This week’s Best of the Web video comes from Eli van W and is a nicely shot piece on an airline Twin Otter being landed and taken off from a 1300-foot runway on the island of Saba. For orientation, Saba is in the Dutch Antilles in same archipelago as Sint Maarten and St. Kitts and Nevis, just off the northern coast of Venezuela. Yrausquin Airport has been open since 1963 and, improbably, has had airline service for many years since then.

The aircraft in the video is a De Havilland DHC-6-300 Twin Otter flown by Windward Islands Airways. Look carefully in the video and you’ll note a strong quartering crosswind from the left—the windsock is on the hill left of the runway and note the flags on the terminal building. The wind certainly helps with the rollout, but the real driver is pilot technique. The trick is to be on speed—even with the crosswind—and touch down as close to the numbers as possible. The Otter has Beta range and that helps the pilot make the first turnoff. Well, the only turnoff. The next one is a wild ride over a 200-foot cliff into the ocean.

That may have happened, but not with an Otter. But a Dornier DO.28 A-1 lost control in a crosswind totaling the airplane. The only fatality was a goat. For a hilarious take on what not to fly into Saba, check out Swiss001’s graphics-fueled take on landing a 777 on 1300-foot Yrausquin Airport.


  1. I was privileged to fly the Dash Seven; sometimes known as the “Quadotter”.
    This 44000 pound fifty seat airliner (landing weight 42000 pounds) is fully capable of doing the same thing.
    It can be landed and stopped in 600 feet; my Chief Pilot could do it in less. This with a smooth touchdown!
    Approach speed at max landing weight with full flap is 71 knots.

    Another amazing DeHavilland Canada Aircraft!

    • Brian, sorry to say, but those 71 kts were for a nearly empty plane. At 42.000 lb. it was more like 81-82ish.

  2. We have our own version of Saba in the UK – checkout St. Mary’s Scilly Isles (EHGE). A slightly longer runway, but complicated by a big hump in the middle. A 3% upslope to the hump and then a 3% downslope on the other side. Basic principle – if you haven’t pretty much stopped by the top of the hump then you aren’t going to easily stop on the downslope. I took our Seneca in there last year – for fun. No real problem but you have to nail the approach speed and touchdown point. If not – go around! Again – commercial flights are with a Twotter. Check out this video from Lands End to St Mary’s –

  3. Not quite “just off” as Saba is a hundreds of miles from Venezuela, but another cool posting from the best Av writer (& fellow J-3 owner) around.

  4. Not quite “just off” as Saba is hundreds of miles from Venezuela, but another cool posting from the best Av writer (& fellow J-3 owner) around.

  5. Just a few days ago, I was in the pattern for GXY 10 (5801’ long) behind a 172 doing stops and taxi backs. Each circuit, he had a hard time turning off at A3, roughly 4000’ from the numbers. He should watch this video and take a hint or two on airspeed control and touchdown management!

  6. Real world STOL footage is so much more interesting than Alaskan competition footage. There’s nothing contrived about Twin Otter passenger service into and out of 1300 feet. You get no redo and if you mess up you’re not going get to taxi back to your tie down dejected and say “oh well, there’s always next year”. Pilot limitations matched with aircraft limitations matter more because results have greater implications.

  7. The day we flew into Saba there was little or no breeze and the Otter was pretty well fully loaded. Still made the turnoff, I was impressed!
    Unfavorable winds do “close” the airport, sometimes for several days, requiring a rather unpleasant boat trip in rough seas.
    The island has a fresh water problem, we were amused by the signs posted in bathrooms: “On this isle of fun and sun, we do not flush for #1”

    • Looks like the airport operator is trying to be gentle on the runway bed, which is very near to the eroding coast.

      Also, both the landing and takeoff were done well left of the centerline, so the pilot is either trying to avoid the nosewheel following the center line, or making an airport-specific allowance for the stiff crosswind. I flew a lot in Hawaii and we never did that, but hey.

  8. A good, stiff headwind never hurts. Now, if someone would teach that pilot to stay on the centerline he would look much less sloppy.

    • Mike, there are airports, runways and airstrips in this world that require departures from some of the rote we were taught in private pilot school. In this case I believe the centerline was being used as a reference for operational reasons, not as a line atop which to aspire to keep the nosewheel centered. This pilot knew what he was doing and to intimate he was being sloppy is unfair and more of reflection on you, not on that Twin Otter pilot.

    • I have a little Otter time myself. It is no picnic in a stiff crosswind. It has a relatively high center of mass that makes it weathervane kind of quickly. I noticed the off center landing and takeoff. It looks deliberate to me. The only reason I can imagine is that it’s on the upwind side of the runway.

      Agree, it was a good landing. That’s why I posted it.

  9. Wow…. obviously MK has never had to land on top a mesa in moderate turbulence. As someone that flew the entire Caribbean in DC-3’s and Beech 18’s in a previous lifetime I can tell you that this was a nice landing!

  10. Did anyone notice the big cross on the end of the runway defining the runway as closed or unserviceable ?

  11. As I have posted previously, I am not experienced in smaller aircraft, the smallest ones I flew were the CV-240 and the ATR-42. My time is mainly in ‘heavies, the C-141 A & B and the Classic 747 freighter. I enjoy watching what some of the smaller aircraft are capable of accomplishing on a daily basis. I had a few experiences in the -141 with short runways but one of my favorite tales is of an experience in the Classic 747. Ferried empty into Copenhagen one night to pick up a load. We weighed almost nothing for the whale only about 175,00 kg. Weather was clear but winds were howling, right down the runway at a steady 50kts or a little higher. Combine that with our approximately 125kt approach speed, we touched down at about 60 some-odd kts. Barely was able to cycle the reversers open before it was time to close them and turn off. Made the first turn off without even warming up the brakes, only about 2000 feet down the runway. Had to wait an hour or so before we could open the cargo door though because of the 40 kt wind limit on it’s operation. Certainly was one of the shortest landings I ever saw in that proud lady.