Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Permits, PPRs, and Airport Slots
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 email@example.com.
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: CIQ and Agriculture."
While Costa Rica is a relatively easy and business aviation-friendly environment, there are operating and parking limitations to be mindful of. Aircraft parking availability can be an issue during high season. There are no guarantees that airport authorities will approve a General Aviation (GA) parking request during the busy season.
The following is an overview of what you need to know when operating into Costa Rica:
1. Airport slots are not an issue
Airport slots are never required in Costa Rica for private non-revenue and charter (non-scheduled commercial) GA operations. Costa Rican Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) views both private non-revenue and charter flights as GA and makes no distinction between the two. Only scheduled commercial airlines require airport slots for Costa Rica. The exception is that during large events airport slots may be implemented for GA, but this is very rare.
2. Airport closures
The only time there are airport closures is for arrival/departure of the U.S. President to San Jose (MROC). The airport will close until the aircraft is cleared. These closures also apply to other presidential, prime ministerial, or royal flights.
3. Costa Rican overflight and landing permit requirements
Overflight permits are never needed for GA unless an aircraft is operating on an experimental certificate. For experimental aircraft it’s recommended that the operator go through diplomatic channels to obtain the needed permission faster. Landing permits are not required for either private non-revenue or charter operations. However, airports in Costa Rica require that all aircraft obtain prior parking permission. This applies to both Airports of Entry (AOEs) and domestic airfields. This Prior Permission Required (PPR) mandate is obtained via the relevant airport authority. CAA does not need to be notified of any parking approvals as the airports are the governing authority regarding aircraft parking. MROC is run by a private company while the other three AOEs – Liberia (MRLB), San Jose Tobias Bolanos (MRPV), and Limon (MRLM) – are run by the government.
4. PPR procedure
PPRs must be requested a minimum of 12 hours prior to arrival per Costa Rican regulations. During the high season – late November through early April – it’s best to request parking well in advance. Be aware, however, that an advance parking request – even several months in advance – does not mean that parking will be confirmed. A parking confirmation, once obtained, does not give you a particular parking space as spaces are chosen only on the day of arrival.
5. PPR processing
Your ground handler will process any PPR requests you may have. To have a PPR request processed, you’ll need to provide tail number, operator name, inbound/outbound itinerary, and aircraft type. Normally, this information is forwarded via e-mail to airport authorities and followed up with a phone call by your ground handler to confirm receipt. Once airport authorities process/approve the request, your confirmation is the tail number and date of operation. This confirmation does not need to be placed in your flight plan remarks section.
6. Parking limitations
GA parking is fairly limited at all AOEs in Costa Rica. MROC has only eight GA parking spots, MRLB has space for up to 25 smaller GA aircraft or 10-15 larger aircraft, MRLM offers three to four parking positions, and MRPV has four to five GA parking spots. During high season there are times when overnight parking will not be available. The airport at which it is most difficult to obtain overnight parking during high season is MROC. During busy periods MROC will issue NOTAMs barring overnight parking for GA. Be aware that you’ll still require parking permission to drop off/pick up passengers. At this time there are no plans to increase GA parking capacity, and remote parking areas are reserved for scheduled commercial aviation.
7. Potential issues with confirmed parking
There have been cases in Costa Rica – particularly with MROC – where parking may be denied after it’s been approved. This may happen during a large event period such as a presidential election. Airport authorities make these decisions, and ground handlers are unable to control this.
8. Cabotage is not a factor
Cabotage is never an issue when operating between AOEs in Costa Rica. Aircraft operators are free to take onboard whomever they wish for these flights.
9. Operation to domestic airports – temporary importation required
Operations to domestic airports in Costa Rica require that the operator temporarily import the aircraft. But this can only be done after you’ve landed at an AOE in Costa Rica. While no fee is involved, a temporary importation request takes approximately seven to eight business days to process. A quick turn to a domestic airport immediately after arriving at an AOE is, therefore, not possible. Documents required for temporary importation must be originals and include certificates of registration and airworthiness, worldwide insurance, and a power of attorney from the aircraft owner allowing the captain to request aircraft importation.
10. Processing a temporary importation
CAA will review submitted documentation, to ensure there are not any issues, and then customs will process the application. The captain will need to go to the customs warehouse at the airport to collect the approval papers. There are forms that need to be filled out to complete this process, and all of these are in Spanish. It’s best to do this with your ground handler because of language and your ground handler’s familiarity with the process. Note that CAA is very strict on limiting temporary importations due to operator unfamiliarity with domestic airport procedures. If a temporary importation is approved, you must provide the approval number to air traffic control to obtain permission for domestic travel. Temporary importations are valid for a maximum of 22 days, and you may leave and return to the country during this time. If you need to stay longer than 22 days, you must start the process again. If you remain in Costa Rica more than 22 days, with the original temporary importation permit, you’ll be charged taxes based on the value of your aircraft.
11. Local charter options – better than temporary importation
Rather than temporarily importing your aircraft, it’s best to use a local charter operator for any required domestic travel.
12. Air ambulance operations
Be aware that foreign-registered air ambulance operations may only operate to AOEs in Costa Rica. If patient transport is needed from a domestic airport location, you’ll need to arrange a local fixed-wing or helicopter transfer or, alternatively, a ground ambulance option.
13. Additional reading: Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica – Series Index
Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.
- Part 1 – Ground handling
- Part 2 – Additional considerations for ground handling
- Part 3 – Fuel, additional services, and security
- Part 4 – Airport considerations
- Part 5 – CIQ and agriculture
- Part 6 – Permits, PPRs, and airport slots
- Part 7 – Flight planning, weather, and NOTAMs
- Part 8 – Documentation and local area
- Part 9 – Hotels
Keep in mind that PPRs are needed for all travel to international airports in Costa Rica, and there are no guarantees that parking will be available during high season. Applying for permission to operate to domestic locations in Costa Rica is never recommended as it’s such a lengthy process.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Costa Rica, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later we’ll discuss flight planning, weather, and NOTAMs for Costa Rica and their impact on your trip.