Things to Consider when Selecting Tech Stops

> | April 17, 2013 | 0 Comments
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Things to Consider when Selecting Tech Stops

For business aircraft operators, a range of considerations must be taken into account when selecting tech stops. Ideally, you’re looking for a trouble-free experience for both crew and passengers. Some tech stop locations are easier and more reliable than others. Always consider your operations’ specification restrictions when choosing routings and tech stops and look for options with relatively flexible permits and operating windows.

1. What are some key considerations when choosing tech stops?

Your first considerations should be fuel, credit (through the ground handler or 3rd-party provider) and turnaround time. If a location is low on fuel supplies or trucks, you may be delayed for some time. Always confirm the payment method in advance. Will your aviation fuel card be accepted, or will a fuel release be necessary? Paying by cash or credit card may cause delays and require non-contract fuel prices. Quick turns are also important. In some countries, such as India, permit windows may be narrow, and even a stop-and-go may entail considerable delays.

2. How are your passengers’ preferences best achieved when planning tech stops?

Some passengers prefer tech stops to be made early into a flight, particularly when flying through the night, and that should be communicated to your 3rd-party provider. If you have older passengers onboard (or those with medical conditions), you may want to consider tech stops with good medical facilities near the airport. Brief passengers on tech stops pre-flight so they know what to expect (at some locations, passengers will not be permitted to leave the aircraft.)

3. What’s the best way to choose a tech stop if there’s more than one airport at the desired location?

Your desired location may have more than one airport, but one may be designated for commercial traffic or be more difficult for business aircraft operations. An example is Rome Ciampino (LIRA) and Fiumicino (LIRF). LIRF is designated for scheduled commercial traffic only, unless LIRA is closed. At Sao Paulo, Brazil, you may make an international arrival at Guarulhos (SBGR) but not at Congonhas (SBSP), as SBSP isn’t an Airport of Entry (AOE). For this reason, make sure that your planned tech stop is an AOE and accepts business aviation flights.

4. What are some permit issues to consider when planning tech stops?

In some regions, more permits are required, and short-notice permit revisions may cause delays. Chennai (VOMM) may be on the great circle between Australia and Europe; however, you need three working days’ lead time for a permit, and the turnaround process on the ground may be slow. Tech stopping in Japan to avoid a Russian permit will cost more, and you may be faced with strict slot requirements and limited airport hours (due to airport or customs curfews). Tech stops at Beijing (ZBAA) are not permitted, but tech stops at Urumqi (ZWWW) are fairly straightforward and flexible (although crew and passengers require visas for any stop in China.)

5. How do your operations specifications impact tech stop selections?

Your company operations specifications may not permit you to overfly or land in certain countries. It’s important that your 3rd-party provider has this information in advance in order to route your flight appropriately. Consider available fire equipment at locations and how to best comply with your operations specifications requirements. Your operations specifications may call for Category 4 fire capabilities, but the location may only be Category 3. If your operations specifications prohibit fueling with passengers onboard, you’ll need to arrange, with local customs, for passengers to exit the aircraft.

6. If problems arise during a tech stop, are solutions available?

If a tech stop location is out of fuel or low on fuel, you may not have many options. For most other issues – such as landing permits, airport slots and prior permissions required (PPR) – consider working with an experienced 3rd-party provider to try to get the problems resolved.

7. What are tech stop tips for remote area operations?

It’s important to consider fuel and credit availability when tech stopping in more remote areas. It can be tricky making fuel stops in Africa due to fuel shortage concerns, credit and service issues, so it’s best to travel to more established destinations. Services can be unreliable at remote locations that lack a lot of business aviation activity.

8. Do airport closures often impact tech stop availability?

Closures are usually published by Notices to Airmen (NOTAM), and there are no aircraft during those airport closure hours. Also, be aware of operating close to airport closure times and the risks involved. For instance, if you’re operating close to the daily closure time at an airport like Geneva (LSGG), a delay in fuel delivery may potentially force you to depart a day late. To avoid such risks, consider leaving a little earlier from your previous destination and advise passengers to arrive at the airport on time (for departure point prior to UNNT.)

9. Any other tech stop issues to consider?

Consider weather hazards and plan on preliminary weather briefs 24 hours prior to operations. In-flight catering and other services may be limited at certain locations. At some locations, particularly in India, the captain may be required to go to the tower to sign and file a copy of the flight plan. In Brazil, even though the flight plan is filed, it’s not validated until after landing fees are paid, and this can’t be done prior to arrival at the airport. Also, political uncertainty and security are important issues to consider when selecting tech stops.

10. Additional Reading

Conclusion

While many tech stop locations meet basic requirements, some are better choices than others. It’s always best to think of tech stops in terms of available options just in case you are delayed or grounded due to problems such as fuel unavailability or mechanical issues. It’s worth taking the time to pre-plan the best tech stop options well in advance of departure.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this article, contact me at greglinton@univ-wea.com.

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About

An original member of the Universal Trip Support Services Team Europe, Master Trip Owner Greg Linton is known as a solutions-oriented problem solver. He’s also known as an expert on operations around the globe, particularly to Europe, Africa and China. Since joining Universal in 2000, Greg has facilitated more than 9,100 trip legs. He has represented Universal at numerous industry tradeshows and conventions including the European Business Aviation Association Conference & Exhibition and the National Business Aviation Association Conference. Greg has also been interviewed for and contributed articles to many industry publications. Prior to joining Universal, Greg served as an aircraft maintenance administration supervisor in the United States Marine Corps. Greg holds a bachelor’s degree in aviation management. He can be reached at greglinton@univ-wea.com.

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