A fun video shot on Saint Maarten’s famous Maho Beach drew the ire of an airline pilot — who compared the planespotter to a “terrorist.”
The video of a plane landing at Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM) in Saint Maarten was taken with a camera that has a 360-degree lens.
Pretty cool, right?
Airline pilot Stefano Rota doesn’t seem to think so.
— Stefano Rota (@fanorota) June 10, 2020
I hope Mr. Rota was being darkly sarcastic. But something tells me he wasn’t. (According to his LinkedIn page, Mr. Rota is an A320 first officer for Avianca — as well as an “Aviation Photographer and Journalist.”)
I think what set him off was a message he retweeted from @aviatordam, who said “A drone, on the approach, when an aircraft is landing? I call that [redacted] idiotic and irresponsible. Always one doing it for the [Instagram].” (The tweet was edited for language but you can see the NSFW original here.)
Here’s the thing: that wasn’t a drone.
I showed the video to Joshua Applegate, a photographer friend of mine.
“Everyone on the beach is just as close as the [person] filming,” he said. “You can see the shadow of the [selfe] stick used to mount the 360 camera, and I’m guessing it to be about 4-5 feet in a stationary position. Although the 360 camera seems to fly up and nearly touch the plane, it is clear that the camera is stationary with plenty of clearance.”
Jerod Harris, a photographer with drone experience, told me, “A selfie stick with a 360 camera poses very little harm to commercial aircraft as long as the selfie stick isn’t sticking up into the flight path of the aircraft. Luckily, most selfie sticks I’ve seen are between 2-4 feet, so [there’s] very little danger, even at St. Maarten.” But he added, “Selfie sticks and helicopters make me nervous.” 🙂
So what makes this stranger is that Mr. Rota is himself a photographer (with an impressive Flikr portfolio, I must say) — so one would think he’d be familiar with lenses and how they can manipulate a scene.
How About Some Perspective?
René and several readers visited SXM about three years ago. They experienced the planespotting nirvana that is Maho Beach.
How close do arriving planes get to beachgoers? Well, about as low as most people come (outside) to an aircraft performing an inflight operation.
That said, it’s not like you can reach up and touch tin. The below video René shot gives some perspective.
Is the selfie-stick itself a danger to incoming aircraft? Perhaps if it’s thrown in a plane’s engine at the perfect time, I guess. That would be a pretty tough feat to accomplish, so I’m not terribly worried. I’m sure pilots who read the blog can let us know their thoughts.
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