11 Essential Tips for Flight Planning in Brazil
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating to Brazil.
For business-aircraft operators, the flight-planning process in Brazil can be complex. Requirements for complying with changing NOTAMS and for completing your flight plan correctly are some of the challenges operators face.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the flight planning process in Brazil.
1. Plan for landing permits at every stop
Landing permits are mandatory for every stop in Brazil, regardless of the type of flight (private non-revenue or charter [non-scheduled commercial]). A landing permit has to be requested in advance, but can only be validated after arrival when landing fees are paid (these fees cannot be paid in advance). After landing in Brazil, operators must pay landing fees prior to an onward flight plan being validated, regardless of the next destination, even if it’s a tech stop.
2. Be aware of airspace restrictions
Always check NOTAMS for airspace closures or special requirements. While there are few airspace restrictions in Brazil, all flights between Brazil and Europe or Africa must use certain designated entry and exit gate points as published by NOTAM. Also, as noted on charts, there are some regions in Brazil with airspace restrictions, so prior planning is always required. For example, when departing Congonhas, Sao Paulo, Brazil (SBSP), there are particular routing NOTAMs applicable depending upon destination.
3. Stay on top of NOTAMs as they change frequently
NOTAMS are available for every airport and can change constantly. A good example is SBSP, where departure routings are continually revised and must be carefully reviewed each time a flight plan is filed. As many operators might overlook these NOTAMS, it can result in a delay due to rejection of the flight plan for wrong routing or other information. NOTAMS in Brazil cover items such as information required in remarks 18 in order to file the flight plan correctly. Only about 20% of flight plans presented at SBSP are approved on the first attempt. Reasons for rejection include requests for wrong routings resulting from an operator not checking NOTAMS or missing information in remarks 18. Also, please note that some NOTAMS are available only in Portuguese.
4. Know what info you must include in remarks 18 of your flight plan
There are detailed requirements for correctly completing remarks 18 of the ICAO portion of the flight plan. Remarks must include landing permit number when the next destination is within Brazil, name of aircraft operator, previous departure airport, and receipt number from INFRAERO for landing fees that have been paid. Another unique characteristic operators need to be aware of relates to Visual Flight Rule (VFR) flight plans when flying below FL090. In such cases, you must include in remarks 18 the wording “already flown VMC,” or the flight plan will be rejected.
5. Pay attention to aircraft equipment (i.e. TCAS, RVSM, etc.) requirements
There are no mandatory equipment requirements in Brazil for most operations. Operators must, however, have specified equipment to utilize certain airspace in Brazil. For example, to operate in RVSM and MNPS airspace, you must have the mandated equipment.
6. Work within your 45-minute validity/30-minute delay advisory windows
All landing fees must be paid before a flight plan will be validated. After a flight plan is validated, it takes 45 minutes to become active, and you may not depart before this time. Once a flight plan becomes active, it’s only valid for 45 minutes, and any delays must be advised within 30 minutes after initial scheduled departure time. For example, if your fees are paid and the flight plan is validated at 1600 local, the earliest you may depart is 1645 local, and the latest the flight plan remains valid for is 1730 local. If you wish to delay departure beyond 1730 local, you must advise by 1715 local, which is within 30 minutes of the validated flight plan becoming active.
7. To mitigate risk of delay, pay additional landing fees upfront
While you can delay your flight plan multiple times, it’s important to understand that additional landing fees will be applied. Therefore, in case of delays, it’s advisable to pay for an additional 1-2 hours’ worth of landing fees upfront. This will avoid additional delays from repayment, which will cost you additional time to complete. To depart earlier than planned, you’ll have to submit a new flight plan rather than a revision.
8. Watch the validity period on landing permits, as they vary by customs officer
Keep in mind that your Brazilian landing permit does not specify any particular destinations. Validity of landing permits ranges from 24 hours to 60 days, depending upon the customs officer’s discretion. Any extension of your landing permit beyond the allotted time must be submitted 15 days prior to expiration of your permit. So, if your landing permit is valid from the 1st of the month to the 18th, and you want to extend beyond the 18th, you must advise the appropriate authorities by the 3rd of the same month. ATC will check to make sure your permit is valid and that fees have been paid before validating a flight plan.
9. Work with a local expert to ensure your flight plan isn’t rejected
There are many details involved in successfully completing Brazilian flight-plan requests. Any missing or incorrect information will cause a flight plan to be rejected. Most operators might not realize how detailed this process can be until they’re faced with it. It’s always recommended to have someone with local knowledge and the latest updates on NOTAMS file your flight plan. When a flight plan is rejected, it must be corrected and re-submitted with the necessary information. This is usually easier for local pilots who can call ATC and communicate in their native language to make corrections. The process can, however, be more complicated for pilots who do not speak Portuguese. Flight plan corrections may be submitted by phone to ATC or via AFTN, but all change requests must be made by either a pilot or a certified dispatcher. So, if it’s simply a case of missing information in remarks 18, you may have a certified dispatcher or pilot make the required changes with ATC. You’ll then wait another 45 minutes to depart in order for the re-filed flight plan to become active.
It’s important to understand that Brazilian flight planning regulations are complex. There are numerous requirements that must be met with regards to the flight plan and permit process in Brazil. It’s always best practice to enlist the assistance of a ground handler. Small errors or omissions on the flight plan request will trigger rejections.
10. Plan for routine challenges from Brazil’s seasonal weather
Morning fog can be prevalent during the winter months of June and July — particularly at Guarulhos, Sao Paulo, Brazil (SBGR) and Curitiba, Brazil (SBCT). METARS are available noting this weather information. During the summer months, Brazil experiences afternoon thunderstorm activity, usually between 1600 and 1800 local. Heavy rain at SBSP can cause brief runway closures from time to time. When standing surface water exceeds 2 mm, runways are temporarily closed. While this usually lasts for 15 – 20 minutes, it can cause diversions and operational delays.
Weather updates, including terminal airport forecasts, METARS, low- and high-level wind charts, and other such relevant information, are readily available at the ATC office or from your local ground handler.
11. If operating into smaller airports, plan for non-English ATC
In certain regions with smaller airports, ATC personnel may prefer to speak Portuguese. In certain cases, there may be no English-speaking ATC or ground handling agents available.
While the flight planning process in Brazil can seem frustrating at times, the system is manageable for operators who take full advantage of local ground-handler support or 3rd-party provider assistance. Once you understand the regulations and NOTAM characteristics, and how to quickly and successfully recover from a flight plan filing glitch, the Brazilian operating environment is quite flexible and straightforward.
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Later, we’ll discuss considerations for crew hotel arrangements and local area culture.