Business Aviation in Argentina Series: Flight Planning, Weather, and NOTAMS
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.
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Argentina and continues from our last article: "Business Aviation in Argentina Series: Permits, PPRs, and Airport Slots."
Argentina has a number of unique procedures and requirements in terms of filing and revising flight plans. The most practical way for business aircraft operators to deal with flight plan filing/revisions when operating to Argentina is with the assistance of a local ground handler.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Flight plan procedures
Your ground handler will fill out the flight plan form and give it to the flight planning office at the airport to be accepted and stamped. It’s recommended that flight plans be provided to the ground handler approximately two hours prior to departure, so he or she can accomplish the filing process in a timely manner. The ground handler will take original copies of your insurance, pilot licenses, crew medicals, airworthiness, and registration certificates to the flight planning office and will return these to your aircraft. For international legs you’ll need to have a stamped flight plan, along with a gen dec, aboard the aircraft. If it’s a domestic leg, a special form – similar to a gen dec – needs to be filled out by the ground handler, stamped by police, and kept onboard the aircraft. Flight plans must be submitted at least 45 minutes prior for international departures and 30 minutes prior for domestic legs. Flight plans remain on file for only 30 minutes. Note that all flight plan filings in Argentina must be face-to-face, by either the Pilot in Command (PIC) or a licensed dispatcher, and must be stamped by the flight planning office.
2. Flight plan revisions
If you do not depart within the 30-minute validity window, the flight plan must be refiled. A maximum of three flight plan revisions are permitted. Flight plan revisions may be completed via phone and submitted at the flight planning office; however, they must be completed by either the PIC or a licensed dispatcher (who must provide dispatch license information). In practice, it’s often difficult for a PIC to submit/refile flight plans directly as flight plan office personnel in Argentina do not usually speak English, and flight plans must be filed in both Spanish and English. Also, flight plan offices are in restricted areas, and prior permission is needed to enter these areas. For these reasons, it’s best to have your ground handler file and revise flight plans. It’s important to ensure, for compliance reasons, that your ground handler has an appropriate dispatch license.
3. ATC considerations
Be aware that Air Traffic Control (ATC) employees at smaller and/or domestic airports in Argentina usually do not speak English. This is the case, for example, at El Calafate (SAWC), where no English-speaking ATC personnel are available. For operations to smaller airports, it’s recommended to have a Spanish-speaking pilot on board. Your ground handler can arrange for a Spanish-speaking pilot with a couple of days’ lead time.
4. Day-of-operation considerations
On day of departure, once the crew has arrived at the airport, the ground handler will take the flight plan and original aircraft/crew documentation to the flight plan office. The ground handler will provide copies of the gen dec to all appropriate airport offices and have these stamped. At most airports in Argentina, the time required to process crew/passengers/luggage through security and Customs, Immigrations, and Quarantine (CIQ) is about 15-20 minutes. It’s suggested that crew arrive at the airport two to three hours prior to departure to oversee fuel uplift and prepare the aircraft. For departure you’ll need to have a marshal on site, arranged by your ground handler via the ramp company. Crew must contact ground control, via VHF, for departure approval. At most larger airports in Argentina, aircraft are permitted to power out from parking spots. There are locations such as San Fernando (SADF), however, where you’ll need to be towed to position prior to engine start.
5. Tech stops
Argentina does not consider any stop as a tech stop only. All standard CIQ procedures must be followed – including customs/immigration clearance, visas, and reciprocity fee requirements (for Australian, Canadian, and U.S. citizens). Note that the clearance process takes approximately 20 minutes, and all luggage must be removed from the aircraft to be scanned and cleared. After CIQ clearance is completed, crew/passengers will be escorted by the ground handler back to the aircraft.
6. In-flight catering tips
Be aware that in Argentina all open and non-shelf-stable catering will be removed and disposed of. In some cases, your ground handler may obtain permission to store onboard in-flight catering at their facility, but this is not always possible, and permission will not be known until the aircraft arrives. For this reason it’s best to arrange in-flight catering for departure rather than bring additional catering onboard for the return/onward leg.
7. Weather and NOTAMS
At larger airports in Argentina, flight planning offices have the capability to provide full weather reports, weather updates, and Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) in English. NOTAMs in Argentina are issued in both English and Spanish. At many smaller airports, however, weather and NOTAMs may only be available over the phone in Spanish, as authorities don’t have the means to send this information to you via e-mail or fax. In that case, your ground handler will need to translate the weather data.
8. Weather issues
In the Buenos Aires area, summer temperatures can be high – in the mid-30- to mid-40-degree Celsius range – and humidity is often high. During winter, early-morning fog can be an issue at Buenos Aires (SAEZ), but this usually does not shut down the airport. In Southern Argentina there can be snow and subzero temperatures during June through August, and this impacts locations such as SAWC. There’s a pronounced rainy season in the area of Iguazu (SARI) during summer months. From time to time, there may be volcanic ash considerations close to the border with Chile, and this may affect operations at San Carlos de Bariloche (SAZS).
9. Day-of-operation weather considerations
If you need weather or NOTAMS while in Argentina, it’s best to request this from your ground handler 30-45 minutes prior, so he or she can obtain it via the appropriate government weather website or the flight planning office. Note that government weather websites have restricted user access and provide weather for Argentina only. International weather must be obtained via the flight planning office.
Pre-planning and careful coordination with your ground handler are key elements in avoiding day-of-operation snags while in Argentina. In everything from sourcing weather/NOTAMS to filing and revising flight plans, your ground handler’s assistance will be an important asset for any general aviation operation to Argentina.
If you have any questions about this article, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later, we’ll discuss hotels, customs, visas, and local culture for Argentina and their impact on your trip.