Business Aviation Destination Guide: Istanbul, Turkey

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ALERT/Temporary Procedures in Place

Due to ongoing runway construction for the next two years, operating to Sabiha, LTFJ will be difficult for GA operators.

Istanbul is becoming an increasingly popular and busy destination for business aircraft travel. There are, however, assorted limitations and restrictions to consider when operating to this location. Both landing permits and airport slots are required, and extended parking may be challenging to obtain.
If you are planning a trip to Istanbul, the following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Airport Options

Istanbul has three airports of entry (AOE), New Istanbul Airport (LTFM), Ataturk (LTBA) and Sabiha (LTFJ). To the north of Istanbul, Trabzon (LTCG) is an often-used quick turn tech stop.

Historically, Istanbul’s two airports of entry (AOE), Ataturk (LTBA) and Sabiha (LTFJ), are the most popular destinations for international GA.

However, recent developments, including the opening of the New Istanbul Airport (LTFM) and ongoing runway construction at LTFJ, have made LTBA the preference for many GA operators.

LTBA is located near the city of Istanbul and was one of the most heavily congested airports in Europe Before the opening of LTFM. LTBA has no room to expand because it is surrounded by urban development. As a result, Turkey constructed LTFM with construction starting in 2013 and just finishing in late 2018.

New Istanbul Airport (LTFM)

LTFM is approximately 23 miles (1-hour by drive) to the city center of Istanbul. Commercial airline traffic can no longer operate to LTBA and moving forward would go through LTFM it was announced on April 2019. Aircraft taxi time to its parking lot is a minimum of 25-30 minutes. Airport management is reviewing alternates plans to decrease the taxi time, but it will not be happening in the short term.

Ataturk (LTBA)

LTBA is located (15-miles and an approximately 30-minute drive) to the city center of Istanbul. LTBA will remain open to business aviation, but because the airport will no longer be congested with airline traffic, arrivals, departure, and taxi time should be significantly improved. As a result, we anticipate that even more business aviation operators will choose LTBA. Ataturk Airport will now be dedicated to private jets only through the general aviation terminal. LTBA is a 24-hour Airport of Entry with 24-hour Customs, Immigrations, and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities for General Aviation (GA).

CIQ for corporate aircraft is completed at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT). It’s recommended that you have your ground handler pre-fill out arrival/departure cards to expedite CIQ. Note that drive time from the international terminal to the GAT is 15-30 minutes. Planeside pick up/drop off is not permitted at LTBA unless the vehicle has a special registration plate for ramp access. If planeside service is needed, this must be requested in advance and will be at discretion of airport authorities to approve or disapprove. Hangar space is available at LTBA for transient aircraft up to the size of a Boeing BBJ or Airbus ACJ. Only a confirmation letter from the facility to be presented to Airport Authority before arrival to be prevented from parking fees.

Sabiha (LTFJ)

LTFJ is located -miles and approximately one-hour to the city center of Istanbul. It is a 24-hour Airport of Entry with 24-hour Customs, Immigrations, and Quarantine (CIQ) facilities for General Aviation (GA). However, due to ongoing runway construction for the next two years, operating to LTFJ will be difficult for GA operators.
Prior Permission Required (PPR) is needed for all aircraft traveling to LTFJ, and it must be requested at least 48 hours in advance. Hangar space is not available for transient operations at LTFJ. This airport, like LTBA, is very strict in terms of airport security.

LTCG

LTCG, about two hours west of Istanbul, is a 24-hour AOE and civilian. The runway is long, airside security is good, and parking for up to B737 and ACJ319 equipment is available. However, note that prior permission required (PPR) is needed for this location and there’s not much in terms of infrastructure or VIP options.

Slots

Most AOEs in Turkey mandate arrival/departure airport slots. It’s important to note that the slot application process typically takes five business days, compared to just three days for landing permits. Turkey Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) operates an online slot system, but it’s a closed system so you’ll need to go through your ground handler to coordinate slots.

Operators and trip support providers usually are not able to view available slots online or request slots directly. At Istanbul’s two airports you will not get the slot times you are looking for 50% of the time, and available slots may not coordinate with your schedule.

Generally, arrival/departure slots will not become available until 2-3 days before ops.

  • Note: Obtaining your preferred slot has become particularly challenging recently at LTFJ. Due to the runway construction, slots are only allocated on non-busy hours of the aerodome. It has been our experience that receiving slot confirmations at LTFJ is extremely difficult even with advanced notice requests.

It is always best practice to begin the slot request process at least five days out, so you can monitor the situation and take advantage of any opportunities that may arise.

Parking

It can be challenging arranging parking at Istanbul airports, particularly for aircraft B737 and larger looking for extended parking (more than 24 hours). Recently, we’ve received reports that long-term parking is not available at LTFJ and that LTBA had more options.

LTFJ is also more expensive. Because there is no long-term parking available, operators must use hangars, which average in cost about $600-1,000 per day depending on aircraft size. Additionally, because only one runway is in use, taxing from the GA runway to the parking area takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Note that when parking at either LTBA or LTFJ, power in/power out parking is not the norm. You will often be towed, and it’s essential to confirm that a suitable tow bar is available for your particular aircraft model. LTBA is available for long-term parking.

For extended parking, operators should consider using Tekirdağ ÇorluAirport (LTBU), which is about a two-hour drive on the motorway from downtown Istanbul.

Many operators traveling to the Istanbul area now choose to land at LTCG, about a two-hour highway drive from central Istanbul, where there’s plenty of parking but no GAT and only basic GA support infrastructure. Note that when parking at either LTBA or LTFJ, power in/power out parking is not the norm. You will often be towed, and it’s essential to confirm that a suitable tow bar is available for your particular aircraft model.

2. Handling

GA operators to Turkey report good ground handling support and infrastructure at major AOEs. While ground support equipment (GSE) is usually more than adequate, it’s always best to confirm tow bar availability if you’re operating a less common type of GA equipment. We’ve recently received feedback from GA operators of transportation of crew and passengers from the aircraft has been chaotic with no direct route to GAT at LTFJ. Feedback has also indicated that operators consider the GAT at LTBA to be superior in quality and comfort to that GAT at LTFJ. Additionally, maintenance support for business jets is often limited at LTFJ with many more options available at LTBA.

3. Hotels

When you travel to Turkey, it’s always recommended that you stay in a 4- or 5-star hotel. There are many such options in Istanbul, including major international chains, to choose from.
There are ample options for hotel accommodations near LTBA due to its proximity to Istanbul. However, at LTFJ, the nearest hotel is 25 minutes away from the airport, and due to limited capacity, the prices are higher than the hotels located near LTBA.

4. Ground transport

Pre-paid ground transport (with driver) is the recommended option when visiting Istanbul. You can get a free quote for ground transportation through Universal-Drivania Chauffeurs. You can also use regular taxi services at all airports of Istanbul where the fee from LTFM to city center will be 30 USD per trip; LTBA to city center like 15 USD; and LTFJ to the city center will be like 25 USD per trip.

5. Fuel

Fuel availability is good at major airports in Turkey with fuel credit seldom an issue. Ground handlers are available at all hours the particular airport is open. For example, at Istanbul airports, ground handlers are generally on duty 0600-1900 local but will make themselves available anytime traffic is expected. While consumer credit cards and cash are accepted, in addition to aviation and oil company cards, its best practice to carry a fuel release. Having a fuel release helps avoid day of operation issues and helps protect you from the wrong fueler showing up and taking your card.

One consideration for operators using LTFJ is that the GA ramp is located far from the international terminal where the fuel browsers are parked. This can cause delays.

6. Catering

Catering options and cuisine possibilities are generally good at major Turkish AOEs. In-flight caterers are on-site at larger locations, and ground handlers will assist in coordinating catering from local hotels and restaurants. Advance notification of catering requests should be made 24-72 hours prior, with the longer lead times for complex requests or specially sourced items. It’s possible in Turkey to retain catering during tech stops and to store sealed onboard catering at GATs during destination stops. It’s recommended that arrangements for such catering storage are made in advance.

7. Security

As there are security concerns in this part of the world, it’s recommended that operators traveling to all airports in Turkey arrange aircraft security for the duration of stay. Aircraft guards can be arranged for airside security purposes, but this must be organized and approved prior to the day of operation.

In recent years, the U.S. has issued several travel advisories for its citizens visiting Turkey. Because of this, you should consider obtaining a current security intelligence report for the city, the airport, and your hotel.

8. Permits

Overflight permits

Overflight permits are not needed for Turkey if the aircraft is ICAO registered and there’s a bilateral agreement between the two countries. As long as you’re operating a qualifying aircraft, and have a flight plan on file, no additional notification is required for overflight. Alternatively, you will require an overflight permit, and the lead time is approximately three business days.

Landing permits

Landing permits are required for all aircraft with published lead time of three business days. While landing permits can be obtained within three business days, it’s best to plan on five business days to confirm airport slots and handling, as logistics can be involved and you must deal with individual airports to secure slots and parking approvals. Turkey landing permits are valid for the Zulu day. Permit revisions are needed, with 24 hours notification suggested, if there are schedule changes outside the Zulu day or origin/ destination airports changes. But it’s just a notification in cases of crew or passenger changes. Be mindful that permit confirmations must always be placed in remarks section 18 of your ICAO flight plan.

Documentation

To obtain landing permits for Turkey, aircraft and crew documentation requirements are standard. However, be aware that Turkey does require specific insurance coverages and document wording. It’s important to take the time to review the requirements and to work with your insurance provider to ensure worldwide insurance documentation, coverage, and wording are acceptable.

9. Cabotage

Turkish authorities are very stringent on cabotage. They’re concerned on who’s coming and going on all domestic flight sectors. While we’ve not experienced client issues in this regard, be aware that all domestic travel by foreign-registered aircraft is scrutinized, and is much tighter now than it used to be. Avoid last-minute additions of any domestic GA flight legs as, if you slip up on this, there’s potential to undermine your entire operation to Turkey.

10. Customs

GA customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) are cleared within general aviation terminals (GATs), at AOEs that have these facilities. It’s usually a quick process, under 15-20 minutes, as most information will have been forwarded in advance. At AOEs without GATs, CIQ clearance is via the main terminal, but processing is usually quick. To expedite CIQ clearance, it’s crucial to keep your handler up to date on any schedule or crew/passengers revisions so that they can update their filings with customs and immigration authorities. Also, ensure that your handler has multiple copies of your updated gen dec.

Passports

When traveling to Turkey, passports should have at least six months remaining validity.

Visas

Be mindful that no flights to/from Cyprus or Armenia are permitted to/from Turkey. Visas are required for all nationalities but some, including U.S. citizens, have the option of obtaining visas on arrival (VOAs). Note that visa requirements for crew are the same as for passengers. We recommend crew and passengers obtain visas in advance, to avoid any issues with the VOA process. Turkey now offers online e-visas that are straight forward to obtain in advance.

APIS

N/A

11. Flight planning

Aircraft that do not require permits to overfly Turkey only need to file flight plans at least three hours prior and ensure that the purpose of the flight (business or private flight) is indicated in the remarks section 18 of the ICAO flight plan. Aircraft legal documents should be inserted into the database of Civil Aviation by the assigned handler.

12. Weather

Weather reports can be obtained from the airport authority through its flight coordination center and also through ground handling and ground support companies.

13. Tech stops

While tech stops depend upon routing and the equipment you’re flying, it’s best to avoid Istanbul airports for quick turns, due to congestion and challenging airport slots. For example, Antalya (LTAI) and Izmir ( LTBJ), depending on the route, is a better tech stop choice and you’ll be able to turn your aircraft in 45-60 minutes, assuming you’ve forwarded schedule and crew/passenger details in advance.

14. Peak season/high-traffic events

While traffic to Istanbul is mostly even across the year, it does get busier from mid-June to the end of July.

There are two airshows in Istanbul. One is the last week of May and the other the last week of September. During this period, operators will need to provide 48 hours’ notice for parking and slots.

15. Regulatory considerations

N/A

16. Other considerations

  • Vaccinations: N/A
  • Language issues: Airport operations staff speak and understand English at an intermediate level. Taxi services are less likely to speak English. At most of the major cities in Turkey such as Istanbul, Ankara, and Antalya, English, Russian and German-speaking staff is usually available at shopping malls, hotels, and some restaurants. English.
  • Special documentation: N/A
  • Pets: While it’s not an issue to have pets onboard during tech stops in Turkey, any onboard animals should be disclosed to your local handler in advance. destination stops local authorities will need to review pet health and vaccination records.
  • Weapons: If you have weapons onboard, for destination stops, be prepared to provide applicable licenses and permits to local authorities.

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