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Flying to the Bahamas: Pre-trip Preparation

If you are ready to trade the winter weather for some warm sunshine, why not fly yourself to the Bahamas? It is easy to do, though it requires some additional pre-trip planning for the aircraft, pilot, and passengers. This two-minute video gives an overview of the process, as well a brief description of many of the items.

Flying to the Bahamas: Pre-trip Preparation

 

NOTAM for Nassau Intl. Airport

New procedures effective July 1, 2015. Click here for details.

Flying in the Bahamas

Rick Gardner, AOPA's representative for the Bahamas, and Director of Aviation Services for Caribbean Sky Tours, joins us to discuss the benefit of having your airplane with you during your visit to the Bahamas.

listen to podcast

Preparation

Pilot-in-Command

The pilot in command must have a current:

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.
  • ELT communications on the aeronautical emergency frequency 121.5 MHz and/or 406 MHz.  

Customs and Border Protection

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

ICAO Flight Plan

  • Use of an ICAO flight plan is currently required if the flight will enter international airspace. While an ICAO flight plan and an FAA flight plan are similar in many ways, there are some important differences. Some items are the same on both forms: aircraft ID or tail number; aircraft type, fuel endurance, and number of people on board. New items on the ICAO flight plan include a Wake Turbulence category, and Type of Flight. The biggest change, though, is found in the equipment suffixes box, box 10. The ICAO codes used to denote the type of equipment on board the aircraft are different than the codes used by the FAA. To find out more, please view this short AOPA video.

Departure

Departing the U.S.

  • Pilots crossing the 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
  • The first landing in the Bahamas must be at a Bahamian Customs airport of entry. Call ahead to announce your planned arrival time.

In Country

Flying in the Islands

bahamas

  • For island-hopping flexibility, obtain a cruising permit at your airport of entry.
  • Flight plans are recommended for island flying, though you may need to open and close them from altitude if phones are not available.
  • VFR flying at night is prohibited except within the airport traffic areas of Freeport and Nassau.
  • Have cash for fuel purchases; while some airports do accept credit cards, others do not.

Beyond the Bahamas

Beyond the Bahamas

bahamas

  • FAA charges any foreign- or domestic-registered aircraft (via a bill to the registered owner) overflight fees for flights in U.S.-controlled airspace that neither take off nor land in the United States. An example would be a flight that departs Freeport in the Bahamas and flies to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos, while using ATC services from Miami Center. FAA does not, however, bill any owner if the fees incurred are less than $250 per calendar month. The fee per 100 nautical miles is on the FAA's Web site.
  • 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.
  • 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 to 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.

 

Return

bahamasReturning to the U.S.

  • Return your immigration tourist card and cruising permit
  • Pay a $29 per passenger departure tax
  • 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)
     

More Information

bahamas

Bahamas Tourism/Private Flying

Bahamas Flying and Resort Info

Bahamas Airports of Entry

Standardised Validation of Special Airworthiness Certificate for Experimental, Registered Amateur-Built Aircraft

Bahamas RCOs and Navaids Map

eAPIS: Frequently Asked Questions

Third-party companies

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Additional Resources