Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Flight Planning, Weather, & NOTAMs

> | April 23, 2015 | 0 Comments
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Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Flight Planning, Weather, & NOTAMs

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 delmarkmuir@universalaviation.aero.

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: Permits, PPRs, and Airport Slots."

For business aircraft operators, flight planning for Costa Rica is a straightforward process if the destination is an international airport. Additional considerations apply for any operation to domestic airfields within the country.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. ATC considerations/procedures

No special regulations exist when you travel through Costa Rican airspace, and air traffic controllers speak English. Be aware that smaller airports, including domestic airfields, may not have a tower. For example San Jose (MROC) Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower covers Limon Int.’l (MRLM).

2. Flight planning in Costa Rica

Flight plan offices, known as "EROs," are located at international airports with opening hours mirroring airport operational hours. Flight plans may be filed electronically, but a hard copy of your flight plan must be given to the ERO office. All flight plans must be signed by the captain or a dispatcher. If your flight plan is approved by the ERO office, it will be forwarded to ATC. If changes to your flight plan are needed, ERO will let the ground handler know so that the agent, along with the crew, can make the appropriate changes and re-file.

3. Flight planning to domestic airports

Before traveling to any domestic airport in Costa Rica, you must first temporarily import your aircraft. This must be done prior to filing a flight plan from an international airport to the domestic airport. Note that travel between domestic airports does not require a flight plan. Once you depart a domestic airport, for another domestic airport, you’ll communicate with ATC and provide your temporary importation permit number. Be advised that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is strict in limiting temporary aircraft importations given to non-Costa Rica-based aircraft. This is because operators unfamiliar with flying between domestic airports in Costa Rica may cause issues.

4. Equipment requirements

Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM) and Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) II are mandated for all operations to Costa Rica. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that proper equipment designations are included in your flight plan. ERO, the flight plan office, will always check this information prior to confirming a flight plan filing with ATC. If you do not have the required equipment/certification, you’ll be restricted to certain flight levels. At some point Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) will become a requirement for operations through Costa Rican airspace, but details on this are unknown at this time.

5. Day-of-operation considerations

Flight plans for Costa Rica should be filed four hours prior to departure. Your flight plan remains on file for one hour after the Estimated Time of Departure (ETD). Whenever a flight plan is generated via a 3rd-party provider, the ground handler will confirm that the routing is on the flight plan, have the captain or a dispatcher sign it, and then take it to the ERO flight plan office for processing. Be mindful that the ERO flight plan office will review your filing to ensure that aeronautical fixed telecommunication network (AFTN) addresses, for downline legs and countries, are properly notified.

6. Modifying time of departure

If you anticipate a flight delay, the ERO flight plan office must be notified. Be aware that you may only request two operational delays in Costa Rica. After that you’ll need to file a new flight plan and start the process again. Some operators choose to file flight plans for an hour after ETD, to maximize operating flexibility and avoid delay messages. When you’re ready for takeoff, just call ATC to request clearance.

7. NOTAM considerations

Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) are issued by the airport authority. Be aware that in some cases NOTAMs may be issued restricting or disallowing overnight general aviation parking at certain airports during high season.

8. Costa Rican weather

Weather is generally very good during the late November through early April high season. Expect potential for heavy rain during the traditional rainy season: August through November. In certain parts of the country, fog can be an issue. Fog here usually occurs at night but, occasionally, can be an issue during mornings.

9. Airport closures may be possible

Airports in Costa Rica may close if there’s heavy rain or fog. During the rainy season – particularly in September – airport closures are a consideration to be mindful of. During times of significant fog, airport closures may occur for precautionary reasons. It’s recommended that operators always check on local weather day of operation.

10. Local weather offices

All international airports in Costa Rica have weather offices where crew may obtain weather for both in-country and outside country operations. This department will upon request provide you with NOTAMs for Costa Rica and international locations with no fees/charges involved. Local weather offices are open during the same hours that the airport is open – 24/7 for MROC and sunrise to sunset for San Jose Tobias Bolanos (MRPV). While these weather offices are available to all flight operations, there are no requirements that crew must go there for briefings.

11. Additional reading: Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica – Series Index

Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.

Conclusion

When you operate to Costa Rica outside of the high-season period, it’s always best to review local weather close to the ETD. From time to time, airports in Costa Rica do close – usually for no more than a couple of hours – due to heavy rain or fog conditions.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Costa Rica, contact me at delmarkmuir@universalaviation.aero.

Later, we’ll discuss documentation and local area information for Costa Rica and their impact on your trip.

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About

Delmark Muir is an expert on operations and ground support to Costa Rica. Since joining Universal Aviation in 2006, Delmark, who is fluent in Spanish and English, has served as Managing Director Universal Aviation Costa Rica, where he leads all ground support activities at San Jose and Liberia.

You can reach Delmark at delmarkmuir@universalaviation.aero.

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