Operating a Business Aircraft through Nicaragua – Part 2: Airports & Services
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, titled “Operating a Business Aircraft through Nicaragua – Part 1: Permits.”
Most general aviation (GA) operations to Nicaragua only stop at Managua (MNMG). However, there are several domestic airports available in the country which operators use from time to time. When operating to locations other than MNMG, you’ll need to take extra planning steps for fuel and verifying service availability, as well as potential security issues.
If planning on operating to Nicaragua, the following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. NMMG is the only airport of entry
MNMG is the country’s only official airport of entry (AOE) and the most popular GA destination. Operators normally land at MNMG first whenever traveling to other locations in Nicaragua. There are, however, other airports that can become AOEs on request. It’s up to airport authorities, however, to approve/disapprove a request. Note that five business days lead time is necessary for any request to enter the country at an airport other than NMNG.
2. Nicaragua airports
MNMG offers 24/7 handling with full credit available on prior notice. At other airports, support services may have limited-to-no credit options available, and credit arrangements may require more advance coordination. Handlers may have limited GA ground support equipment (GSE) available, and it’s always recommended to carry a towbar.
Puerto Cabezas (MNPC) is a joint use military/civil airfield with operating hours 0730-1600 local and no airport overtime available. While NMPC is technically an AOE upon request, in most cases such requests are not approved.
Corn Island (MNCI) operates 0600-1900 local with no airport overtime possible. This, also, is an AOE upon request but, in most cases, requests are not approved.
Blue Fields (MNBL) is not an AOE and operates sunrise to sunset with no overtime possible. Likewise, San Carlos (MNSC) is only available 0600-1900, without airport overtime opportunities, and is not an AOE.
3. Alternate airports
As MNMG is the official AOE for Nicaragua, any airport alternates – for diversion or flight planning – must be outside the country. Recommended alternates include San Salvador (MSLP) and Tegucigalpa (MHTG).
4. MNMG handling considerations
Ground handling at MNMG, and other airports in Nicaragua, is provided by the airport authority and is not always available 24 hours. While ground handling overtime may be requested, such requests are not always successful. Be mindful, also, that ground handling in Nicaragua is often not up to expected international service standards. Particularly when operating to airports other than MNMG, aircraft support services and capabilities may be limited. For this reason diligent advance planning is advised when operating to Nicaragua
5. Airport/local area security
Airport security at MNMG is adequate – with proper fencing and patrols. It’s important, however, to be aware that it’s not possible to set up additional aircraft security at this location. When operating to secondary or domestic airports in Nicaragua it’s recommended to consider obtaining airport and local area security briefs in advance.
6. Fuel availability and credit
For any operation to Nicaragua it’s best to confirm fuel availability and credit two-to-three days in advance of your estimated time of arrival. Always carry a fuel release and forward this to the ground handler in advance. Any fuel uplift arrangements should be reconfirmed 24 hours prior to operation to ensure that fuel delivery will be on time and the required fuel volume will be available.
7. Customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) procedures
Passengers/crew typically clear immigration onboard the aircraft at MNMG and are then transported to the main terminal to clear customs. Clearance process takes approximately 10-15 minutes. After completing CIQ requirements the aircraft will, in most cases, be repositioned to the assigned parking spot. Two copies of your general declaration must be submitted on arrival and your ground handler can assist with this. Currently, only three nationalities require visas for Nicaragua – Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Peru. These visa requirements apply to both crew and passengers.
8. Hotels, in-flight catering and local transport
There are adequate 4- and 5-star crew accommodation options in Managua – including international chain hotels. For outlying areas, however, hotel options are more limited. For local travel, pre-paid transportation (car with driver) is preferred. It’s best to avoid public taxis, and rental vehicles should only be used if you’re familiar with the area. In-flight catering services are limited in Nicaragua. In addition, levels of service and menu options may be lacking. It’s often best to coordinate catering locally, from your hotel or a restaurant, and your trip support provider and/or local ground handler can assist with this.
9. Cabotage and pets
Cabotage is not currently an operating consideration, or restriction, in Nicaragua. Both private non-revenue and charter operators may transport passengers to and within the country. If you intend to arrive in Nicaragua with a pet it’s important to have the pet’s vaccines up to date – with a certificate issued by your veterinarian within 10 days of travel. It’s best to contact a Nicaraguan consulate in your area, in advance, in order to confirm current requirements.
It’s best practice to reconfirm all required services, and fuel uplifts, prior to traveling to Nicaragua. Be prepared for handling services that may be somewhat below standards you’re accustomed to elsewhere. For tech stop purposes MNMG is not the first choice in the region. You’re better off planning a quick turn – fuel and aircraft servicing – at a more frequented GA location such as Tocumen, Panama City (MPTO).
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Nicaragua, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.