Plan early and carefully to go overseas
All sorts of lead time issues have the potential to jump up and bite you if you're not adequately prepared.
By Grant McLaren
Making schedule changes during complex international flights may or may not be feasible to accomplish depending, in part, upon officially published lead times. Hard lead time requirements at many destinations can cause schedule revisions to be more challenging than at other locations.
Within the world of international trip planning, the lead time requirements to arrange permits, airport slots, visas, handling arrangements, customs/immigration, etc, can cause some missions to be more complicated to orchestrate than others.
As a general rule, international support providers (ISPs) can usually orchestrate GA operations to most points in the world within 2 to 5 business days notice—assuming all required documentation and information is available. However, this is not always the case.
"Italy, for example, requires 45 days lead time to process an initial charter landing permit. But after that you'll have a blanket permit on file and very little lead time will be needed for the next trip," says Universal Master Mission Advisor Rick Mann. "Lead time for permits to military airports in India usually involves 30 days.
We have operators who plan on up to 1 year lead time to set up parking and other arrangements at ZRH (Zürich, Switzerland) for the annual Davos World Economic Forum. For lead time sensitive locations, best practice is to ensure that your schedule, when submitted, is firm. Many locations will start the process all over if you change any part of your trip, and this can cause delays."
There are all sorts of lead time issues with the potential to bite you if you're not adequately prepared. "Requirements for visas can be a real choke point when operating internationally," explains International Trip Planning Support COO Phil Linebaugh. "While you can obtain visas for most parts of the world within 3 business days, assuming correct paperwork is preassembled and submitted, US operators are finding that Cuban visas are taking much longer to process, as Cuban authorities have only 1 office in the US processing visas.
And although visas for China have become much easier to obtain, visas for India have taken longer to process over the past 18 months, which has been problematic for many international operators."
Charter vs private
Many countries don't require landing permits for private operators making single stops, but they do mandate permits, with varying lead times, for charters and for private flights on domestic legs. You can make a single stop in Colombia for up to 48 hours without a permit. However, landing permits with associated lead times are needed for longer stays or when a domestic leg is involved. In Brazil, likewise, private operators do not need landing permits for a single stop in country but do require one if any domestic flight leg is planned.
Flying to Japan as a private operator is a simple permit free proposition with no lead time mandates, unless you plan on flying domestic legs. To make that 2nd stop in Japan, you'll need a special permit with 5 business days lead time, and must stick to your exact schedule and manifest for each leg.
"Planning domestic legs within Japan can be a tedious process with many associated operating restrictions to deal with," declares Avfuel Account Mgr David Kang. "CAA are real hawks in terms of who's onboard for each domestic sector. Operators often find it easier to make just 1 stop and charter locally."
"On the other hand, Indonesia seems to be easing up on a recent mandate that foreign registered aircraft make no more than 1 stop in country," says Jeppesen ITP Account Specialist Kollie Chen. "While there's been no official notice published, Indonesia is now allowing foreign registered operators to apply for permits to fly domestic legs, but these special permits require an additional 3 days lead time."
Charter ops often add additional hurdles in terms of lead time considerations. "In France, Germany, Italy and most of the EU, the charter operators now must have a third country operator certificate (TCO) on file with EASA. Otherwise, plan on 45 days lead time," warns Colt International Supervisor Account Executive Program Orlando Cantu. "And there's now a hard permit lead time of 48 hours for charters to the UK. You cannot request a permit Saturday morning and expect to fly your charter on Sunday."
Ian Humphrey, Jeppesen vendor relations mgr for Africa, Russia, Eastern EU and Central Asia, points out that there are no shortage of ways things can go wrong in terms of lead time glitches. "All it takes is messing up 1 detail in your application, or formatting a document improperly, to cause things to go sideways and lead time requirements to increase. Some CAAs want specific insurance coverage wording and formats, and it might take 2 to 3 additional days to organize the specific insurance documentation they require.
Other CAAs may need to review your maintenance records, ops specs or obtain engine serial numbers and/or a color photo of your aircraft before a permit is issued. In cases where sponsor letters are required for permit approval, there are often very specific requirements that must be met. Not getting this right can delay permit approvals," details Humphrey.
Overflight permits and airport slots
Authorities verify passports and visas at ASB (Ashgabat Intl, Turkmenistan). Crew and passenger visas are mandated for many international destinations and can take several weeks to obtain.
In some parts of the world, including Indonesia, Myanmar and some countries in Central Africa, you may need 5 to 7 business days lead time for overflight permits. These longer-than-normal lead time requirements have the potential to complicate impromptu tech stops and/or reduce overall operational flexibility.
Airport slot lead times can be more or less manageable depending on the particular destination. In the case of HND (Haneda, Tokyo, Japan) available GA slots were recently increased to 16 per day. With a shorter lead time it becomes easier to plan operations to that airport at preferred operating hours. Contrarily, the 2 main airports for Istanbul, Turkey – IST (Istanbul Atatürk) and SAW (Sabiha Gökçen) – have become more complex and restrictive in terms of airport slot confirmations.
"At HND we usually have no issues obtaining slots if we request about a week out," says Kang. "Istanbul airports, on the other hand, are becoming more and more challenging for slots and GA parking. You may make a request but they may not answer for days and you could end up having to use an alternate airport on your scheduled day of flight operations."
Slot lead times and associated operating complications can be particularly acute for HKG (Hong Kong Intl) and MFM (Macau Intl). These are locations to avoid if you do not need to use them as destination stops. Flying to airports in the vicinity of large events celebrations, for example using NCE (Nice, France) to attend the Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix or a G20 Summit, can also be particularly troublesome from the perspective of airport slot and parking request lead times. For international tech stops it's preferable to avoid airports with long permit lead times, onerous slot requirements and/or peak periods of scheduled commercial operations.
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