November 7, 2009
By Alton K. Marsh
View of the Terminal Two departure lounge at Punta Cana International Airport, Dominican Republic. Photo Credit Christopher Cooper
Dominican Republic tourism officials have worked for years to attract pilots to tour their country by air, and efforts are finally paying off. The government had designated Caribbean Flying Adventures to lead tours and provide information.
“For private aviation, it is a paradise,” said Jim Parker of Caribbean Flying tours. Flying physicians, pilot clubs, and private tour groups have brought their planes to the country. There have been seven guided tours this year. For two people wishing to travel six days, five nights, the tour plus food and hotels is $1,100. The next tour is planned for February. Tours are limited to aircraft with the same or better performance of a Cessna 172.
Dominican Republic officials are proud of a decree in 2008 by President Leonel Fernandez to eliminate all fees. In the past there were high fees to park, to file flight plans, and for other services. In some cases outright bribes were required several years ago. The country has recognized that and taken steps to eliminate all fees of any kind. “It is now hassle free,” Parker said. In particular, officials were touting the destinations of Puerta Plata and the resort of Punta Cana, which they compared to Cancun, Mexico.
Pilots may not be aware, officials said, that they can fly from Miami to the Dominican Republic and never be more than 10 minutes from land, and will talk to Miami Center until within 100 miles of the country. The officials said 150 commercial airlines serve the country, delivering 9.4 million people per year to an island with 75,000 hotel rooms and 29 golf courses.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
A touch of history, affordable flying, unique sightseeing, a good meal, and a community of pilots: Isn’t that what general aviation is all about?
Getting the job done on the local and national levels requires long-term planning, a hands-on approach, and keeping the effort moving, said Sean Collins, AOPA’s Eastern regional manager.
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