FLIGHT SUPPORT SERVICES

Tools and tips for overseas trips

Today's flight dept schedulers use a broad array of options for complex trip planning and support.


It involves carriage of passengers or cargo within a national territory, such as the EU. Other, smaller examples of cabotage exist, but for US-based flight operations the EU represents the largest and most complex to deal with in terms of compliance.

In most circumstances importation of an aircraft allows an operator to carry foreign nationals (EU passport holders or non-EU nationals residing within the EU) throughout the territory without committing cabotage.

Purchasing fuel Internationally

Domestically, the lifeblood of FBOs has always been fuel sales, and the bulk of their profits remain in this commodity. As competition erodes their margins, US FBOs have begun a shift toward a fee-based system, as used by the Europeans for decades.

Abroad, not all locations accept the same fuel cards as domestic FBOs-so it's important to ascertain which cards are accepted and any associated fees (which can be significant). For example, certain European countries impose high VAT costs on fuel for private/ leisure flights as opposed to non-private flights. (In the US we use the terms "private" and "commercial."

Be aware of this subtle but crucial difference). In France, Germany and Spain, the cost difference can be double for a private/ leisure flight. When specifying fuel, ensure that your service provider lists your flight as non-private (assuming your trip is of a business nature). And instruct your flightcrews to mark the order as non-private on the fuel uplift to ensure you can recoup the VAT portion.

Part 135 operators have been asked to provide an original document of their air carrier operating certificate. One fuel provider-Hong Kong-based AML Global-ensures that qualified operators get a VAT-exempt fuel quote when placing the order. A recent check on the difference in Germany was $5 per gal (non-private) vs $10 per gal (private/leisure).

Clearly, a great deal of money can be saved. France recently introduced a 302-euros-per-kiloliter charge (about $1 per gallon) for private/leisure flights. If you are new to flying to these countries, a visit with your legal and risk representatives can confirm that you are abiding by the legal definitions prescribed by the EU for non-private operations.

Your aircraft can be imported into any of the 27 countries, but only 2-Denmark and the United Kingdom-charge no value-added tax (VAT) valuation (upwards of 20% of the aircraft's value). Hence, these 2 countries import the bulk of long-range aircraft. Cabotage fines can be steep and multiple offenses may carry criminal liabilities.

It is imperative to import your aircraft to avoid the cabotage issue, even if you do not plan to carry additional passengers. Cabotage also includes a duty tax issue which affects intracommunity travel-and committing the offense can be deceptively easy.

It is recommended that you call your service representative and arrange a conference call with your legal department to ensure you meet the criteria for importation and travel. On the plus side, the paperwork takes only a few minutes on arrival into your first port of entry.

Part 91 operators and APIS

As a consequence of Sep 11, US Customs & Border Protection (CBP) has published a final rule requiring non-air carrier flights to comply in supplying advance passenger and crew information, ostensibly to prevent a terrorist attack on the US by a private aircraft.

Part 121 and 135 flights have been subject to this for some time, and CBP, along with TSA, implemented procedures to mitigate the perceived risk from Part 91 aircraft. While the statistics are in our favor (no private aircraft having ever been hijacked or used in a terrorist event), these bureaucracies have determined that we need additional oversight to conduct our business when outside our borders.

Beginning on May 18, 2009, operators will be required to submit a manifest of all crew and passengers 1 hour in advance, including passport details. CBP will then issue a clearance to depart the US (or the foreign location if inbound).

Currently, the only acceptable format for this Advance Passenger Information Service (APIS) is via e-mail (called eAPIS), but this may change as operators request clearances from remote Canadian locations (in floatplanes), outlying islands in the Bahamas, or similar.

Most service providers are preparing for this and should have a system in place for those without Internet access by the effective date. Problems exist for the proposed Part 91 APIS requirements. Air carriers globally have abided by the ICAO standards and recommended practices-however, the US has added many data elements not required by other ICAO states.

To counter this, the Intl Business Aviation Council (IBAC) is trying to engage ICAO to avoid the problem of data transfer issues and a working group will begin meeting in early 2009. Timing of this lends credence to the rumor that APIS will not likely be implemented (due to the non-standard data requirements) by the May 2009 date.

Commencing this program without full cooperation from all parties will doubtless wreak havoc and delays on a system that functions perfectly at present.

Scheduler's checklist for trip planning

Some items to consider for trip planning and coordination:

  • Crew and passenger passports (and visas, if required). Keep in mind that if flightcrews are prepositioning via airline, visa requirements may be different for commercial carriage. Visas are often-but not always-available on arrival.
  • Aircraft must comply with safety assessment of foreign aircraft (SAFA) guidelines (insurance originals, noise certificate and all required documentation). This is the EU equivalent of a US FAA ramp check.
  • Overflight permits, landing permits, letter of invitation (if required).
  • Advise your company's risk (insurance) department of your proposed itinerary. Some countries have declared a war status and worldwide coverage may not be in force.
  • Send a complete list of passengers and crew to the destination handling agents as soon as possible.
  • Jeppesen trip kits (if you don't have worldwide coverage). Some trip kits originate in Germany and require several days-don't wait until the last minute.
  • Lodging, transport and security for flightcrew and aircraft.
  • Source 2 or 3 fuel prices for each destination, with special emphasis on VAT charges.
  • Vaccinations required or recommended.

Summary

Careful preparation and the help of professionals in flight support will ensure your company's success, whether it's your first crossing or your 100th. With the coming restrictions, such as the Large Aircraft Security Plan (LASP) affecting all operators, up-to-the-minute information is crucial for accomplishing your goal of safe, secure and timely arrivals and departures abroad. Examine your needs and capabilities-these will determine your level of support required.

The cost of a significant delay, if mitigated properly through handling assistance, far exceeds the tiny sum saved through self-service planning and negates the goal of private aircraft entirely.

Our operations abroad should appear as seamless to our passengers as our domestic trips-seeking expertise to assist is good judgment and sound preflight planning.

David Bjellos is the aviation manager for a private corporation whose flight department was the first in south Florida to achieve IS-BAO certification. The company operates a Gulfstream IVSP, a Dassault Falcon 2000, 2 Bell 407s and a Eurocopter EC120.

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