While it was comparatively easy to expand access to Cuba for Americans traveling by charter flights arranged through established agencies and protocols, it will likely take time to make Cuba a realistic option for general aviation.
AOPA has been working with the FAA and other involved agencies on a host of issues, ranging from basic flight planning to export certification and border security.
New regulations published Jan. 16 by the U.S. Department of the Treasury eased many longstanding restrictions on travel to Cuba, but did not eliminate them. Travelers arriving by chartered flights face fewer limitations on what they can spend in Cuba, and are now allowed to pay for expenses with a credit card.
But planning a private flight to Cuba is another matter altogether, and there is a long list of regulations, laws, and protocols to be revised or established before a private flight to Cuba is possible.
AOPA staff are researching the issues and working with federal officials from multiple agencies to gather information and begin to plan and execute the necessary changes. The association updated online flight planning guidance for Caribbean travel on the same day Treasury officials published the new financial regulations, and will continue to update the page as new information becomes available.
Among the issues to be worked out are exchange of flight plan and other air traffic control information between agencies in both countries, procedures for advance passenger manifest notification, and the distribution of notams and similar information. Various federal regulations and laws may require modification (a list still being developed Jan. 22 may include export certificate requirements). Insurance coverage is another major question to be addressed, and individual operators may need to contact their insurance providers for more information.
“Everyone is working diligently,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of operations and international affairs. “It may take time before this becomes a reality, but we are working on it.”