Operating to India

Complex, expensive and time consuming, but getting better.
Know the rules as they are very strict in this part of the world.

Documentation and visas

BOM is the most congested airport in India in terms of GA access and parking. If you're able to secure slots and parking here, it's best to try to stay with your approved schedule.

While passengers must always possess valid visas upon arrival in India, flightcrew member visas can be arranged upon arrival at certain locations. This involves submitting copies of passports prior to arrival. Barker adds, "For crew operating ferry flights across India, we recommend tech stops at either DEL or BOM as these are the only international airports with airside transit hotels. In such cases, when crew members do not leave the airport, no visas are needed.

Kang notes that while it's possible to arrange a visa-free stop for crew members at BOM, it's not usually recommended. "It's possible for crew to have a 72-hour visa-free stay at BOM using a temporary landing permit (TLP), but this is something best avoided. Local immigration officers have discretion to approve or disapprove your visa-free stay and you may run into issues."

Coordinating required visas and landing permits can be something of a Catch 22. "Technically you should have your visas when applying for a landing permit but you should have your landing permit application on file before submitting a new visa request," adds Wilson. "In practice, operators often submit permit applications prior to assembling all visas and use the landing permit application for new visa applications. Once visas are issued, this information is forwarded via your handler to CAA, and the landing permit is validated."

Obtaining all necessary visas for your operation to India is usually one of the larger challenges you'll face. "We've had operators plan trips to India well in advance but visas did not come through in time and trips had to be canceled last minute," says Wilson.

Fuel, catering and credit

Fuel availability and credit are generally good at all airports of entry. It's always recommended, however, to carry a fuel release and to provide prior notice – preferably 24 hours – for all intended fuel uplifts. Fuel deliveries are usually efficient and on time. However commercial scheduled ops always take priority and occasional delays may be experienced during peak operating periods. LeDuc often advises crews to be at the airport 3 hours prior to departures so fuel delivery or other service issues don't delay operations.

In some cases, transport between your aircraft and the terminal may require 20 to 30 minutes. Note that cash payments are usually not accepted in India for fuel, catering or services as the country is quickly moving to an all-credit society. For catering uplifts, plan at least on a 24-hour notice and allow 48 hours for any sort of specialty orders.

Note also that a special tax applies to fuel remaining onboard in cases of international arrivals if the next flight leg is domestic. Fuel remaining will be calculated by local airport authorities upon landing with the tax due and payable at that time.

Smaller airports

A private jet floats along the wall of MAA (Chennai Intl Airport) after floods sweep through southern India following record rainfalls December 3, 2015. November was the wettest month on record and the resulting floods killed more than 300 people.

While India has plenty of smaller domestic airports available and some corporate operators are flying to these locations to set up factories or other facilities, it's important to confirm infrastructure condition and service availability.

"The runways and taxiway ramps may not be stressed for larger GA equipment and there may be fuel and technical service limitations to consider," says Kang. "Ground support may be minimal, there may not be potable water or lav service and cattle may wander across the airfield due to lack of fencing."

Be aware of limitations such as catering even at larger airports. Best practice is to keep catering orders simple, avoid complex requests and consider picking up additional catering at an international tech stop. Handling and catering can be very expensive when operating to India; it can cost as much as $8000 per stop, as recorded by international support providers (ISPs).

Hotels, local transport and weather

Larger centers such as Mumbai and Delhi have good selections of 4 and 5-star accommodations both close to the airports and in city centers. Plan on about $200 to $250 per night for 4-star accommodations for each crew member. For local transport it's often best to use options pre-vetted by your handler, although ISPs say UBER has been working well.

Note that monsoon season can last from July until as late as December. This constant rain and severe weather activity can result in flight diversions and having to organize aircraft parking elsewhere.


Business aviation operations to India still present challenges. ISPs say that, while the regulatory environment is not overly welcoming to bizav operators, future prospects look positive. There are currently about 122 GA operators based in India with an average of 2 aircraft per operator, and there are very significant taxes to pay to bring new aircraft into the country.

Indian government regulations need to change in order to promote significant growth within the local industry. That said, there's no turning back now. GA ops are on the upswing, there are plans to build a new airport at Mumbai and new guidelines seem to be in the works to better support GA growth and operational flexibility.

"India is not a part of the world where you want to wing it on your own without well connected ISPs and local ground handlers," says Le Duc. "India is one of the more complex regions for GA ops and you're not always free to do what you want to do when you want to do it. Local bureaucracy will slow things down occasionally and you'll need assistance with connections to get you out of a bind from time to time."

Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.



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