St Maarten is renowned for its pristine beaches and year-round sunshine – but it’s also the best place in the world to plane spot, show findings compiled by London City Airport.
A recent survey of over 500 aviation enthusiasts by the only airport actually in London reveals the Caribbean island as the leading destination of choice to plane spot, with more than one third of respondents choosing St Maarten due to the close proximity of Maho Beach and the planes when they approach for landing at Princess Juliana International Airport.
The survey also revealed that, contrary to popular belief, the majority of plane spotters take up the hobby at a young age. 53% were under 12 years old when they first started, while 62% of those surveyed are aged 34 or under. Half of the respondents are married or in a relationship, smashing the stereotype of the more mature, solitary, anorak-wearing plane spotter.
timeline Committed aviation enthusiasts will travel abroad to plane spot (49%) and 21% have visited more than 21 airports to engage in their hobby. It must pay off, as an incredible 59% can identify planes by the sound of the engine alone.
Henry Heming is an aviation enthusiast and Menzies Turnaround Manager at London City Airport and was among the most popular aviation influencers according to the survey, regularly tweeting from his @FOHeming account to over 4,000 followers.
Henry, 23, from Camden, North London, said: “I’ve been passionate about planes since the age of six and I still find them fascinating feats of engineering. I think lots of people are secretly aviation geeks – I see it every day when passengers take selfies with aircraft before they board.
“Naturally London City Airport is a particular favourite of mine to plane spot, but it would be a dream to visit St Maarten – it’s a very rare and unique perspective on arriving aircraft - plus the sunshine setting is idyllic!”
Lisa Hills, 45, an ‘Av Geek’ from Gravesend in Kent, said: “It was Concorde and the iconic British Airways advertisements which spurred my love of aviation. I jokingly describe myself as a ‘professional flight stalker’, with tools like FlightRadar24 helping me to keep track of aircraft, including my favourite the Airbus A318. I can also follow airborne friends in all corners of the globe.
“My interest in aviation is a fun hobby, which has also introduced me to lots of new people, with whom I keep in touch through social media and in person, at air shows and airports – it’s a thriving community.”
KLM offers four weekly flights to St Maarten from its multi award-winning hub at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The Netherlands’ national carrier returned to London City Airport in February, following an eight year absence and now offers four daily flights between the centrally located airport and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The improved schedule offers UK passengers seamless and convenient connections to more than 150 destinations worldwide.
Warner Rootliep, General Manager of Air France KLM UK & Ireland, commented: “Our service from London City Airport to St Maarten provides the ideal opportunity for aviation enthusiasts to indulge in their hobby, while also enjoying the Caribbean sunshine. We’ve long been aware of the pulling power of the beach by the island’s airport, which really allows people to get up close and personal with some of our larger aircraft.”
KLM served St Maarten on the iconic Boeing 747 aircraft, a favourite among plane spotters, until 30 October 2016, when the Airbus A330 was introduced on the route.
A new British Airways route from London City also begins on 26 June to Skiathos, unofficially known as the ‘St Maarten of Greece’ due to its close proximity to the picturesque shores of the Aegean Sea, making it a hot spot for aviation enthusiasts.
London City Airport surveyed a total of 581 people, 91% of whom agreed they consider themselves to be an aviation geek, better known as an ‘Av Geek’. The airport, which is located just 20 minutes from London Bridge, is popular with plane spotters, with 11 airlines and a unique urban location known for its steep take-off and descent angle and famous City skyline views. The recommended vantage points for plane spotters are within the long-stay car park and the north side of Royal Albert Dock.