Private Charter Service

Caribbean VFR Tour - Introductory Flight

 

Air SeaTac welcomes you to the sunny skies and blue waters of the Caribbean. Tired of the cold skies of the Alaskan Charters and the mountainous region of the Rocky Mountain Charters? Then come fly with us as we visit the beautiful lands of Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Maarten and finally Puerto Rico. Grab your favorite swim suit, sunglasses and sunscreen and let's get rolling.

The Route:

Canefield International (TDCF) - Le Raizet (TFFR) - V. C. Bird International (TAPA) - Princess Juliana International (TNCM) - Luis Munoz Marin International (TJSJ)

 

Leg 1: Canefield International to Le Raizet Airport

Before we head out of Canefield, it is customary to visit some of the great excursions that are available on Dominica. Please take a minute to familiarize yourself with the island and its great attractions.

I might suggest a great full day excursion with the Wacky Rollers Jeep Tour . The opening picture is one we all should hope to be in. This "Jeep Ride" is a must! Also while awaiting departure, a visit to Boiling Lake could burn off some of the fat us pilots may gain while working behind the yoke. Hot water, beautiful scenery and whatever else floats your aircraft could be had here. And yes, as we ready to get in the air, you might want to cool off after the hot water of Boiling Lake and drench yourself in the Trafalgar Falls of Trois Piton River . What a great way to spend our day prior to the flight.

We will be departing runway 19 out of Canefield Int. and heading south to the southern tip of Dominica for a view of Scotts Head. The Caribbean Sea will be off to our right as we climb to 2,500 feet. The most Southerly point in Dominica, Scott's Head is at the end of a short isthmus and gives a brilliant view of the bay, north along the coast, and south to Martinique if the weather is good. On the Head are the ruins of Fort Cachacou which was an important defense post and involved in fighting between the British and French in 1778 and 1805.

Once at Scotts Head we will turn easterly along the southern shore of Dominica then head north up the center of the island picking up the PPR (Pointe A Pitre) VOR on 112.90. We will need to establish ourselves quickly to 6,000 feet to get a great view of the entire island.

Dominica is the Caribbean's rough gem, the ultimate eco-tourism destination. It is probably the only New World Island that Columbus would still recognize. Dominica is all these things. Ask veteran travelers to choose their favorite spot in the Caribbean, and many will pick Dominica, both for what it has - the region's best hiking through a fascinating and dynamic landscape, exceptional diving, year-round whale and dolphin watching, dozens of waterfalls crashing down mountains blanketed with an oceanic rain forest overflowing with exotic plants and rare birds, and gracious welcoming locals - and for what it doesn't have.

There are no walled beach resorts here, no high-rise hotels, no over development and no crowds. Dominica is the tropics run rampant, unchecked by man - an island that remains naturally spectacular. The island is so rugged and mountainous that it was the last to be developed by Europeans. Today, it remains the least developed of the larger Caribbean isles. The island's interior evokes the romantic beauty of Kauai, Hawaii's Garden Isle. Like Kauai, it is almost always raining somewhere in the ubiquitous rain forests. Chances are, you will see quite a number of rainbows at just about any given moment while exploring the jungle-clad interior. Also, as in Hawaii, whale watching is an option.

 

Caribs called the island Waitukubuli or "tall is her body." And tall the island is! The island's peaks rise higher than any in the mother country: England. The interior is chockablock with trails, rustic but comfortable mountain lodges, a national park and some magnificent public gardens. Little wonder, then, that the island is called Nature Island of the Caribbean. Dominica is what Christopher Columbus might have had in mind when he described West Indian topography by crumbling a piece of parchment and throwing it on a table where sat Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.

Passing the northern point of Dominica, we will have the island of Guadeloupe in site. Our approach will be pretty simple. All we need to do is head toward what looks like a skinny strip of land between two islands. Here we will find La Raizet Airport by tracking the PPR (Pointe A Pitre) VOR on 112.90. Final is up to you but I would suggest flying to PPR then a left turn heading 294 to the PTP NDB then making a procedure turn to come back to PTP for final on runway 11. ILS frequency is 110.30 with heading of 114 degrees.

Great Landing! Welcome to La Raizet in Pointe-A-Patre.

 Nestled between what could have been two islands, this great village is the heart of Guadeloupe . Stash your aircraft at general parking and let's take a visit of the island.

Guadeloupe geography suggests the wings of a butterfly. The more northern wing is the venue for Pointe-a-Pitre, main commercial center and seaport on Grande-Terre. The southern wing, known as Basse-Terre, boasts a botanical garden, national park, and a volcano overlooking waterfalls that spray cool mists over all who come too close. Look at the map and you will find at least nine islands within the Guadeloupe archipelago. Locals call their island "The Pearl of the French West Indies". While enjoying your stay, we must spend a little time on Basse-Terre. Here we will find the famous sulfur-puffing La Soufrière volcano, which is currently dormant. A popular tourist draw, La Soufriere (Sulphur) Volcano , rising to 4,977 feet is flanked by banana plantations and lush foliage. Currently, the belching beast is quiet and it is presumed safe to climb to the summit , the tallest elevation in the Lesser Antilles.

Basse Terre is the more rugged of Guadeloupe's butterfly wings. All around is the Botanical Gardens and Parc National with a virgin rainforest, spectacular waterfalls, and canyon routes. This vast jungle overlooks the deep-blue waters which gave the island its Arawak name Karukera, believed to mean "island of beautiful waters".

As for the beaches, nudism (gotta love this) has been a French reality since 1778. The idea of healthy living in the outdoors and without benefit of clothing came into full play during the 1920s. Topless is normal but most West Indians leave that sort of thing for tourists. Skinny dipping is permitted on some beaches. Some beaches are reputed to be hangouts for young men who are not bashful about propositioning female tourists.

 

Leg 2: Le Raizet Airport to V. C. Bird International

Your stay has been good and the beaches fun but now we need to get on to the island of Antigua.

 We will be headed out on runway 29, weather permitting, flying out to the PTP NDB and then make left turns to intercept the PPR VOR. From the PPR VOR we will head direct to the ANU VOR 114.50 on an approximate course heading of 357. If weather is bad, depart on runway 11 and make right turns to intercept the PPR VOR. This is a short leg so enjoy the waters and the view. Flight altitude for this leg will be 5,000 feet until we get closer to the island then descend down to 2,500 feet as you approach the coast.

You will have some great views of the bays around Antigua. Upon crossing the ANU VOR, fly direct to the ZDX NDB on 369.0 and then downwind approximately 2.5nm for a right approach for runway 25. Enjoy your approach over some gorgeous blue waters of the Caribbean. Now, where in the world are we? Well, Antigua is located not more than 50nm north of Guadeloupe. Antigua (pronounced An-tee'ga) and Barbuda are located in the middle of the Leeward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, roughly 17 degrees north of the equator.

To the south are the islands of Montserrat and Guadeloupe , and to the north and west are Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Barts , and St. Martin . Antigua, the largest of the English-speaking Leeward Islands, is about 14 miles long and 11 miles wide, encompassing 108 square miles. Its highest point is Boggy Peak (1319 ft.), located in the southwestern corner of the island. Barbuda, a flat coral island with an area of only 68 square miles, lies approximately 30 miles due north. The nation also includes the tiny (0.6 square mile) uninhabited island of Redonda , now a nature preserve. The current population for the nation is approximately 68,000 and its capital is St. Johns.

Temperatures generally range from the mid-seventies in the winter to the mid-eighties in the summer. Annual rainfall averages only 45 inches, making it the sunniest of the Eastern Caribbean Islands, and the northeast trade winds are nearly constant, flagging only in September. Low humidity year-round.

Most Antiguans are of African lineage, descendants of slaves brought to the island centuries ago to labor in the sugarcane fields. However, Antigua's history of habitation extends as far back as two and a half millenia before Christ. The first settlements, dating from about 2400 B.C., were those of the Siboney (an Arawak word meaning "stone-people"), peripatetic Meso-Indians whose beautifully crafted shell and stone tools have been found at dozens of sites around the island. Long after the Siboney had moved on, Antigua was settled by the pastoral, agricultural Arawaks (35-1100 A.D.), who were then displaced by the Caribs--an aggressive people who ranged all over the Caribbean. The earliest European contact with the island was made by Christopher Columbus during his second Caribbean voyage (1493), who sighted the island in passing and named it after Santa Maria la Antigua, the miracle-working saint of Seville. European settlement, however, didn't occur for over a century, largely because of Antigua's dearth of fresh water and abundance of determined Carib resistance. Finally, in 1632, a group of Englishmen from St. Kitts established a successful settlement, and in 1684, with Codrington's arrival, the island entered the sugar era.

With the weather good as always, you might want to grab yourself a speedboat and view the island from sea level. Island Speedboats LTD offers the Glastron GX185 for your great ride and tour of the island from the water. This boat is a blast to drive. And if you missed the jeep excursion on Guadeloupe, you might as well grab the Estate Safari & Classic Jeep Tour before departure.

 

 

Leg 3: V. C. Bird International to Princess Juliana International

Here we go and we hope you enjoyed your stay in St. Johns. We will be departing runway 25 and headed direct to the ANU NDB on 351.0. Flight level for this leg is 5,000 feet. After crossing ANU then a right turn on an approximate course heading of 319 direct to the PJM VOR (SAINT MAARTEN) on 113.00. Set your radios early as you will be able to pick up the PJM VOR shortly after departure. As you leave Antigua, enjoy your great view of the blue waters and great bays.

We will have a few minutes while in route to learn a bit about St. Maarten Island and some of the attractions we can visit during our short stay. The crystalline waters surrounding St.Maarten/St.Martin allow for diving and snorkeling with clear visibility up to 100 feet, and often up to 150-200 feet. Coral reefs are teeming with marine life. Certified scuba divers can rent tanks and equipment at watersports shops around the Island. Courses for advanced and novice divers are available. If you prefer snorkeling, a mask, fins and snorkel only costs a few dollars a day.

Ever dreamed of sailing in the America's Cup? On St.Maarten you can find out what it feels like to be a crew member on a 12 Metre America's Cup Yacht. The Regatta lasts approximately two and a half hours. For more info see 12metre.com . And other possibility is to sail on one of the big catamarans to St.Barth's or one of the other surrounding Islands. There are a lot of them to choose from but my personal preference is "The Eagle". A trip on a cat includes drinks (lots of them!), snacks and a lot of fun. Make sure to bring your suntan oils/lotion! Or cruise to a deserted Island on a picnic-sail and snorkel among the live coral reefs.

And then there are the BEACHES!  St. Maarten is blessed with 37 beaches--one for each of the island's 37 square miles. Busy bays are venues for watersports, swimming, and snorkeling, while secluded coves offer private retreats. The dress code ranges from modest (on the Dutch side of the island) to nudist (on the French side). Half-day or full-day sailing excursions to undeveloped beaches nearby are also available. Some of the more famous beaches include mile-long Mullet Bay Beach , perfect for swimming; Dawn Beach , known for its incredible sunrises; and Little Bay Beach , a favorite of snorkelers, with calm, clear waters that offer excellent visibility.

The island's true history started peacefully - traces of Stone Age people have been found on the island, dating back to 4,000 BC. Around 800 AD the island, as many of its neighbors was settles by Arawak Indians who arrived from South America to settle down to a life of fishing, hunting and farming. According to legend, Christopher Columbus sighted Soualiga on the 11th of November in the year 1493, the holy day of St. Martin of Tours, and he named the island after him - hence the name St. Maarten. The 11th of November is celebrated to this day, as St. Martin/St. Maarten's Day.

Around the year 1630 the Dutch and French established small settlements on the island. The Spanish must have not taken to well to this settlement - they saw it as a threat to their influence in the region and attacked the island - driving out both the Dutch and French settlements. The Dutch and French joined forces to repel the Spanish, and finally achieved this goal around 1644 when the Spanish finally abandoned their claims to the Eastern Caribbean altogether. After driving out the Spanish, the Dutch and French signed an accord (in 1648) and agreed to divide the island. It took until the mid-50's to recognize that tourism could be one of the major economical backbones of St. Maarten. As of that time, Mr. A.C. (Claude) Wathey, Mr. Clem Labega and other influential public and private leaders commenced launching an initiative to develop the island into a preferred tourist destination in the region.

Being strategically located, St. Maarten experienced continuous growth in annual cruise passenger arrivals. In 1980, 194 cruise ships called at Great Bay Port while in 1989 that number increased by more than 2 ½ times to 497 ships. There were 105,000 passenger arrivals in 1980 as compared to 616,910 cruise passengers at the end of 1990, reflecting a strong growth in cruise. For year 2003, well over 1 million visitors are expected to grace the shores of St. Maarten.

By now, we are approaching the PJM VOR. Although runway 9 is the preferred landing runway to avoid the mountains, you miss a great view of the island using this approach. And what the heck, we are Air SeaTac pilots and a couple of small mountains to crest on approach doesn't scare us a bit. We will be making a right approach into runway 27 after crossing the PJM VOR. Cross PJM and then head due north for about 2 miles to start your downwind leg for runway 27. On base I might suggest that you over fly your final just a bit and then come back in for final to miss a couple of the taller ridges. Welcome to St. Maarten and enjoy your stay. All information during your visit will be kept confidential so have a blast

 

Leg 4: Princess Juliana International to Luis Munoz Marin International

We will be departing runway 9 headed straight into the mountains . I mean straight over the mountains. After cresting the first ridge, turn right to over fly the bay and if you're lucky, the cruise ships will be at dock. Then it is direct to the SJU VOR (SAN JUAN) on frequency 114.00. This is the longest leg of the flight covering over 170nm so sit back and relax. Flight altitude for this leg will keep us low to the water at 3,000 feet. During our flight we will be passing just to the left of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

We will be landing on runway 8, left approach, using a procedure turn. Once crossing SJU turn left and have the SJ NDB dialed in on 330.0. Fly direct to SJ then continue outbound about 8 miles to get a view of the city. At 8 miles from SJ make a right turn to a heading of 301 for about two minutes while descending to 2,000 feet then start your left approach to intercept the ILS for runway 8 on 110.30. On ILS capture, descent to 1,000 feet for a beautiful view of the city. Don't forget to wave at the tourist. Good luck and have a great landing.

Welcome to San Juan , Puerto Rico . Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island of Puerto Rico was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly-elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose to retain commonwealth status.

Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region. A diverse industrial sector has far surpassed agriculture as the primary locus of economic activity and income. Encouraged by duty-free access to the US and by tax incentives, US firms have invested heavily in Puerto Rico since the 1950s. US minimum wage laws apply. Sugar production has lost out to dairy production and other livestock products as the main source of income in the agricultural sector. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income, with estimated arrivals of nearly 5 million tourists in 1999. Growth fell off in 2001-03, largely due to the slowdown in the US economy.

San Juan is located on the northeastern coast of the island of Puerto Rico, nearly 1700km (1000mi) southeast of Miami, Florida, and about 880km (550mi) north of Caracas, Venezuela. The heart of the city is Old San Juan, which occupies the western end of a small island on the eastern side of the entrance to the Bahía de San Juan. The resort areas of Condado and Isla Verde stretch east of the old city, and the bulk of greater San Juan radiates south, east and west. San Juan's international airport is on the eastern fringe of the city, about 16km (10mi) from Old San Juan.

San Juan is a spirited modern city with high-rise beach strips and a justly famous colonial core. Founded in the 16th century, it's the second-oldest city in the Americas; today it's the engine of the island's economic and political life and the cultural beachhead for US influence in the Caribbean. For an old timer, San Juan can seem pretty spry - nothing like strips of high-rise hotels and heaps of hard bodies littered about the beaches to make a town look young. Even Old San Juan seems strangely fresh and so well-preserved given that it's getting on 500 years old. Many Caribbean adventurers never make it past San Juan: there's a lot to be said for being able to lay a towel down on an unmistakably white Caribbean beach while having the culture and quaintness of a historic city and the convenience of a modern metropolis just minutes away. But if day tripping appeals to you, the capital also makes a good base from which to explore the compact island, forts and missions.

What to do while you're here? How about orca whale watching or some sea kayaking ? You also can't leave without a visit to Old San Juan. And if you blew all of your cash on the beaches of St. Maarten, then for only a couple of quarters you can take some of these great excursions. Don't forget to stop by the forts protecting the area as well as the missions. Finally, a visit to the Bacardi factory is a must. Note: Air SeaTac prohibits the transport of bottled liquor on its flights so drink up. Flying a little high is ok . above glideslope I mean!

 

Air SeaTac hopes you have enjoyed your flight in the blue waters and hopefully sunny skies of the Caribbean. With many more stops available in this beautiful area and there will surely be more flights like this to come.