoise waters leave a lasting impression, but there is not much time to sit and enjoy the views. After takeoff, WM441 flew in a straight line to Saba, where the silhouette of the island can be seen only 24 miles away. There is constant work in the cockpit, pressing shifts and turning the knobs and dials, with the two brakes working in proper alignment.

As the miles went down, the island came closer. And closer. It’s beautiful, but it’s also bumpy, and sometimes it feels like you’re going straight to the cliffs.

But at the last minute, the plane made a big bag on the left on the way to the runway and so far, it has not been seen. Those on the north side have a closer look at the cliffs. The riders on the left were looking straight at the water.

When the plane landed for the last wing to approach the side of the hill, but the plane came from a low point and stuck and crashed down with the rumble of a tree, the big hill of turning , And a short drive to the end of the road. where those who keep their eyes open can look down into the water below.

Macau? Yes. Worth it? it’s true.

Taking the island away

The first pilot to land on Saba was even more interesting.

Rémy de Haenen, an ambitious navigator from the nearby island of St Barthélemy first landed on the island in 1959. Many of the nearby islands were built during World War II, but the steep sides of Saba and the lack of flat land were considered unsuitable.

But de Haenen objected, looking at the altitude of the world and seeing the aptly name Flat Point as the best promise base for his attempt to fly the first flight to Saba.

Saban historian Will Johnson was the father of a Flat Point farmer on land owned by his grandfather. “My father agreed to clean up the land, and he probably thought if the experiment didn’t work out, at least the rocks would be gone,” she said.

A former island commissioner, senator and publisher of the Saba Herald newspaper for 25 years, Johnson’s knowledge of the island was an encyclopedia. He said that when the decision was made to try, within two weeks with less equipment than “one or two wheelchairs,” the land was cleared and leveled, ready for trying to land.

Many people on the island remember de Haenen landing his Dornier Do-27 on refurbished land on February 9, 1959. “Things came out. everyone, the public and the public. It’s amazing, ”said James Franklin Johnson, mountain leader for the Saba Conservation Foundation who was eight years old at the time. “Saba came out of nowhere when the plane landed on the island.”

However, de Haenen’s landing did not immediately revive the aviation industry. He was barred from re -landing due to security concerns, and in 1963 Saba did not have its own airport.

A final burst of adrenaline

Most of Saba’s planes turn around for landing, but the island takes care of the last drop of adrenaline for those taking off in the air. The main road, called The Road, offers a convenient location for viewing the airport, and the military may want to check out the airport before leaving. The plane uses the entire length of the flight, at the last minute to leave if there is no land left.

Starting from the far end, the plane speeds up the runway, gets closer and closer to the finish line, and for a while seems to be falling into the water, before the tide rises. flight to the plane – and its most relaxing occupants – to the sky.

It may be an honor to say that you survived the landing on Saba, but the joy of leaving Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport deserves its own place in the most horrible conditions in the world.

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