5 Great Tech Stops in North America for Business Aviation — and Why
This business aviation blog post is the first part of a series on great technical stops for business aviation.
There are many good 24-hour technical stops (“tech stops”) available throughout the North American region for business-aviation operators, with fast turns, full services and accommodating customs/immigration/quarantine (CIQ) procedures. There are other locations you’ll probably want to avoid due to congestion, lengthy CIQ processes and weather issues. Generally, it’s best to avoid major commercial airline hubs. Preferred options are often smaller airfields close to great circle routing that have full service capability. When planning short-notice tech stops, be aware of advance notification requirements and any potential lack of flexibility in revising arrival time.
1. What are 5 recommended tech stops within this region for business aviation operators?
Depending on your itinerary, there are many tech stop locations to consider and others you may want to avoid. Important factors to consider when selecting a tech stop are flexible airport hours, ease of customs clearance, likelihood of traffic and ground delays, and availability of services. Based on these factors, our five recommended tech stops for business aviation flights are:
- ✈ Fairbanks, AK (PAFA)
- ✈ Bangor, ME (KBGR)
- ✈ Great Falls, MT (KGTF)
- ✈ Duluth, MN (KDLH)
- ✈ Brownsville, TX (KBRO)
2. Why are these locations recommended?
PAFA is on the great circle route to and from eastern Asia, offers quick turns (with few delays and limited de-icing requirements), good aviation fuel pricing and short notice CIQ availability. KBGR is a good tech stop for coming from and going to Europe. It is a 24-hour airport, with short CIQ notification requirements, offers quick turns, reasonable aviation fuel pricing, fewer traffic delays than the New York area, and full services (with excellent in-flight catering options). KGTF is a good option for clients coming from Europe to West Coast destinations – such as KVNY and KBUR – without CIQ on the field. KGTF has quick turn capability and easy customs notification. KBRO is a good stop when coming from South America or the Caribbean, and it’s a designated airport of entry for operators that don’t have a Border Overflight Exemption (BOE). KDLH is another option when traveling from Europe and heading towards the U.S. West Coast. KBRO and KDLH, likewise, are not congested airfields and have accommodating CIQ, full services and reasonable aviation fuel pricing.
3. What is turnaround time for aviation fuel at these locations?
You can generally turn an aircraft within 45 minutes at all of these locations. Turns at KBGR typically take 45 minutes vs. a longer stop in other New York area airports. Likewise, a 45 minute turn at PAFA compares favorably with what may be a 1.5 hour turn at Anchorage, AK (PANC).
4. Is CIQ clearance required and are visas necessary at each U.S. location when it’s an international tech stop only?
You’re required to clear U.S. CIQ for all first entry stops, even if you’re continuing to an international destination. Non-U.S. passengers and flight crew require visas. Green-card holders and Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S. for ‘tourism’ only do not require visas. Keep in mind that passengers cannot use Visa Waiver Program benefits if arriving on a corporate aircraft that’s not a Visa Waiver Program signatory carrier and/ or they aren’t nationals from one of the 36 approved countries. (We discussed the U.S. Visa Waiver Program in depth in an earlier article.)
5. What if my passengers want to avoid U.S. Customs and associated formalities?
You can clear at Gander, Canada (CYQX) or Goose Bay, Canada (CYYR) to avoid U.S. CIQ clearance, but you may still require a TSA waiver to overfly the U.S. in a non-U.S. registered aircraft. To avoid TSA Waiver requirements you’d have to stay over the water, avoiding the U.S. airspace. In this case you may want to consider Bermuda or the Bahamas for a tech stop, depending on your departure point. Also, please consider that some nationalities may require a visa for a stop in Canada, Bermuda, or the Bahamas.
6. What are operating hours at these 5 tech stops?
All of these airports are 24-hour airports with possible extended CIQ hours with prior arrangement. Normal CIQ hours are 0800-1700 local all week at PAFA, with two hours’ advanced notice required for extended hours. KBGR offers CIQ 0600-2359 local (7 days a week) with three hours’ notice for extended hours. KGTF is 0800-1600 local and on call with sufficient prior notice. KBRO is 0800-2359 local and extensions are possible with appropriate notification. KDLH CIQ hours are Monday through Saturday, 0800-1700 local. However, it’s up to the appropriate customs office to approve or disapprove extended hours. Keep in mind that some locations are more flexible than others in terms of arrival-time revision. If there are delays for departure, you’ll have better flexibility changing pre-booked CIQ times at an airport like KBRO compared to a landing rights airport like KGTF.
7. Are airport slots, prior permissions required (PPRs) or any other notifications necessary?
Airport slots and PPRs are not required at PAFA, KBGR, KGTF, KDLH, or KBRO. Even though no airport slots or PPRs are required, other notifications and arrangements must be made. For example, KGTF is a landing rights airport and you must secure landing approval in advance. Best practice is to request landing authorization at KGTF four hours in advance. You may also want to submit e-APIS at the same time. Keep in mind that some locations, including KGTF and KDLH, will only allow CIQ clearance of up to 20 people onboard, including passengers and crew.
8. Are landing permits required for private non-revenue or charter (non-scheduled commercial) operations at these stops?
No landing permits are needed, but TSA waivers may be required for larger aircraft (over 100,309 pounds maximum takeoff weight [MTOW]) and certain foreign registered aircraft. If a TSA waiver is required but not noted on your flight plan, customs may question and possibly fine you. Determining factors for TSA waivers include country of registration, MTOW, and itinerary. Check with a 3rd-party provider for more information.
9. Can credit be arranged for all ground handling and other services?
All of these locations accept credit for services except KDLH which accepts credit cards. In the case of KGTF, aviation fuel cards are accepted, but credit through the fixed base operator (FBO) might not be possible. Check with a 3rd-party provider or FBO in advance.
10. Is there anything that may complicate the tech stop or cause operational delays?
CIQ clearance is generally straightforward. There may be occasional complications with CIQ clearance during tech stops. This often has to do with non-U.S. nationals that have expired visas or other documentation issues. Customs may require baggage to be offloaded, but this depends on the customs official’s request. You’ll usually be permitted to leave your APU running. Keep in mind that international trash must be properly disposed of on landing. At other ‘CIQ tech stops – including KMIA, KEWR, KBOS and KLAS – the customs clearance process may be more rigorous. Its best practice to select tech stops with less likelihood of operational and CIQ delays. You’ll often run into traffic delays in the New York, Boston or Miami areas. It’s more common to encounter deicing requirements, and equipment delays, at PANC than at PAFA.
During your initial flight-planning phase, work with a 3rd-party provider to determine your best tech stop options when departing from, or returning to, the U.S. While outbound tech stops are generally straightforward, consideration must be given to customs clearance when operating to the U.S. (or when outbound clearance is required for charter [non-scheduled commercial] flights). User fee or landing rights airports may give you the best option in terms of great circle route and lack of congestion. However, they’re often less flexible in terms of schedule revisions.
If you have any questions about this article, contact Christine Vamvakas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next, we’ll discuss great technical stops for business aviation in the Caribbean.