On Wednesday, January 15, AOPA held a webinar on Flight Operations in the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Rick Gardner, Director of Aviation Services, Caribbean Sky Tours and AOPA's Regional Representative south of the border; and Woody Cahall, Vice President, AOPA Pilot Information Center discussed flight operations in these delightful destinations. If you missed it, you can view the webinar recording here.
During the webinar, many questions went unanswered for lack of time. AOPA's staff in the Pilot Information Center has answered the remaining questions for all to see. They are presented, in no particular order, below.
Are electronic copies of aircraft logs generally okay?
Generally, it is best to carry paper logs. You want to provide the authorities with what they are expecting in order to keep your time answering questions to a minimum. If electronic logs are your only option, you should check with the authorities at your destination.
Radio station permits are required, but have you ever been asked to show? FCC is USA; don't know why this would really matter. What countries don't honor single pilot waviers?
The requirement for the FCC permits for international flight is reflected in 47 CFR Sections 87.18 and 87.89. As foreign regulations often change, we urge pilots operating on single-pilot waivers to check with the appropriate foreign authorities prior to their trip.
Log Books - what countries require them?
Some countries expect the pilot to carry aircraft logs so the pilot can demonstrate the airworthiness of the aircraft if an incident occurs. They are not explicitly required, but we recommend carrying copies of the most recent logbook pages to make things easier if questions arise.
Would a copy of aircraft logs suffice?
Yes, copies of the most recent logbook pages should be adequate to demonstrate airworthiness.
Can you talk at all about flying to Cuba in a U.S.-registered aircraft from Florida where all passengers and the pilot are Canadian citizens and thus not subject to the embargo?
If the pilot is flying a N-numbered aircraft, then the pilot should have a U.S. pilot certificate. FAR 91.709 would apply to that flight. Travel restrictions should be discussed with the appropriate Canadian agencies.
How good are the English language skills of the typical international controllers while communicating these things en route?
Air Traffic Controllers must meet the ICAO standard of English proficiency. Since that is a minimum standard, only proficiency is guaranteed. Beyond that, English language skills will vary.
What is best way to contact US Customs from Bahamas?
Telephone the Customs office that is servicing your flight. Locate the telephone number on this page:
How do you get permission to overfly the first AOE in the US, for example Nassau to Orlando?
Contact the Customs office at the AOE which you are planning to overfly.
How do you get that Radio station permit for the aircraft? I have gotten one for me, but don't seem to be able to find one for the aircraft.
The radio station permit expires after 10 years. Many aircraft don’t have a current permit. You may obtain it by completing FCC Form 605. It is most expedient to apply online here:
Where do you get the fcc license?
Apply online here.
How is a "Radio Station Permit" obtained?
You can obtain a Radio Station License from the FCC by contacting them at 1-888-CALL-FCC.
Can a Temporary Airman Certificate be presented?
Yes, but it is good practice to call the customs office in advance to let them know you will be using a temporary certificate as many of them may not know what it looks like.
Are EFB Flight charts OK? Can VFR flights use Flight Following while entering and departing US? Does this meet notification requirements?
As long as you can prove that the charts are valid, EFB charts are OK. Flight Following is not sufficient for international flight. You need to be on an active IFR or Defense VFR flight plan. eAPIS is the only process that fulfills notification requirements.
Can I hop down the island chain once I clear in the Bahamas?
Yes, but you need to obtain a cruising permit at your airport of entry.
How important is the radio station license in the Bahamas?
The radio station license is an FCC requirement for international flight.
Where can we find typical fees that are charged by Mexico to fly to/from the US?
Caribbean Sky Tours has an informative summary document available here:
What are the airspace fees in Mexico? How will you be billed?
Airspace fees vary based on the size of your aircraft and the payment structure in which you participate. Bills are not issues from the Mexican government, it is the responsibility of the pilot to calculate their charges and pay. Detailed information can be found here.
Are there any special considerations if you are flying a rental aircraft internationally, for example to the Bahamas?
Any time you are flying an aircraft that you do not own personally on an international flight you will want to get a signed & notarized letter from the owner authorizing the operation.
Are there any unique requirements for experimental (home built) aircraft to enter the Bahamas?
Yes, you need to print, carry, and comply with the Bahamian form Standardised Validation of Special Airworthiness Certificate for Experimental, Registered Amateur-Built Aircraft.
Just to confirm, can depart US from any airport?
In most cases you can depart from any US airport. Flights to Cuba have additional requirements and may only depart from Key West.
What is the proper way to ditch an aircraft over water. Landing gear down? up? will you nose over and flop on your back? do you open the door before flare to prevent kinking and a door jammed closed? Are each different aircraft different in characteristics in relation to ditch in water. Where is info on each type aircraft available, to source on how to ditch in water?
In general you will want to keep the gear up and touch down as slowly as possible while maintaining control. Specific information can be found in the Emergency Procedures of your aircraft’s POH/AFM. If no information is provided there; you can reference Chapter 16 of the Airplane Flying Handbook.
Life preservers for the Bahamas - I'm unclear as to what is required. Best I can tell, FAA certified devices are not required but Coast Guard approved devices for each passenger is. I noticed that most FAA certified devices are not necessarily CG approved. Can you clarify?
Coast Guard devices are required for each passenger on board.
May homebuilts who have repairman's certificate do their own repair?
If you are a US certified repairman you can do repairs on your US registered aircraft.
Is there a # on the decal that goes on eapis. What about a flare gun?
The Decal Number has to be included in the online filing for your eapis. Flare guns are legal in most Caribbean Countries, depending on where you are flying, a signaling device will most likely be required as part of your safety gear. You can check here.
Does Rick handle over flight permits for Cuba?
Is there a regulation for the size of the characters of the tail number for international flight to the Bahamas?
Yes there is: CFR 45.29, 12 inch registration marks.
Pro's / Cons of filing IFR vs. VFR?
Rather subjective but IFR will most likely give you the peace of mind if you run into weather, want to fly above 6,000msl or want to fly at night.
How serious are the Bahamian authorities about 12" letters on the fuselage?
All we can tell you is that it is a requirement. How stringent and closely they watch that on an individual case by case basis we cannot say.
If an experimental aircraft must have repairs, does it need to be done by an FAA certified A&P?
The Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement ratification allows Directorate General of Civil Aviation mechanics to perform maintenance in accordance with the FAA.
If you fly out of the US for example to Bimini, Bahamas for a photo shoot and "do not land" in the Bahamas, must you file an eAPIS and must you notify or clear customs returning to the US? the airport of departure in the US. ie. Florida is originates at a non customs, non controlled field, thus the flight would leave the US, traverse the ADIZ, perform the photo shoot without landing in the BS, return back through the ADIZ and then return to the original airport of departure.
You would still have to file through eapis and go through proper procedures just as if you were to land in the Caribbean.
Sorry. What is eAPIS?
It stands for Electronic Advanced Passenger Information System. It is Custom Border Patrol's online system that collects manifests for international travel in and out of the US.
Regardless of weather, if you are instrument-rated and current, is there ever any reason to file VFR vs IFR?
Aside from flexibility of flight paths, not really. However, most will recommend that you file IFR in that it enables you more flexibility, i.e. flight levels above 6,000msl, night operations, flight through weather, etc.
When being charged for flying thru US airspace. you mentioned they charge by mile. About how much $1, $2?
Use of ATC or Flight Information Region (FIR) calculated by mileage runs $11.18 pesos/min or $.86US/Min.
Does AOPA offer assistance in flight planning to these countries?
We offer some assistance for international flights to the Caribbean and Mexico. You can find these pages under our Flight Planning tab on our home page.
To what website do I go to get a Customs Decal?
You order the decal directly from CBP.
Once in the Bahamas, if you island hop how do they know you have been cleared to be in country?
You will receive documentation stating that you have cleared their customs, carry these with you. Also, you will have to apply for a cruising permit either at your airport of entry or by going to this website.
Do you have a letter template for the Declaration of Private Operations?
We do not have one on the AOPA website. There is a sample on the Caribbean Sky Tours website in the membership only area. The letter should contain the name of the company on the registration, name of pic and sic (if there is one), aircraft N number, serial number, make and model, start and end date of travel, city and country being visited, state that it is a PRIVATE flight, list of passengers, signed by owner/officer with name of company (if one), and notarized.
Is there a time limit for the notarized letter? I had one done in 2013--would this be OK for a trip in 2014?
The letter should have current dates of travel and should not be more than a year old.
Do you have to speak Spanish to fly to Mexico of courtries of South America?
No, ATC will speak to you in English. Of course, once on the ground, having a Spanish speaking individual would certainly be beneficial, although not necessary.
If you know of any recommended books on international flying please let us know...thanks what about Bonaire?
I would check out the various guide books published by Caribbean Sky Tours, Caribbean Flying Adventures, Baja Bush Pilots, or Bahamas and Caribbean Pilot’s Guide.
Why are IFR MEA so high in Mexico - in some cases 14,000 when max underlying elevation is 7,000 to 8,000 ft?
MEAs in Mexico can be quite high due to terrain or radar capability. Flying at higher altitudes will improve communication range as well as radar coverage.
I once had an opportunity to conduct an aerial botanical survey in Mexico, but within 100 NM of the US. No landing within Mexico took place. (Takeoff and landing were at US airports.) We cleared everything with US authorities, BUT does Mexico nonetheless require notification/authorization to enter and overfly Mexican airspace?
No authorization is required and an APIS manifest should not be required as long as there will be no landing in Mexico. You will likely incur ATC fees though if Mexican ATC provides you with services.
Is there a way we can get an example of the notarized letter of authorization. A sample would be great!
We do not have one on the AOPA website. There is a sample on the Caribbean Sky Tours website in the membership only area. The letter should contain the name of the company on the registration, name of PIC and SIC (if there is one), aircraft N number, serial number, make and model, start and end date of travel, city and country being visited, state that it is a PRIVATE flight, list of passengers, signed by owner/officer with name of company (if one), and notarized.
If filing IFR, will I need to worry about violating any special airspace. Is filing IFR very similar to flying IFR in US. Meaning, can I expect no cancellation, clear of restricted or TFR airpace, etc.
Filing and flying IFR in Mexico is very similar to the U.S. Because of Class G airspace and limited radar coverage getting a “Direct to” is often not allowed. If you are not in radar contact, follow non-radar position reporting procedures. Regulations do require that if you DO NOT select an alternate airport in your flight plan, you must have sufficient fuel to reach your destination and return to the airport of departure and still have 45 minutes of fuel remaining.
When returning to the US from the Bahamas, do you need to land at the closest airport with US Customs, or will any airport with Customs suffice? How do you get permission to overfly the first AOE in the US, for example Nassau to Orlando?
You do have to land at the nearest airport of entry unless you have obtained an overflight exemption from CBP. You should make the request in writing to the CBP port director at airport of entry you would first be overflying.
If flying from Puerto Rico, what is the procedure?
Private aircraft arriving in the continental United States from Puerto Rico must provide a one-hour advance notice of coastline or border penetration if not conducting the flight on an IFR flight plan under 19 CFR 122.23(b).
When returning from Mexico to US - how do you call CBP from the departing Mexican airport if you don't have a sat phone?
Many cell phone carriers provide international roaming for a fee. Check with your provider to determine if there is coverage in the areas you plan to travel. Land line phones are also available at most airports. Calling cards are usually the way to go and can be purchased throughout the country.
Does eAPIS ask for a departure time and how close to that time do you need to actually depart?
Yes, you are required to enter a departure time. You should depart as close to the indicated time as possible. You can contact CBP at the AOE listed as the departure airport and update your time if necessary.
Can you speak to trips into Aruba, specifically? Any snags?
AOPA has no specific information on flying to Aruba. All the international requirements would apply. Caribbean Sky Tours, Caribbean Flying Adventures, and Baja Bush Pilots would have more information.
As a VFR pilot to you file flight plans into other countries via Duats, Flight Services and since you not getting an IFR clearance how do you know it made it into the system?
A confirmation receipt is usually provided if filing through electronic means. A call to flight service will verify that the flight plan has been received in its entirety. There are no electronic systems in Mexico that can be used for filing flight plans for U.S. or Canadian registered aircraft. In Mexico, a flight plan is normally filed for both IFR and VFR at airports where there is a civil aviation authority office or representative.
I nearly ran afoul of the Caribbean version of eAPIS. Where and how does one apply and submit for their approval? Is it the same website for Mexico? If not, what is the address for theirs? Have you included the expensive agricultural inspection if going through Isla Grande on Puerto Rico? Nearly jammed me up on January 1 of last year.
There are many countries in the Caribbean, some sovereign nations and others tied to a European motherland. There is no single eAPIS type service for all countries. Agricultural inspections, like the US APHIS, are performed primarily upon arrival. Not all countries do this, so it is good to confirm in advance at your destination.
Can you at least open the door during the summer while waiting for CBP to tell you to disembark?
CBP rules are that the pilot is to remain with the aircraft until greeted by a Customs officer. There is no prohibition on opening a door.
If I depart McAllen TX enroute to Puerto Vallarta, do I need to stop at Reynosa, a port of entry or can I go to PVR which is also a port of entry?
As long as your first landing in Mexico is at an airport of entry, you are not obligated to stop at the first port of entry along your route of flight.
Where is the cheapest place to buy a four man raft? What are the Mexican fees to fly to and from Cancun ?
Check the Aviation Yellow Pages, aviationdirectory.com for survival gear. Equipment can also be rented from some south Florida FBOs. It will cost you 702 pesos to enter Mexico ($52), plus APIS filing fees each way; however, ramp, parking, security fees vary greatly and must be confirmed at each airport.
How do you find out about prior permission or permits? Who do you contact? How do I know who to pay to? How do I find out how much I owe for airspace fees? Who are the international service providers?
You can use a guide book like the one Caribbean Sky Tours (CST) publishes, or you can use FAA’s IFIM manual to determine what entity in each country must be contacted for overflight or landing permits, if any, and fees. Except for Cuba, you can pay a country directly or pay a handler such as CST, Colt, or Universal.
Suppose one encounters a mechanical difficulty at a foreign airport. Is there anything related to the aircraft staying in the country longer than expected that we can prepare for?
I think key would be your entry authorization into the country. Your visa, or permit, would specify how long you are permitted to stay without any further request on your part. Extending a stay is country specific and will vary from one to the other.
I would like to stop in Cozumel but is it worth the time?
Mexico APIS filing is only for flights into and out of the country; overflights do not require APIS. However, overflights trigger Mexican airspace fees as the route of flight will take you through the Mexican FIR. A stop in Cozumel will not incur airspace fees, but will trigger two APIS filings – one in and one out – which come with fees to the handler. Six of one half dozen the other, I suppose.
How do you get from Miami to Grand Caymen without crossing the Cuban Inner Adiz?
Straight line, this is not possible as you fly over Cuba, east of Havana. IFR with an overflight permit is best. Otherwise, the western route from KEYW CANOA B646 VINKA to start, with flight following from Havana and Merida Centers.
Can you elaborate on flying Experimental aircraft out of the US? Specifically, Experimental Exhibition and Experimental Amateur Built aircraft. Thanks!
The issue is not flying them out of the US; rather, where are you going with it? It is quite important to ensure your country of destination would allow entry of your EAB.
Rick I am in North Eluthera Bahamas and want to fly my C182 RG to Beef Island. My plan is to make a one day trip with half way point fuel stop at Grand Turk. Can I fuel stop at GTK without clearing customs? What is required for arrival at Beef Island BVI? Would you recommend another route? Any other suggestions? Charts? Fees?
Customs would be required at Grand Turk as you have arrived in another country, from a foreign destination. The same would apply to Beef Island, BVI. Charts can be obtained from Jeppesen, WACs from the FAA Charting Office, and Caribbean Sky Tours online resource. Fees are generally a given, but must be checked at your intended destination(s).
What's the price of 100 LL in Mexico?
A simple question, but one that has many answers; however, there is no ‘standard price’. Don’t expect a posted price like you are used to seeing here in the States. The government agency ASA supplies fuel to most airports, but FBOs also offer fuel at some. Prices can vary greatly from one service and one airport to the next.
What is the name and URL of the Mexican eAPIS type system?
It is not a user accessible portal type service as is the US eAPIS. Only one provider has been selected by the Mexican government to submit manifests. ARINC, and a few companies contracted with ARINC, can provide the service and make the notifications for you.
What are typical fuel prices? Credit cards accepted?
Fuel prices are different everywhere. Our recommendations are to call ahead to confirm price AND availability, and payment methods. Small bills are best in many locations while CCs are generally ok for the International airports.
If I plan on flying to Mexico tomorrow, do I need to file Mexican APIS? If so, how do I set up an account? Is there a portal in English?
Yes. However, it is not a user accessible portal type service as is the US eAPIS. Only one provider has been selected by the Mexican government to submit manifests. ARINC, and a few companies contracted with ARINC, can provide the service and make the notifications for you.
Having landed at a POE airport, can a plane then travel to non-POE airports within that country?
Generally yes, however make sure to check in advance for each specific country as their regulations and requirements may vary.
Will a 406 EPIRB meet the requirement? Can I get IAP's for the Bahamas for a trip? Jepp told me I needed an annual subscription. Does the Bahamas charge for Airspace usage?
A 406 EPIRB will not meet the requirement as it needs to be an actual permanent installation. You can get one time charts, usually from other providers such as mypilot store, they have a 1 trip kit here.
Whenever we tried to ask for badge numbers or initials of customs agents we were told that is secure information and would not be given.
If the official will not give you this information, perhaps they will be ok with at least giving you their name, or see if you can read the name on their badge. If they do not give you the information, you cannot force it from them, and it is best to avoid conflict.
What is the top of VFR airspace in Mexico?
VFR flights are prohibited in Mexican airspace above Flight level 185.
Will the log books on the cloud such as Cessna connect be sufficient?
These should be acceptable, however keep in mind you may not always have internet access so this may cause you some delay in case of needing to present.
Our customs at Naples, FL has limited hours of operation. May stay open with prior arrangement.
Thank you for sharing that, other customs locations may be willing to do the same, but you will want to confirm that before the flight.
Paper charts only? Or will ForeFlight on iPad work? Can scenic flying over the Copper Canyon be done casually or are their issues doing that? What risks to GA flights, pilots and pax have been reported with kidnapping, interactions with drug traffickers, risks to the aircraft, and so on? Does AOPA provide checklists on international flying?
It is very advisable to bring paper charts. Scenic flying over Copper Canyon can be done however you will want to do thorough planning for safety. We do not hear about a large amount of safety issues, however as always we recommend practicing situational awareness and risk management. We have international flying checklists on our international section under flight planning.
I thought the FCC no longer required the radio license? I have one because I have flown to the Bahamas and didn't want to risk a problem.
The FCC no longer requires an FCC license for domestic flights, however it is required for international flights.
How far from the coast line does the over flight requirement apply?
This varies based upon country, contact either an organization or company that does this kind of planning regularly.
Do you think eAPIS accomplishes anything? Are we safer as a country?
eAPIS is not so much for increasing safety, but to streamline the entry process for returning to the country and to remove the old paper requirments.
What about aircrafts owned by flying clubs? What "letter" do we need?
You would want to do the same thing as if it was a company aircraft, a Declaration of Private operations.
Answered question regarding electronic charts. No debate there. But for electronic logbooks. Can you address that for international CONUS flying? What about signoffs: what's best practice.
Electronic logbooks are indeed acceptable and commonly used by pilots, some programs even have methods for instructors to endorse within the program, however most pilots tend to carry a separate logbook with their endorsements contained therein, and a printout of their most recent flights to show currency.
What relevance does the ADIZ line have on an IFR flight plan outbound to the Bahamas ? For instance, can I go KFLO direct COMET direct MYAM (route crosses ADIZ line 3 times)?
Being on an IFR flight plan, or a DVFR flight plan, and under positive control with ATC would indeed allow that flight.
What is the transition level in the Bahamas?
Above 6,000 ft, at which point you are under Miami Oceanic CTA/FIR control