Business Aircraft Ops to French Polynesia – Part 1: Airports & Ground Handling
This is part one of a two-article series on business aircraft operations to French Polynesia.
French Polynesia is an overseas collectivity of the French Republic and comprises five groups of islands. These include the Society Islands, Tuamotu Archipelago, Gambier Islands, Marquesas Islands and Austral islands. Despite the large area of this operating territory, stretching over 1200 miles in the South Pacific Ocean, business aircraft operators have only one official airport of entry (AOE) available.
If operating your business aircraft to this region, the following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Primary airports
The three airports most frequented by general aviation (GA) include Papeete (NTAA), Bora Bora (NTTB) and Rangiroa (NTTG). NTAA is the only official AOE for French Polynesia, and operating hours for both the airport and customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) are 24/7. NTTB is available as an AOE upon request, at the discretion of airport authorities and with a minimum of 21 days’ notice (with at least 30 days’ notice recommended). Though a request to make this airport an AOE is possible, approval is difficult to obtain. Operators need to be mindful that there are closure times and parking limitations to contend with at NTTB. Assuming the request to make an international arrival/departure at NTTB is approved, CIQ agents will need travel out from NTAA to assist with inbound/outbound clearance.
2. NTAA and NTTB operating considerations
NTAA is a 24 hour AOE with an 11,221 foot runway and full services/credit available. NTTB, on the other hand, has just a 4921 foot runway, restricted GA parking, and limited operating hours which change depending on the day.
Note that international arrivals at NTTB require at least 21 days prior customs notification (30 days is recommended) along with copies of all crew/passenger passports and a full schedule. Ramp parking is restricted at both NTAA and NTTB and may be unavailable during busy periods. Up to two GLF 5/GLEX sized aircraft can be parked on taxi on/taxi off spots at NTTA. Two other parking bays, for larger aircraft, are available but these require towing. NTTB has only three GA parking spots available with prior notice.
3. NTTG operating considerations
Advance notification, of at least 24 hours, is required for operations to NTTG. Only two GA parking spots are available at this time, and only small uplifts of Jet A are available—with prior notice. NTTG isn’t an AOE. This location has a 5039 foot runway and limited operating hours that, as with NTTB, change depending on the day.
Air traffic control (ATC) at this location is staffed with French-speaking controllers. A French speaking pilot or navigator will be needed for operations into/out of NTTG.
4. Domestic airports
Fakarava (NTGK) is a visual flight rules (VFR) only airport with a 4593 foot runway and lighting controlled remotely via VHF. ATC controllers speak little or no English, so you must have a French-speaking crewmember onboard to operate into/out of this airport.
Totegergie (NTGJ) has a 6562 foot runway and no airport lighting. Jet A1 is available only in 200 liter drums, and fuel payment must be done in advance, at NTAA, prior to operation to NTGJ and subsequent uplift there.
Nuku Hiva (NTMD) has a 5577 foot runway with daily 0800-1600 local operating hours. Aircraft must have a French-speaking crewmember onboard to operate at this location. Due to limited runway strength only certain types of aircraft are permitted to land at NTMD. It’s recommended that you speak to your 3rd-party provider to determine if your aircraft is approved to travel to this airport.
5. Additional domestic airports
- Tubuai (NTAT) 4921 foot runway with 24 hour operations.
- Rurutu Island (NTAR) 4757 foot runway with 24 hour operations.
- Raivavae (NTAV) 4593 foot runway with 24 hour operations.
- Anaa (NTGA) 4921 foot runway with sunrise to sunset operations.
- Manihi (NTGI) 3051 foot runway with sunrise to sunset operations and no Jet A1 fuel available.
- Hao Island (NTTO) 10,942 foot runway with sunrise to sunset operations and no Jet A1 fuel available.
- Huahine (NTTH) 4921 foot runway with operating hours of:
- Monday 0730-1115 and 1315-190 local
- Tuesday 0645 – 0900 and 1230 – 2000 local
- Wednesday 0700-1300 and 1715-1900 local
- Thursday 0740 – 1000 and 1245-1830 local
- Friday 0700-1130 and 1400-1915 local
- Saturday 0715-1200 and 1445-1900 local
- Sunday 0715 – 0900 and 1330-1930 local
- Raiatea (NTTR) 4593 foot runway with operating hours of:
- Monday 0800-1915 local
- Tuesday 0800-1130 and 1400-1830 local
- Wednesday 0715-1930 local
- Thursday 0800-1130 and 1445-1830 local
- Friday 0700-1930 local
- Saturday 0830-1900 local
- Sunday 0830-2000 local
6. Charter considerations
All non-European Union (EU) charter operators to French territories are required to complete and forward a Technical Questionnaire prior to arrival. To obtain the latest version of this form, contact your 3rd-party provider.
7. Ground handling
NTAA offers full support services, in-flight catering and a range of ground support equipment (GSE). Credit services are available, with advance arrangement, and major aviation fuel cards are accepted. However, it’s recommended to carry a tow bar and have a fuel release with you. For catering requests 48 hours advance notification is advised. Handling, services, in-flight catering and fuel uplifts options at NTBB and NTTG are more limited than at NTAA, and there may be language barriers to deal with. For operations to any airport in French Polynesia, other than NTAA, it’s always best to give yourself plenty of trip planning lead time and to work closely with your 3rd-party provider and local ground handler. This helps ensure that adequate support services will be available on arrival.
8. Alternate airports
There’s no alternate AOE in French Polynesia available in the event of a diversion from NTAA. You’ll need to choose an alternate outside French Polynesia, such as Rarotonga (NCRG). Alternatively, you can put “ZZZZ” as the alternate and allow two hours of holding time.
When operating to domestic airports in French Polynesia, including popular NTTB, it’s important to be aware of limited operating hours, airport curfews, French language requirements and fuel/credit availability. For operations to any airport other than NTAA it’s best to bring your own tow bar.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to French Polynesia, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later we’ll discuss permits and operating requirements for travel to French Polynesia.