Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Airport Operations
This is a post by author Delmark Muir. Delmark is managing director for Universal Aviation Costa Rica, which has aircraft ground-handling facilities in San Jose and Liberia. Delmark is an expert on business aircraft operations in Costa Rica and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Costa Rica and continues from our last article: "Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Fuel, Additional Services, and Security."
While landing permits are not needed for private non-revenue and charter (non-scheduled commercial) operations, there are certain limitations and considerations that must be taken into account regarding airport options and Airports of Entry (AOEs) when flying to Costa Rica.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Available airports
There are four available AOEs in Costa Rica: San Jose (MROC), Liberia (MRLB), Limon (MRLM), and San Jose, Tobias Bolanos (MRPV). There are also a number of domestic airports, but obtaining permission for such travel may be difficult to obtain. Specifically, operations to domestic locations require that you complete temporary importation of your aircraft, and this process can only be initiated upon the aircraft’s arrival at the first AOE.
2. Domestic airport ops
Plan on eight business days’ lead time to complete the temporary importation process that’s necessary in order to operate to domestic airfields. Importation process can only be done after you’ve landed at a Costa Rican AOE. The process involves providing original copies of your aircraft registration and airworthiness certificates, worldwide insurance, and crew licenses/medicals. Additionally, the aircraft owner must provide a power of attorney for the captain to act on his/her behalf. Upon landing at an AOE, the captain – along with the ground handler – proceeds to the Civil Aviation Authority office to begin the domestic permit process. In practice few non-Costa Rican-registered aircraft operate to domestic airfields in Costa Rica due to the operator’s unfamiliarity with these domestic airports.
3. Airport hours
Of the four AOEs in Costa Rica, only MROC operates 24 hours. The other airports have curfews. MRLB, the second most popular General Aviation (GA) airport, is open 0600-2359 local. However, Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ), fueling and other services are normally only available until 1800 local. Overtime arrangements with advance notification are needed to have CIQ and services provided 1800-2359 local. Airport overtime is not possible for MRLB 2350-0600 local. MRLM operates 0600-1800 local, MRPV operates sunrise to sunset, and neither of these airports offers overtime.
4. No noise restrictions
Stage 2 aircraft are currently able to operate unrestricted within Costa Rica. While we expect to see some future restrictions put in place, such details are unknown at this time.
5. San Jose airports
MROC is located in Alujuela, about 30 kilometers (km) (19 miles) outside San Jose. Drive time to the San Jose city center ranges from 30 minutes to over three hours, depending on traffic. Peak hours for road traffic congestion are 0600-0800 and 1600-1800 local, and these periods should be avoided. Be aware that there are few options available for helicopter transfers within the country, due to lack of helicopters in the country. MROC has no fixed-base operator, but a general aviation terminal may be approved in future. While MRPV is located in central San Jose, the runway is relatively short (1.6 km or 5,250 feet), and there’s a Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) limit of 11,340 kilograms (25,000 pounds).
6. MRLB and MRLM
MRLB is positioned 30 km outside of Liberia, and the drive into the city center is 15-30 minutes, depending on traffic. MRLM is just six km from the town of Puerto Limon – a prime leisure destination and also home to a large shipping port. There’s consideration being given to building a new airport, to replace the existing MRLM, due to expansion of the town and port areas, but this hasn’t been confirmed.
7. Aircraft parking considerations
Operators wishing to park during high season often make their aircraft parking requests by early September. You will not, however, know the status of your parking request until November or December, and it’s at discretion of airport authorities to approve/disapprove such requests. There are typically more parking issues with larger business aircraft, such as Gulfstream G550s and Bombardier Global 6000s.
At MROC, GA parking is separated by MTOW, but this is not the case at other Costa Rican airports. Officially, there are only eight GA parking slots at MROC. At discretion of airport authorities, however, it may be possible for GA to park on the commercial ramp at MROC.
MRLB has up to 25 GA parking slots for smaller aircraft, but this translates to just 10-15 large aircraft parking spaces. MRPV, meanwhile, has four to five GA parking spots available, while MRLM only has three to four GA positions.
Note that parking spots at MRPV and MTLM are power in/power out while parking at MROC and MRLB often requires tow in/out.
8. Extended stays
During the late-November-to-early-April high season, MROC often experiences parking issues due to the number of aircraft traveling to this location. In many cases Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) will be issued restricting overnight parking for GA aircraft. MRLB also has issues with overnight parking during the peak season. There may be cases where you’ll need to drop passengers and reposition aircraft/crew elsewhere in the country or outside Costa Rica. Note that no hangar space is available for transient GA movements at any AOE in the country. While there are a few small hangars – for commercial airline maintenance and local GA aircraft – hangar space is not rented to transient GA operations under any circumstances.
9. Relocating aircraft
In Costa Rica airport authorities will not move/reposition GA aircraft without crew notification. If your aircraft needs to be moved, the ground handler will contact the captain and repositioning charges will be involved. Be sure to leave parking brakes off – particularly at MROC and MRLB – after landing and prior to leaving the airport.
10. Additional reading: Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica – Series Index
Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.
- Part 1 – Ground handling
- Part 2 – Additional considerations for ground handling
- Part 3 – Fuel, additional services, and security
- Part 4 – Airport considerations
- Part 5 – CIQ and agriculture
- Part 6 – Permits, PPRs, and airport slots
- Part 7 – Flight planning, weather, and NOTAMs
- Part 8 – Documentation and local area
- Part 9 – Hotels
It’s always important to pre-advise local authorities of your planned schedule. Arrival notification should be provided at least a few days prior to ETA. For departures, your ground handler will take care of all fight plan and outbound clearance arrangements.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Costa Rica, contact me at email@example.com.