Picture of woman in copilot seat

First Flight to St. Barths, I was the Co-Pilot

St. Barths

When my husband and I had visited St Martin, our friend invited us to stay with him on St. Barths, that is a quick flight or boat ride away. Two cultures French and Dutch split St Martin, and we flew from the French side because we wanted to avoid standing in line in customs.

We had hired a pilot who owned a small plane to fly us to St. Barths, that I assumed was a 12 seater.

Landing at Gustaf III Airport Runway in St. Barths is dangerous.

The night before our flight, strong winds blew through our villa and knocked over a lamp. I awoke, worried about our flight into an airport with a runway that measures 2,133 feet long, making it one of the shortest runways in the world.

St Barth’s Airport

St. Barths’ airport nestles between two mountains and the Carribean Sea. If you land too soon or too late, you crash into the sea or one of the mountains.

The next morning, we met our long-haired-pilot, Christian, at the St. Martin’s airport. I was surprised when we climbed aboard the plane, and it had only three seats. No wonder we had gotten a good deal.

My husband had wedged himself into the jump seat, and I climbed into the co-pilot seat. I wondered what would happen if Christian had a heart attack. I knew that we would be doomed.

When we took off, I watched Christian put on headphones. I had hoped that he was listening to instructions from the airport control tower, but I feared that he was listening to Jimi Hendrix when I heard the music.

The flight took about 15 minutes, and the Caribbean Sea sparkled. I started to relax, but that changed abruptly. The difficult part about landing in St. Barths happens after the plane clears the first mountain. The plane stalls than dives to approach the runway. During the dive, your stomach and heart drop, and

Gustaf III Runway in St. Barth’s ends at St. Jean Beach.

you feel a rush. The pilot must break quickly after touchdown to avoid smashing into the Caribbean Sea at St. Jean Beach.


After we landed, we saw a small plane wing jutting out of the sea at the end of the runway. Christian said that the plane didn’t make it, but that it was not uncommon, and usually, passengers only receive minor injuries.

Since that first flight into St. Barths, when I fly on a commercial flight, I watch and listen for reactions from the passengers during the approach to St. Barths.  Someone always gasps.

Check out this clip of a plane that missed the runway.

Picture of woman in copilot seat
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18 thoughts on “First Flight to St. Barths, I was the Co-Pilot

  1. Wow! What a ride! Loved your description of the pilot- laid back and probably listening to Hendrix. My heart would have stopped If I’d seen that plane wing sticking up. Great clip too.

  2. I laughed at the Jimmy Hendrix part,nice.
    I flew on a six seated plane in Alaska once; those small planes are an experience!

  3. I love “usually only receive minor injuries”. That feels so laid back and islandy. And the vimeo? AAAK! You can just tell he isn’t going to make it by how long it takes for the wheels to touch down, but then you think he’ll make it after all, but then he doesn’t, and the flop is so sudden, but then they all pop out the door like “so, this happened”.

    1. The photographer did a good job filming the landing and he didn’t seem upset about the plane missing the runway. I guess that it is a regular occurrence, but I won’t think about that.

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