INTERNATIONAL OPS

Down Mexico way

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


ACA (Acapulco) is a particularly busy destination during high season. Here a US-registered Cessna Citation CJ1 shares the ramp with a Mexican-registered Lockheed JetStar. SJD (San José del Cabo) is an even more challenging airport to secure parking in season.

Arriving from the south

Effective Feb 1, 2008, all GA aircraft operating into Mexico from the Caribbean and Central and South America have been required to stop at CZM (Cozumel) or TAP (Tapachula) for illegal substance inspection.

Countries considered as within the Caribbean zone include Bermuda, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. "Mexico has issued a permanent Notam on these requirements and they're extremely diligent in enforcing it," says Pahl.

He adds, "There's no provision for a border overflight exception (BOE), as there is in the US, and this ruling applies to everyone with the exception of Mexican government and military flights.

We had an operator recently fly from SJU (Luis Muñoz Marín, San Juan, Puerto Rico) to TLC and they had to stop at CZM with more than an hour delay on the ground."

This new policy-an agreement between US and Mexican governments-went into effect abruptly, with no grace period, but the process has streamlined somewhat, observes York. "Initially this was quite an ordeal and caused delays of up to 2 hours-with all baggage offloaded and inspected out on the ramp-plus the inconvenience of making an additional stop.

Authorities were forced to adjust the process to deal with backlogs. But even today, operators should plan on an hour or so delay on the ground."

Issues of security

Security precautions are advised when operating to the Mexico City area and destinations along the US border say international support providers (ISPs). Gonzales recommends putting a guard on your aircraft at TLC and arranging secure transport for passengers and crew from TLC into Mexico City.

York suggests flightcrews take such commonsense precautions as removing uniforms prior to departing the airport, staying at hotels in TLC rather than Mexico City and not flagging down public taxis willy-nilly to get back to the aircraft to retrieve that pair of sunglasses left on the glareshield.

"Arranging private transport is a safer option than raising your arm, exposing a gold Rolex and flagging down a taxi in Mexico City," advises York. At TLC and many other airports in Mexico where it's still possible to bring private vehicles planeside, consider pulling up your armored transport alongside the company plane in preparation for that night-time passenger transfer to Mexico City.

Caution is suggested when operating to, or planning an overnight at, airports along the northern border. "At northern Mexican destinations, including TIJ, we recommend arranging secure transport due to risks associated with local drug trade activity," adds Perez.

Ops to Mexico

With the Latin American-based business aviation fleet now numbering just over 1000 in 16 countries, including a growing fleet of Mexico-based corporate equipment, the south-of-the-border market is familiar with the unique needs of business aviation.

Mexico has many fine FBOs and service quality throughout the country is generally excellent with a full range of support services, catering options, repair facilities and well-equipped infrastructure.

Universal Weather & Aviation has had a presence in Mexico for more than 2 decades and, in 2002, formed subsidiary UVavemex at TLC under the direction of General Mgr Manuel Girault.

UVavemex, which offers full dispatch support and onward planning assistance, is the first FBO in Latin America to be certified under NATA's Safety1st program. Costs of operating to Mexico are reasonable.

You can expect the average handling, landing and 24 hour parking bill, for a Gulfstream IV, to run about $1800 at SJD and $1500 at TLC, says Jeppesen. Fuel and services credit in Mexico are excellent, and if you absolutely must have Mexican mariachi bands serenading your every arrival this can be achieved and coordinated with your local handler.

Since self-handling in Mexico is generally not considered an attractive option many crews choose to dispense with ISPs and set up their arrangements directly with a local handler. "It's important to arrange for a local handler," says Gonzales.

"Otherwise, you'll have to go to various offices to fill out paperwork and pay fees. And outside of major commercial and resort areas English may be an issue." While it's always wise to carry some cash on international flights the need to do so when operating to Mexico is less today than it once was.

"If you get yourself into a bit of a jam, or you're not getting what you need, you may have to pay a little extra to smooth the process," says Pahl, "but the need to do this in Mexico seems to be less today." Be aware of operating curfews and airfields that may close as early as 7:00 pm.

In many cases airport authorities allow for overtime and may be willing to stay open 2-3 hours after official closing if arrangements are made in advance. AOG support is generally good, with many OEM certified repair facilities available and a good supply of qualified FAA licensed mechanics.

"The only hiccup may be getting parts through customs," says Jeppesen Trip Planning Training Specialist Kate York. "If a part arrives on the weekend it may be held till Monday, but your local handler will be able to help you with this."

Pleasures of flying south Business and leisure traffic is anticipated to remain steady to Mexico, with continuing congestion and parking challenges occurring at resort destinations during high season.

Other than the new procedures in place since February affecting incoming flights from the south and the Caribbean, the operating environment to the 5th largest country in the Americas has not changed much over the past year.

While preplanning for any international trip is essential, operators can expect good services and infrastructure within a straightforward, flexible and friendly operating environment.

Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.

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