Business Aviation Trip Planning Tips: Operating to Japan – Ground Handling
This is a post by author Hiroshi Higashiyama. Hiroshi is representative director for Universal Aviation Japan, which has aircraft ground handling facilities in Haneda, Narita, Sapporo, and Osaka. Hiroshi is an expert on business aircraft operations in Japan and can be contacted at email@example.com.
This aviation blog post is part of a series on operating to Japan and continues from our last article entitled "Tips on Flying to Japan – Airport Ops."
For business aircraft operators, ground handling services in Japan are among the best in the world, and operations here are seldom anything other than trouble-free. While handling costs are higher than average in this part of the world, you can look forward to reliable, professional, and on-time services. Still, it’s best to provide as much advance notification as possible and to double-check that all required paperwork is in order.
The following is an overview of what you need to know about planning for and managing the ground handling process in Japan:
1. Provide all required information when requesting ground handling
Your ground handler will need to know your tail number and/or call sign; aircraft type; schedule; crew and passenger information (including gender; crew airline transport pilot licenses; and passport details, such as passport numbers and dates of birth); and any special service requirements, including catering, hotels or local transport arrangements. Tow bars are required at some locations, for example, Narita (RJAA), where aircraft must be towed to the refueling point. Always confirm that your ground handler has an appropriate tow bar for your aircraft type. Also, at some airports in Japan, it’s recommended to pre-advise on the fuel quantity required.
2. Private non-revenue and charter (non-scheduled commercial) flights are handled similarly
There’s no difference, or additional requirements, when setting up ground handling for a charter or private non-revenue flight in Japan. Keep in mind that the primary focus in Japan is scheduled commercial aircraft, and not General Aviation (GA).
3. Arrival/departure cards are required in Japan
Arrival cards, also known as customs and immigration cards, must be presented for every international arrival. Your ground handler will prepare these cards in advance, assuming you’ve provided all the necessary passport details. The departure portion of the arrival card will be attached to your passport on arrival and, later, will be collected as part of departure clearance process. Ground handlers keep arrival/departure cards on hand and will provide these to operators upon request. Even if an operator uses an older version of this card, it will not be rejected by customs or immigrations.
4. Know the ground handling workflow
Once a ground handling request is received, your ground handler will secure airport slots as needed, obtain aircraft parking, organize landing permits when applicable, arrange fuel uplift, and coordinate all vendor services. Local jet fuel and transportation arrangements with the appropriate vendors are usually made via fax. Operators receive confirmations once arrangements have been confirmed.
5. Be aware of airport curfews and restrictions
There are only four airports in Japan operating 24 hours a day – Haneda (RJTT), Kansai (RJBB), Nagoya (RJGG), and Kita Kyushu (RJFR). With the exception of RJFR, all offer 24/7 Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine (CIQ) availability. Operating hours are particularly restrictive at certain locations such as Sapporo (RJCC). All aircraft operations to Japan must be Stage 3, as Stage 2 aircraft are prohibited.
6. Short-notice handling requests are often feasible
While it’s recommended to provide at least 24 hours’ advance notification when requesting ground handling in Japan, short-notice requests – with just a few hours’ notice – are usually workable. This depends, however, on intended arrival/departure time, airport slot availability, and airport curfews. In the case of charter operations, 24 hours’ notice prior to the estimated time of arrival is necessary. All relevant documentation must be correct and submitted in advance to request a landing permit. Be mindful that short-notice schedule changes may cause issues due to airport slot and aircraft parking availability — particularly at smaller airfields, such as Hiroshima (RJOA), where parking is extremely limited.
7. Credit is available for all services
Services in Japan can be arranged on credit with prior arrangement. You may also pay for ground handling and most services with credit cards, or cash, if preferred. Foreign currencies are accepted for almost anything but fuel purchases; however, your ground handler will need to exchange foreign currencies for Japanese Yen. Ground handlers may be able to provide an invoice, in the appropriate currency, and exchange currency later so as not to delay crew on departure.
8. Know ground handling costs and government fees
Ground handling is one of the more expensive items when making a stop in Japan, and this is calculated based on size of aircraft and number of seats. Nav fees, based on Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW), often are second in terms of cost. Landing fees are calculated on noise level and MTOW, while most other government fees/charges are based just on MTOW. Aircraft parking costs are reasonable in Japan. Typically, there’s no charge for the first six hours of parking, and, thereafter, you’ll pay a set amount per 24-hour period. For example, the cost of aircraft parking for a Gulfstream IV at RJTT is approximately 8500 Yen (approximately 84 USD) for 24 hours. Government and airport fees are normally paid through the ground handling process.
9. Be aware of parking limitations at RJTT
RJTT limits parking to a maximum of 10 consecutive days. This is up from a previous maximum of seven days last year. No extensions are permitted. Operators who wish to stay at RJTT more than 10 days must leave the airport and return – assuming airport slots are available.
10. Some ground support equipment may be in limited supply
Always check, in advance, with your ground handler regarding availability of required Ground Support Equipment (GSE), and/or tow bars, at your destination airport. Be aware that de-icing equipment may be in short supply in Japan, and priority goes to scheduled commercial airlines, rather than GA.
11. Quick-turn tech stops are practical in Japan
Japan is very GA-friendly when it comes to orchestrating quick fuel uplifts and express technical stops. Tech stop turnaround time, wheels down to wheels up, is usually about 45 minutes, and there’s no requirement to clear security or CIQ on international tech stops.
When operating to Japan – particularly to smaller or secondary airports – it’s important to confirm airport curfews, parking restrictions, and GSE availability, in advance, with your ground handler.
If you have any questions about this blog article or operating to Japan, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later we will discuss CIQ for your trip to Japan.