INTERNATIONAL OPS

Down Mexico way

Landing permissions, appropriate insurance and correct documentation are all essential.

By Grant McLaren
Editor-at-Large


US-registered Bombardier Challenger 604 arrives at TLC (Toluca, Mexico City). After a quick stop at the customs ramp this aircraft will taxi to the FBO ramp and the passengers will begin their journey into Mexico City.

Mexico is a relatively straightforward environment with good operator flexibility, reasonable costs and not a lot of troublesome surprises or idiosyncrasies.

Traffic remains steady, and strong, to both business and resort destinations-particularly CUN (Cancún), NTR (Intl, Monterrey del Norte), SJD (San José del Cabo) and TLC (Toluca, Mexico City), and although handlers report that business was a little more flat than usual going into high season this year due to the state of the economy.

You'll require landing permission when operating to Mexico, along with special Mexican insurance, and local handlers are mandatory at many airfields. Cabotage rules are taken seriously in Mexico, particularly for charter and Part 135 operators.

Parking is generally first come first served and cannot normally be confirmed in advance. Customs and immigration procedures vary from airport to airport, and operating hours at many fields are limited with 7:00-8:00 pm closings not uncommon.

Security in Mexico has become an issue of increased concern to corporate aviation operators over recent years. Extra caution is suggested at night on the drive from TLC into Mexico City and when operating to border airfields including CJS (Ciudad Juárez) and TIJ (Tijuana).

The good news is that Mexico remains one of the world's easiest and most forgiving international operating environments. "It's not difficult to navigate the system in Mexico as long as you've done some basic preparation in advance," says Universal Weather & Aviation Master Trip Support Specialist Alberto Gonzales.

He adds, "The Mexican operating environment is welcoming and it's almost as easy as a trip to Canada." Operating flexibility in Mexico is particularly good confirms Jeppesen Intl Trip Support Global Handler Relations Mgr Matt York.

"Once you've landed, and have your permit, everything is very flexible. You can change schedules and blast off pretty well any time you want to. There are no big surprises or hassles and, as long as you have the right documentation, things go smoothly.

Handlers and local officials are easy to deal with and services are generally very good." If you arrive in Mexico without landing permission this can be arranged on the ground. Likewise, Mexican insurance can also be set up on arrival-for a price-should you forget to secure a policy in advance.

Even if a crewmember or passenger forgets to bring a passport this is not the end of the world. "We had a case recently of an inbound flight to Mexico where one passenger was missing a passport," recalls York. "The operator faxed a copy of the passport to the local handler and this worked out well."

Any small issues you may run into on the ground can often be smoothed over with your handler and local officials who are usually amenable to creative solutions.

The exception here can be parking, particularly at crowded resort destinations in season. "There's always a lingering possibility, when you arrive, that you may not have overnight parking," says Air Routing Intl Ops Supervisor Matt Pahl.

"Although this rarely happens you may be faced with repositioning. If parking at SJD is full, for example, you may need to move your aircraft to LAP (La Paz)."

Mexican operating permits

All foreign private and charter aircraft must have authorization and landing permission when operating to Mexican territory.

Manny Aviation Services staff at TLC. In business since 1960, Manny Aviation has FBO locations throughout Mexico.

This may be obtained by an authorization for either sole entrance or multiple entrances. Single-entry authorization may be arranged beforehand-officially with 5 working days-or via Form GHC001 filled out on arrival. A single-entry permit is in effect for 6 months and expires immediately when the aircraft leaves Mexican territory.

Multiple entrance permits, issued by the Direction of Transport and Aeronautical Control, require 10-15 working days from date of application and are in effect for one year beginning Jan 1.

Applications require certificates of airworthiness, aircraft registration, flight personnel licenses and medicals (as well as ATP license for the captain) and Mexican insurance, which must include coverage for the whole Mexican territory with an insured sum, for public liability third party damages, equivalent to 56,900 days of minimum wage in force in Mexico City-currently about 3 million pesos.

Part 135 single entry landing authorizations are not a much more rigorous proposition than for Part 91. However, multiple entry permits can be somewhat more difficult to set up and maintain.

Multiple entry permits require operations to file monthly reports on activity to Mexico even if there are no flights that month. Cabotage restrictions for Part 135 operators are in force and are taken seriously.

Part 135 operators may not fly passengers internally within Mexico even if they've brought the passengers into the country. To get around this, say ISPs, some operators operate to and from Mexico as Part 135 and fly domestic legs in country as Part 91.

Cabotage rules are much less rigorous for private Part 91 operations says Universal Weather & Aviation Quality Control Mgr Rubin Perez. "Private operators may fly domestically within Mexico with a Mexican national on board if they carry a letter stating that the passenger is an employee or otherwise associated with your business."

Customs and immigration clearances may be accomplished on board in some cases but it's more common to clear in the GA facility or main terminal. Procedure at TLC, on arrival, is to park at the customs ramp to clear customs and immigration prior to taxiing to your FBO.

On departure your agent will take your passports to be processed but there's no customs interview involved. "Customs will almost always do headcounts," adds Pahl. "Officials are mindful of human trafficking and prefer to compare passports with passengers. If the numbers do not add up there will be questions asked."

When flying to Mexico send all information-crew and passenger passport details, crew licenses, medicals and ATP for the captain-in advance. At most Mexican airports you'll either go through VIP customs/immigration clearance at the GA terminal or customs at the main terminal with the assistance of your local handling agent.

Customs and immigration procedures in Mexico are generally fast, easy and not onerous adds Jeppesen Intl Trip Planning Supervisor Al Simpson.

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