Video: KLM 747 Returns to St. Maarten to Provide Hurricane Irma Relief
Back in October 2016, aviation enthusiasts everywhere were saddened to mark the final scheduled 747 flight to/from the iconic Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) in St. Maarten. No longer would beachgoing AvGeeks get to watch the Queen of the Skies pass just over their heads right before landing or sandblast beachgoers at departure.
Since then, things have taken a tragic turn for the AvGeek haven. Hurricane Irma decimated the French/Dutch Caribbean island, with officials reporting that the island was 95% destroyed. The island and its residents are in drastic need of assistance.
And who better to bring needed relief than the Queen of the Skies herself.
(Translation: KLM Boeing 747 has just landed successfully on St. Maarten to pick up passengers.)
Shortly after 8:00am local time on Saturday morning, a KLM 747 unceremoniously landed in SXM for the first time since that last scheduled flight in October 2016. Unlike most KLM flights into SXM, this flight didn't originate in Amsterdam (AMS), but instead arrived from Willemstad, Curacao (CUR). The significantly shorter 1:17-hour route — operated by a Boeing 747-400COMBI with the registration PH-BFT — likely allowed the aircraft to trade fuel weight for cargo weight. Because rather than being packed with tourists, this flight was packed with relief supplies.
And its mission wasn't done upon landing. As reported by St. Maarten's The Daily Herald:
In St. Maarten the aircraft will pick up persons in need of assistance, stranded tourists of all nationalities and other persons who don’t live on the island and want to leave. The evacuees will be flown to Aruba.
The KLM 747 is joining a hodgepodge of evacuation vehicles ranging from Dutch military aircraft to Royal Caribbean cruise ships. As the first of two evacuation flights scheduled for Saturday, KLM flight #727 departed SXM for Aruba (AUA) shortly after 10:00am local time.
According to RoutesOnline, the aircraft was scheduled to turn around in AUA and operate flight #728 back to SXM Saturday afternoon, departing AUA at 12:30pm local time. As of publishing, that flight hasn't yet been operated.
For those hoping to visit SXM post-Irma, KLM's flights into the island are currently cancelled through the end of September. But considering the extent of the island's damage, it might be a lot longer before the island is able to welcome tourists again.