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Accident At St. Barts Airport, As Landing Airplane Hits Parked Helicopter

As reported by The Aviation Herald, there was an accident today at what’s considered by many to be one of the world’s most dangerous airports. The good news is that there were no fatalities.

Air Antilles plane has landing accident in St. Barts

This incident happened today (Thursday, August 24, 2023), and involves Air Antilles flight 3S722 from Pointe-a-Pitre (PTP) to St. Barts (SBH). The 143-mile flight was operated by a five-year-old de Havilland DHC-6-400 with the registration code F-OMYS.

The flight was routine, until it landed in St Barts at 11:42AM local time. The plane touched down on the runway in the correct place, but then began to veer left. It went off the runway, over grass, and then onto the apron, where it hit a parked helicopter.

The collision caused the airplane to come to a full stop, and as you’d expect, the damage to both the airplane and the helicopter is major. The helicopter was flipped on its side, while the airplane lost a wing. Fortunately there were no fatalities, and just one passenger sustained minor injuries.

Below is a video where you can see the moment that the airplane collides with the helicopter.

What a strange incident

Why is St. Barts Airport so dangerous? Well, for one, it has a very short runway, as it’s just 2,100 feet long, so there’s little margin for error. But what really makes the airport so challenging is that it has a hill on one side of it.

Ordinarily planes land and take off on runway 10, which has the hill behind it. This means that when coming in to land, pilots have to make quite the maneuver while on short final. For example, below is a video that gives you a sense of the runway situation in St. Barts.

What makes this accident strange is that the plane was actually landing on runway 28, meaning it was approaching from over the water. This isn’t an easy landing, by any means, as a last minute maneuver is still required. But it’s certainly not as challenging as the approach in the other direction, where you have to “dip” at the last minute.

At the time of the incident, winds were at an angle of 200 degrees and roughly eight knots. So while there was a crosswind, eight knots is hardly anything major.

I imagine an investigation will be performed into what happened here, because this is a bit of a head-scratcher. Yes, this airport is challenging, but the approach that this aircraft took isn’t the one that typically earns the airport the title of being so dangerous.

By the way, Air Antilles is a pretty well regarded airline, and it has a lot of experience with flying into St. Barts. Unfortunately the plane that had the accident was the carrier’s only de Havilland DHC-6-400. The carrier’s ATR turboprop aircraft aren’t capable of flying to St. Barts, so I’m curious to see how the carrier handles that situation. Talk about an awkward thing to explain to passengers — “ummm, sorry your flight to St. Barts is canceled, unfortunately we had an accident with the plane capable of flying there.”

Bottom line

There was an accident at St. Barts Airport today, as an Air Antilles turboprop collided with a parked helicopter while trying to land. The aircraft had touched down but then veered to the left, over the grass, and then onto the apron. Both the airplane and helicopter are badly damaged. Fortunately there were no serious injuries from the incident, which is a testament to how well built planes are.

I’m curious to see what an investigation reveals regarding the cause of this accident.

What do you make of this incident?


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