Editorial The Daily Herald:
Questions were being asked following Wednesday’s plane crash off the St. Maarten coast in which one person was killed and another still missing up to press time last night. Some people wondered whether it had been responsible to take off from Princess Juliana International Airport SXM in the first place with the unsettled weather at the time.
While possibly heavy showers were expected as a result of the disturbance to the North, the wind coming out of the South-Southwest instead of the predominant Easterly airfl ow may have played a role.
Winair’s early afternoon flight to Saba already had been cancelled, because landing there under those conditions is particularly tricky.
In fact, except for Insel Air, the aircraft taking off from SXM Airport that evening did so starting from the lagoon side rather than the usual seaside. This apparently was also the case for the ill-fated SkyWays flight, presumably within the routine procedures for such situations.
Amid all the speculation, government thankfully issued a press statement Thursday evening confirming St. Maarten Civil Aviation Authority is in charge of the investigation. The latter will be conducted based on international guidelines and with assistance from the local agency’s counterparts in the countries where the plane was manufactured and registered, respectively the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
The release also requested keeping in mind that it could take a few months before there is any clarity on a possible cause of what is classified for now as an accident. In fact, exactly what happened when the aircraft had climbed to 200 feet and suddenly lost all contact with the control tower may never be known.
Unconfirmed reports suggested the same plane had experienced technical problems during a landing at SXM Airport two days before, but there was no indication that –if true – this could have had something to do with the tragic mishap.
It’s also no secret that rainstorms can be accompanied on occasion by severe downdrafts.
Time will tell or it may not, but considering the island’s track record when it comes to air safety, pending the outcome of the inquiry there appears to be no reason for huge concern in terms of a structural problem. A piece of advice that seems useful under any circumstance is always to err on the side of caution.