Caribbean

Flying in the Caribbean

The information here applies to the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Puerto Rico , U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, the French West Indies, Netherland Antilles, Nevis and St. Kitts, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Barbados, Granada and Carraicou, Trinidad and Tobago.

Because many different countries govern the islands of the Caribbean, it is necessary to clear Customs and Immigration when entering and exiting each one.

In addition to the information offered here, you may find the Caribbean Pilot's Guide a helpful resource. 

And, as always, call AOPA with questions, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, (800) USA-AOPA (872-2672).

Flotation vestsPilot-in-Command

The pilot in command must have a current:

  • Passport
  • Pilot certificate with an English-proficient endorsement
  • Medical certificate
  • Restricted radiotelephone operators permit
  • Letter of Authorization if the aircraft is not registered in the pilot's name

Passengers

  • Each passenger must have a current passport
  • Children traveling with only one parent must have a notarized statement of approval from the absent parent stating the dates of the trip.

Aircraft

All U.S. registered aircraft must have:

  • A standard Airworthiness Certificate
  • A permanent registration certificate (no temporary certificates/pink slips)
  • A radio station license
  • Operating limitations information
  • Weight and Balance information
  • A life vest/flotation device for each person aboard (It’s recommended you also carry a life raft.)
  • An ID data plate
  • 12-inch registration marks
  • Transponder with Mode C
  • Aircraft with fuel tanks installed in the baggage or passenger compartments must have Form 337 on board.

Insurance

Contact your insurance company before you leave the U.S. to be sure you are covered. AOPA Insurance Services will be glad to talk with you about your planned trip. 800/622-2672.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires

Aerial island viewDeparture from U.S.

  • Pilots crossing the U.S. border must be in communication with ATC and on a discrete squawk code.
  • All aircraft must be on an activated IFR or Defense VFR flight plan for flying through the ADIZ
  • Visiting pilots must enter and exit at an airport of entry.
  • Know the requirements for the islands you plan to visit.

Overflying Cuba - You need a permit

Civil aircraft overfly Cuba routinely. It is not especially difficult, but it does require that pilots follow the established procedures. Private pilots with overflight permits may fly through Cuban airspace via published airways. These airways are shown on the Caribbean and South American IFR Low Altitude Enroute charts.

The process for acquiring the overflight permits has recently changed. As of December 2013 a modification of the U.S. Code of Regulations allows operators of U.S. registered aircraft to contact Cuba directly and pay Cuba for overflight permits without the need for an Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) license. View the regulation here. Payment is made to Cuba in Euros through a bank in Panama. If you do not want to do the permit work yourself, you can use a third party provider for a fee. Regardless of how you choose to do it, it is critical that it is done!

At the same time, Cuba has tightened up on the issuance of permits. The primary changes are:

Aircraft with an MTOW greater than 6,600 lbs will not be exempted from permit or airspace fees, no matter who is flying the aircraft nor what the purpose of the flight is.

All permits requested by companies on behalf of third parties will be assessed permit or airspace fees. For a flight to be exempted from the Cuban permit fees, the owner of the aircraft must contact the Cuban permit department directly to request the permit and the exemption. The Cuban authorities will evaluate each request individually and only they can decide what flights will be exempted. The Cuban Permit department has stated that NO aircraft registered in the name of a corporation (regardless of whether it is engaged in a commercial operation or not) will be exempted from airspace fees.

Some third-party companies that can request an overflight permit for a pilot for a fee are listed under the Resources tab. The list is not all inclusive, there are many companies that provide this service.

 

Island beachThe Islands

General Information

  • Typically, you will encounter little general aviation traffic over the water until you get close to an island airport.
  • Some of the Caribbean countries have radar.
  • You will change controllers as you fly from country to country, as they will hand you off at their boundaries.
  • VFR flights are not permitted after dark.
  • Fuel is usually available at most airports, but can be very expensive. Credit cards are not always accepted.
  • Most of the island airports are airports of entry, but not all. Check your specific airport if you are not sure. Customs and Immigration at many airports requires advance notice, some as much as 24 hours.
  • All countries require flight plans.
  • No vaccinations are required of U.S. citizens.
  • Navigational aids may or may not be functional in the Caribbeean. Flying with GPS makes it easier to navigate.
  • Most towered airports provide weather information and Internet is available in most places.
  • Caricom eAPIS: Caricom (Caribbean Community) requires all aircraft to submit an APIS manifest prior to arrival, departure, or travel between any of the following: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago.

Notes on specific countries:

Puerto Rico

If you fly from Puerto Rico to the U.S. Virgin Islands, you can fly as a domestic flight with no eAPIS or CBP entry requirements, just fly and land. However, if you fly from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico, you must clear with CBP at an international port. However, you do not file an eAPIS; you file the old CBP Form 178 and request permission and an appointment.

Virgin Islands

AOPA has become aware of an issue regarding travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and points south. U.S. Customs in St. Thomas says that pilots need to file an eAPIS outbound and nothing else. U.S. Customs in St. Croix says that pilots DO NOT need to file an eAPIS, but DO need to go the the CBP office. U.S. Customs headquarters is aware of this discrepancy and is working with the local offices to resolve. In the meantime, it would be wise to contact the specific U.S. Customs offices you intend to use in the area by phone prior to departure or arrival, and to confirm which procedure to use.

Returning to the U.S.

  • File an activated IFR or Defense VFR flight plan for flying through the ADIZ with ADCUS (advise customs) in the remarks section
  • Call U.S. CBP at least one hour and no more than 23 hours before your planned U.S. arrival time.  (Do not rely only on ADCUS – call to verify CBP has your flight plan).
  • File an eAPIS arrival manifest (if you filed eAPIS reports for both legs of your trip before you left the U.S., you do not have to file again).
  • If you are arriving in southern Florida, plan to land at one of the following eight U.S. CBP airport of entry after crossing the U.S. border. Be on time – a little late is better than early.
    • Key West International Airport, (KEYW)
    • Tamiami Airport, Miami (KTMB)
    • Miami International Airport General Aviation Center (KMIA)
    • Opa Locka Airport, Miami (KOPF)
    • Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (KFXE)
    • Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International-General Aviation Facility (KFLL)
    • Palm Beach International Airport, West Palm Beach (KPBI)
    • Saint Lucie County Airport, Fort Pierce (KFPR)

Tips, Trips, and Opinions

This section of information offers opinions, tips, and trips from members of AOPA's International Alliance, which is a group of international service providers who are very familiar with operations in the Bahamas and who can share their information here.

This content reflects the opinions of the providers, including occasional operational tips and experiences. Some of the perspectives expressed here may not reflect AOPA's position, but they bring a valuable viewpoint members should be aware of when traveling internationally. Questions or concerns should be directed to the information providers, whose names are hyperlinked below for easy access.

Tips (and Updates)

022814: From Thierry Pouille, Air Journey.

I just returned from the Bahamas this past week-end with the Bahamas Treasure Hunt. We received excellent service and I can attest that the $50.00 arrival fee is compensated by the ongoing promotion from the Bahamas Tourist office with a $150.00 credit per plane. Details at:  http://www.myoutislands.com/island-hopping-promo.cfm

Trips

These are upcoming private aviation trips to the Caribbean sponsored or escorted by an international service provider.

Opinions and Experiences

These are solely the opinions or experiences of the ones to whom they are attributed. Occasionally, you may see conflicting opinions or differing experiences.

 

Member List: AOPA's International Alliance

Air Journey: Escorted flying journeys to destinations around the world. Travel in a small group on a pre-arranged itinerary, or customize a trip.

Bahamas Aviator: Bahamas flying and resort information for private pilots.

Bahamas and Caribbean Pilots Guide:  Publish guide books for pilots: The 2014 Bahamas Pilot's Guide and 2014 Caribbean Pilot's Guide.

Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.  The official travel site of the Islands of the Bahamas.

Baja Bush Pilots: A membership organization providing information, resources, and escorted flights for private pilots in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Canadian Owners and Pilots Association: A membership organization that protects personal aviation and promotes it as a valued, integral and sustainable part of the Canadian Community.

Caribbean Sky Tours: A membership association providing information, resources, and escorted flights to Mexico, Central America, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.

Pilot Getaways: Pilot Getaways is the bimonthly travel magazine for pilots and their families, focusing on fun flying to destinations from backcountry strips to exclusive fly-in resorts.