We depart from Le Raizet [TFFR], the large international airport for Guadeloupe's commercial center Point-à-Pitre. During the "normal" season, daily arrivals of large body jets disembark French and Northern European passengers who hope to enjoy the Caribbean flavors of the island. That commercial traffic uses the modern northern side of the airport, termed Pôle Caraïbes. We shall leave from the older southern side dedicated to cargo and general aviation. It is typically referred to by its older name, Le Raizet. Spend your Euros. Speak French. You are in France.
Taking off and heading southeast, we quickly pass Point-à-Pitre and the docked cruise ships. We turn at waypoint [GOSIER] and head east along the southern coast. The beautiful white sand beaches are dotted with European hotels filled with (mostly) French holiday-makers. The towns and suburbs are the home of many of the more successful parts of the Guadeloupean population. We land at Saint-Francois [TFFC], a small busy general aviation field.
Then south over the large low-lying Marie-Galante. This is sugar cane country. We turn west toward Les Saintes and its famously beautiful yacht-filled harbor. We land at the relatively small Les Saintes [TFFS] and enjoy the sights on the way in.
We depart north, passing over the political capital Basse-Terre's Ballif [TFFB] and head up the impressive coast. To the right you can see La Grande Souffrière, the active volcano that dominates the island. (This is the highest peak in the Lesser Antilles.) While turning at [DESHAIES], fans of the BBC Death in Paradise will enjoy the view of the town that depicts Honoré in the series. (The waypoint marks the Honoré Police Station.)
Then northwest to Montserrat. Soffrière Hills erupted in 1995 and the immediate ash and the subsequent the pyroclastic flow destroyed the capital city Plymouth and its associated Bramble Airport. Volcanic activity continued until 2010. Even now, the southern half of the island is an exclusion zone. The recovering north has now just about reached its pre-eruption population and is now rebuilding a new capital town. The 2005 Osborne Airport [TRPG] currently serves several daily flights that connect with the nearby islands.
Next Antigua T.C. Bird [TAPA]. From the south, we fly over English Harbour, a natural harbor that once was a strategic naval stronghold and is nowadays a haven for enthusiastic long-distance sailors. Antigua is a home for successful online gambling companies – which operate according to local (non-restrictive) regulations. Local banking laws seem to offer similar largely-unregulated opportunities for "adventuresome" financial operations. The ambitious islanders are making their way in the new world.
We return westward 54nm to Saint Kitts Bradshaw [TKPK]. After centuries of a sugar monoculture, the islands (Saint Kitts and Nevis) have shifted toward tourism and transportation. If you are in need of a new citizenship, and have economic means, Saint Kitts is your place. After a brief stop, we go on to Sint Eustatius [TNCE]. Known locally as Statia, this was once the richest Dutch island in the Caribbean. Today, its economic prize is the NuStar oil terminal located on the northwestern part of the island. Nominally Dutch, the population speaks English in everyday life.
We turn toward delightful Saba [TNCS]. The population (about 2,000) live on "The Road" that climbs upward around Mount Scenery, a potentially active volcano. (Against all expectations, "The Road" was built over twenty years and completed in 1958.) The island is Dutch and citizens vote in Dutch elections. The language is predominantly English. Our pilots are encouraged to land or execute a touch-and-go at the smallish TNCS airport that is perched on a rocky point.
A gem lies before us. We shall visit Saint Barthélemy (TFFJ) and its famously difficult approach. The prevailing winds will have us land on Runway 10, a real challenge for passenger aircraft and something that will at least get your attention in our smaller airplanes. St. Barts was a Swedish colony (1784-1878) before being returned to France – the capital Gustavia was named for a Swedish king. It is now decidedly French in character. St. Barts is formally part of France (a collectivity) and its citizens French. Starting in the 1960s and 1970s, the island started to earn a reputation as a high-class luxury destination and success led to success. Plenty of celebrities have spent time here. And with the explosive growth of wealthy tourism, the island has experienced rapid modernization and rising living standards. (The island was hit by 2017 Hurricane Irma but it recovered quickly and by 2018 most aspects of life were returning toward normal.)
Finally, we reach the Island of Saint Martin. This has become a spectacularly successful tourist destination (attracting a wider clientele than St. Barts). Between cruise ships and passenger jets, the island attracts more than two million a year. The south Dutch side, Sint Maarten, has the casinos and large hotels and the night life. The north French side, Saint-Martin, has more charming restaurants and quiet beaches. We visit first Saint-Martin's Grand Case (TFFG) to use up our Euros and our French. Then we circle around to the famous Sint Maarten Princess Julianna (TNCM). The world-renowned Maho Beach crowd will likely welcome our arrival – though with more curiosity than the normal excitement. Once on the ground, we shall ask our friends who have spent time on the island for a tour. (Saint Martin has been slow to fully recover from Irma's 2017 devastation.)
Credit: MM (avsim)