Business Aircraft Ops to the Azores: Part 1 of 2 – Airports and Services
This is a two-part series on operational considerations for travel to the Azores.
The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, consists of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic about 850 miles west of continental Portugal and 1200 miles southeast of Newfoundland. For many trans-Atlantic general aviation (GA) flights, the Azores is a preferred tech stop. There are, however, lead time and operating considerations to be mindful of when transiting or stopping in the Azores.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Airports in the Azores
The Azores has three airports of entry (AOEs) – Santa Maria (LPAZ), Ponta Delgada (LPPD), and Lajes AFB (LPLA). Full services are available at all three airports, and credit is possible with advance arrangement. Of the AOEs in the Azores, LPPD is the more frequent destination stop, while LPAZ is the most commonly used tech stop. While both LPAZ and LPPD are great tech stop options, it’s important to note that LPPD may have occasional parking issues. It’s used as a back-up parking location for Lisbon (LPPT) when parking there fills up during the peak summer season. Domestic airports that are available to GA include Flores (LPFL), Graciosa (LPGR), Horta (LPHR), Pico (LPPI) and Sintra (LPST).
Operating hours for LPAZ are 0630-2129 local with overtime available on request. Lead time for overtime is 24-48 hours. Full services are available at LPAZ, there’s a 10,000 foot runway, and large aircraft can be accommodated. Fuel is normally available between the hours of 0800-2000 local. Additional charges, however, apply to fuel uplifts outside these hours. No hangar space is available for transient GA movements. Be advised that there is a danger of collision with birds on taxi/approach/departure, year round, for all Azores airports.
LPPD operates 0600-2359 local with overtime available for emergency flights only. Full services are offered, there’s an 8192 foot runway, and approach lights are turned on only upon request. Tow bars are needed for operations to LPPD. Airport slots are also required for this location with slot request lead time of 24 hours. LPPD airport slots are generally confirmed for requested times and have deviations of +/- 15 minutes.
LPLA is an air force base with a prior permission required (PPR) mandate involving 72 working hours advance notification. This airport operates 24/7. Runway length is 10,865 feet, accommodating both large and wide body aircraft.
2/1/2017: Updated by reader
5. Limitations at non-AOEs
Be aware that when operating to non-AOEs in the Azores that fuel, credit, in-flight catering, ground support equipment (GSE), ground handlers and local transport may not be available.
6. Domestic airport specifics
LPFL is open 0930-1630 local Monday-Friday and 1445-1645 on Saturday. It is closed on Sunday. Runway length is 4593 feet, and no airport overtime is available. Outside of normal operating hours only emergency flights are permitted. PPRs are required with at least 24 hours lead time for LPFL. Only limited aircraft support services are possible at LPFL, and the only ground handler is the airport authority. In-flight catering services are not available at this location. LPGR is open 0601-2359 local Monday – Friday and closed on weekends with no airport overtime possible. Runway length is 4529 feet, the ground handler is the airport authority, only limited services are available, and no in-flight catering is possible at LPGR.
7. Additional domestic airports
LPHR is open 0800-1830 local during winter and 0800-2000 local during summer with no overtime available. Runway length is 5233 feet. Be advised that only very limited services and GSE are available from the airport authority. No fuel credit or in-flight catering is available at this location. LPPI operates during winter 0830-1730 local and summer 0930-1830 local with no overtime available. Runway length is 5758 feet, and all aircraft handling is accomplished by the airport authority. Fuel credit and in-flight catering are not available at this location. LPSJ is a sunrise to sunset operation with 4508 feet of runway and no overtime possible. At LPSJ there’s no handler or airport authority to provide GA services.
8. Aviation fuel availability
Aviation fuel is available at most airports in the Azores, but fuel credit is not always possible without advance arrangements. As aviation fuel cards may or may not be accepted, depending upon the location, it’s always best to carry a fuel release. Fuel availability is an issue at some locations and should always be considered. If fuel is available, it’s best to carry a fuel release because the particular location may not accept aviation fuel cards. Be advised that fuel is not available at LPGR, LPPI and LPSJ.
When operating to the Azores it’s important to know when airports slots or PPRs are required, airport hours, overtime availability, and how local bird activity may impact your operation. If you experience a significant bird strike, and repairs are needed, you could be grounded for several days.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we will discuss additional operating considerations for traveling through the Azores.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to the Azores, contact me at email@example.com.