WestJet is downplaying a video posted online of a flight from Toronto that showed a “missed approach” at an airport in St. Maarten during rainy weather, saying that despite reports of the plane coming dangerously close to the water, the passengers and crew were not in any danger.
Flight 2652 from Toronto approached the beach-adjacent runway on March 7 at the Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten, a popular spot for tourists and aviation enthusiasts to watch planes land, when it appeared close to making contact with the water.
WATCH: ‘Missed approach’ by WestJet plane in St. Maarten. Ashley Carter reports.
“Video and photos of the missed approached spawned articles with unfortunate, and frankly, irresponsible headlines such as, ‘Near Miss’ and ‘WestJet denies close call caught on camera at St. Maarten,’ with some even speculating on a potential disaster that was averted,” WestJet said in a statement on its blog.
“Occasionally a landing will be aborted and a missed approach initiated if the pilots determine it’s the best option. In this case, our crew experienced rapidly changing weather conditions and as a result descended below the normal glide path on the approach to the landing.”
WestJet said their pilots are experienced at safely landing more than 700 flights daily and that occasionally have to deal with “unique weather and terrain.”
“The crew recognized the situation, and the regularly trained and desired outcome was obtained — a safe missed approach to a safe landing,” WestJet stated.
“There can be any number of reasons why a go-around could be made. Weather or runway conditions may be less than ideal, or there may be other aircraft still on, or in the vicinity of the runway.”
“Relying on their skill, training and experience, our pilots who landed our Boeing 737-800 at SXM last week made the right call, and the process worked the way in which it’s intended,” WestJet said.
“All situations like this will have a fulsome review with learnings applied.”
Jock Williams, a flight safety expert and retired air force fighter pilot, told Global News flying into the St. Maarten airport is a challenge. But he said going that low isn’t acceptable, regardless of weather.
“They got down too low too early where you can’t do a controlled descent from there … what I’m going to suggest is you wouldn’t want to be lower than about 200 feet. There’s no reason to be lower than 200 feet until you can clearly see the runway where you’re going to land,” Williams said.
“The way they did it, they made a little bit of a mistake to begin with, but they righted it.”
With files from Ashley Carter