Olympic Elections in Buenos Aires, Argentina – Heavy Business Aviation Traffic Expected
This is a post by guest author Mercedes Puppo of Munser FBO. Mercedes was asked to contribute to our business aviation blog because of her experience and expertise in ground handling in Argentina. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Mercedes’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
The International Olympic Committee meets 4-10 September for Olympic elections in Buenos Aires. During this period, business aviation traffic to Buenos Aires will be heavier than normal. Operators should expect aircraft parking and operating restrictions as well as sold out accommodations at preferred hotels close to the venue.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. SAEZ and SABE are preferred airports
Ministro Pistarini (SAEZ) is a 24-hour airport of entry (AOE) and the preferred choice for those attending the Olympic elections. However, NOTAM A2785/13 was issued barring general aviation (GA) from parking at this airport during the period of the Olympic elections (1-9 Sept.). Only drop and goes will be permitted during this time.
Another nearby airport is Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (SABE), which is only an AOE on request and is normally a domestic-only airfield. SABE is not available to GA unless it’s a diplomatic or air ambulance flight, the flight operation is deemed to be in the national interest, or the aircraft is based on the field with its own hangar. The exception is that all operators transporting passengers involved in the Olympic elections will be allowed to fly into SABE (with permission from the Argentinean government). Your ground handler will need to make prior arrangements for customs, immigration, health, etc. at SABE. If you don’t have private hangar space arranged at SABE you’ll only be permitted a maximum of two hours on the ground.
2. Two close-in alternates are available for Buenos Aires
A good alternate airport is El Palomar (SADP) – about a one-hour drive from central Buenos Aires – , but GA operations to this location have not yet been approved at time of writing. For aircraft up to the size of a Gulfsteam III, operators may consider using San Fernando Intl (SADF). This is only a 40-minute drive from the event venue. SADF is an airport of entry (AOE), but no airport parking is available – other than for based aircraft with their own hangar space.
3. SAAR and SACO are farther from the city but offer parking
Rosario Intl (SAAR) is three-to-four hours’ drive time from Buenos Aires, while Cordoba (SACO) is approximately an eight-hour drive. Both are 24-hour airports with good 4- and 5-star hotels nearby – including major international hotel chains. Note that while SAAR is a 24-hour AOE, SACO does not have 24/7 customs availability. SACO will charge an overtime fee for customs clearance outside normal hours of 0900-1800 local. Helicopter transfers may be arranged from either SAAR or SACO into Buenos Aires with advance notice, but note this is subject to availability.
4. Be aware of documentation requirements
When operating out of airports in Argentina, operators are required to provide originals of airworthiness and registration certificates, aircraft insurance policy, and pilot licenses and medicals. This information will be taken by your ground handler to airport authorities.
5. Know CIQ procedures in Argentina
When arriving in Argentina from international locations, all crew and passenger luggage must be removed from the aircraft to be inspected and x-rayed. All items not affixed on the aircraft (such as luggage, catering, loose items, etc.) must be offloaded and won’t be permitted to remain onboard. This is mandatory and no exceptions are allowed. However, your ground handler may be able to store some items at the airport. Note that all entries to SAEZ require special biometrical clearance for all crew/passengers. CIQ clearance in Argentina is typically done in the main terminal along with commercial passengers. On occasion, customs and immigration officers may agree to process passengers/crew via the diplomatic clearance area. In this case, clearance will normally take just a few minutes.
6. Understand visa requirements for Argentina
Crew members, listed as crew on the manifest, do not require visas for Argentina. Depending upon nationality, passengers may require visas, and these must always be obtained prior to arrival in Argentina. A full list of nationalities that require visas for Argentina can be found on the Direccion Nacional de Migraciones website. Passports should have at least 90 days validity beyond the date of anticipated departure from Argentina, or fines may be applied. It’s important to note that reciprocity fees are required by Argentina for all passengers from Australia, Canada, and the U.S. This process must be accomplished prior to arrival in Argentina, and your ground handler can assist with these arrangements. Current reciprocity fee is 100 USD for an Australian citizen (valid for one year), 75 or 150 USD for a Canadian citizen (valid for three months or five years respectively), and 160 USD for a U.S. citizen (valid for 10 years). If passengers have not registered and paid for reciprocity fees in advance, they will not be permitted entry to Argentina.
7. Landing permits may be required in Argentina
Private non-revenue GA operations to Argentina do not require landing permits. Charter (non-scheduled commercial) operators will require a landing permit if the aircraft 1) is listed with an ICAO code "C" or above and 2) has certain types of seating configuration. You’ll need to consult with your ground handler if your seating configuration meets these criteria. If a landing permit is needed, your documents must be apostilled and translated to Spanish in the country of origin. Note that landing permits for Argentina take approximately one month to process and have validity for one year.
8. Not all airports in Argentina have English-speaking ATC personnel
There are many airports in Argentina without English-speaking ATC personnel. When operating to such locations consider having a Spanish-speaking pilot onboard or have your ground handler arrange for a Spanish-speaking representative to travel with you. Currently, the list of airports with English-speaking ATC personnel includes SAEZ, SACO, El Plumerillo (SAME), SAAR, Cataratas Del Iguazu (SARI), San Carlos De Bariloche (SAZS), SADP, and SADF.
9. Hotel, local transport and catering tips
Some of the primary delegate hotels for the Olympic elections have already sold out. Crew accommodations in the Buenos Aires area relatively reasonable at about 100 USD per night for a 4-star hotel, and excellent hotel options are available close to all the outlying airports. For local transport it’s best to have your ground handler arrange pre-paid (car with driver) transport. Taxis and public transportation are not recommended. Many good aircraft catering options, including on-airport in-flight caterers, are available in the Buenos Aires area, and at least 24 hours’ advance notification is recommended.
For operators planning to attend the Olympic elections it’s important to begin trip planning as soon as possible and stay abreast of any possible NOTAM changes. As travel to SAEZ may become an issue, alternative airport options will likely need to be considered. Ensure that all passengers have required visas and that reciprocity fees, if needed, have been paid prior to arrival in Argentina.
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