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Capturing the Airplanes of St. Maarten’s Maho Beach with @samhorine

To view more photos and videos from Maho Beach, explore the Maho Beach, Sint Maarten location page.

Maho Beach on the Dutch side of the Caribbean country of Sint Maarten has white sand and turquoise waters, but that’s not why visitors flock there. The beach is famous for planes that buzz sunbathers at low altitudes en route to landing at the Princess Juliana International Airport. Arriving aircraft must touch down as close as possible to the beginning of Runway 10 because of its short 2,300-meter (7,500-foot) landing strip.

New York Instagrammer Sam Horine (@samhorine) recently visited Maho Beach while on a layover. “I walked down the airport road for 10 minutes and turned a corner to find a large crowd of people swimming, sunbathing, drinking cheap Carib beers and waiting for the jets to come in,” he says. “I first watched a few smaller island hoppers come in—a plane lands or takes off every 20 minutes or so. Then, a 757 pulled up for take off. People ran over to the short fence separating the beach and the runway and grabbed hold of the chain link. The jet’s engines turned on and it tore down the runway kicking up sand. Hats, sunglasses and other small items flew past me as the jet blasted down the runway for takeoff. It was truly an amazing, and sandy, experience.”

To get a great shot of the planes, Sam has a few tips:

  • I really liked the perspective of the jets coming in over the beach from the side. It gave a great perspective of how low the planes were and how many people were there.
  • If you’re shooting from the side, I found it helpful to frame the shot before the plane gets there to figure out exactly when you’ll need to start shooting.
  • You can also stand on the beach and let the planes come right over you or wade out into the water and eliminate the beach completely—at the right time of day the jets will cast their shadows down on the water.
  • Don’t underestimate shooting back at the crowd from the beach and catching the planes from behind as they come in above the crowd.
  • Shoot in burst mode if you can. It’s a matter of seconds between when the plane’s a small speck in the frame to when it’s roaring overhead. I missed a few planes at first because of the speed.
  • Lastly, I shot in the square crop on my phone so I could make sure I got the entire plane in the frame to post to Instagram.


Star Spangled Spectacular

This fantastic press image illustrates the Bicentennial iteration of Walt Disney World’s Electrical Water Pageant. This version of the show boasted a unique hot air balloon and put in place the patriotic finale that still plays out nightly on the Seven Seas Lagoon. 

Before this, however, The Electrical Water Pageant had begun a tradition of nightly spectaculars with many important implications for entertainment at the Vacation Kingdom. Essentially the first large entertainment spectacular in Disney World, the show illustrates how different the early Vacation Kingdom presented itself to guests. With the Magic Kingdom closing early in the evening, often at 6 PM, it was expected that guests (most of them staying on Disney property) would retire to their hotels and resorts and would find entertainment there. Both the Polynesian and the Contemporary hosted large venues with music and dancing, and many forms of recreation were held on the Seven Seas Lagoon. But the unifying event of the evening was the Electrical Water Pageant, a spectacle unlike any other. Synthesized music, glittering, animated floats, all set against the bucolic beauty of the Seven Seas Lagoon and The Magic Kingdom at night served as what was designed to keep guests active and engaged at Walt Disney World. Disney’s Florida endeavor was designed to be a fully encompassing vacation destination, often meaning that the Magic Kingdom was not always the singular focus for patrons. By emphasizing differentiated activities and diversions, Disney World defined itself against Disneyland’s image of being theme park centric. Today, this allure of the Vacation Kingdom is still very much alive, though often overshadowed by the theme parks, which have blossomed and thrived, as expected.

But as a cornerstone for Disney’s entertainment history, the Electrical Water Pageant is one of the largely unique pieces of Walt Disney World heritage that defines the Florida venture as wholly its own. What began as a nightly spectacle has receded into the texture and sinew of what Walt Disney World means to the rest of Disney’s properties, but still sparkles and shines with a unique light and meaning, all its own. 

Image graciously provided by Dan Cunningham (@HonuDan) 


The STOL Port: Walt Disney World’s Forgotten Airport

When Walt Disney first envisioned his ambitious Florida project, a mid-sized international airport of the future located at the southern end of the property was to be part of this plan, allowing guests to immerse themselves in the Disney experience from the moment they landed. Even after Walt’s death and the uncertainty that lied ahead for Disney World, executives were insistent on keeping the airport in some way, shape, or form as a means to whisk guests right on property from McCoy Jetport (now Orlando International) and other Florida airports. It would eventually make its debut, much smaller and closer to the Magic Kingdom, in 1971 as the STOL (short take-off and landing) Port. It was served by small commuter airline Shawnee Airlines with daily flights to Orlando, Tampa, Daytona, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach at its peak.

However, the oil embargo of 1973 and the subsequent high fuel prices resulted in the STOL Port closing indefinitely some time in the mid 70s. With the extension of the EPCOT Center monorail line practically next to the STOL Port in 1982, the airfield was now too close to the track to be safely used, officially ending the STOL Port’s career as an airport despite still being legally listed as one up until the late 90s when it was finally removed from the Federal Aviation Administration’s register once and for all. 

Today the former STOL Port remains intact and can still be seen from the monorail or World Drive. Nowadays it’s mostly used as either  a bus parking/proving ground, storage, and most-recently as a staging ground for New Fantasyland construction.

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(Source: disneylawyer)

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