Ground Operations at Remote General Aviation Destinations – Part 1: Airport Considerations
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on selecting ground handlers at remote locations.
Additional considerations are needed when operating to remote international locations and airports not frequented by general aviation (GA). For many of these locations it’s recommended to begin the pre-planning process three to four weeks in advance, due to logistical issues.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Runway conditions and nav aids
It’s critical to consider runway length, width and condition – as well as condition and weight-bearing capacity of taxiways and ramp areas – when operating to smaller and/or remote locations. Is the runway lighted, how is lighting controlled, and what sort of precision nav aids are available? In a worst case scenario the runway may be gravel or coral covered, narrower than your wingspan, and obstructed by obstacles (i.e., palm trees) very close to the runway.
2. Operational hours and airport curfews
Many remote and secondary airports are not 24 hour operations. You may face limited hours of operation that may differ depending on the day. Some smaller airports only operate sunrise to sunset. Note that customs, immigration, and quarantine (CIQ) hours do not always mirror airport hours – if available at all. In some cases overtime is possible to extend operating hours, CIQ (if available), and ground handling services. It’s important to note that in such cases where overtime is available, additional costs will apply, and advance arrangements are needed.
3. Fuel availability
A top consideration when operating to remote locations and secondary domestic airports is fuel availability. In some cases fuel uplift options may be limited, and you will often need to specify fuel volumes in advance. Check if the location has pressure fueling capability or if you’ll need to pre-arrange to have fuel brought in. Consider available fuel types (i.e. Jet-A, Jet-A1, etc.), how it’s stored at the airport, and how fuel is delivered to the aircraft. Fuel quality may be an issue at some locations, so crew should always have their own fuel test kits available.
4. Ground handler familiarity
In many cases, particularly at smaller and more remote airfields, local handlers may only be familiar with airline equipment. In such cases, services received by GA aircraft may be limited and slower than expected. This can lead to longer than anticipated delays on the ground. Local airline handlers often do not fully understand unique requirements of GA. If you’re making a tech stop it’s best to plan on one to two hours on the ground, depending on the location. Consider bringing in a supervisory handling agent, from a larger airport in the region, to oversee/assist in coordinating local handling.
5. Language barriers
Always check in advance on how to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) and ground personnel locally. Ground handlers, airport officials, local transport companies, and 4th-party service providers may not speak your language. At some locations – including secondary airports in Argentina – ATC do not speak English, or will only have an English speaker during certain hours or with advance arrangement. In such cases you may need to consider either bringing a pilot fluent in the local language, or relocating a ground handler, who speaks your language, from a major airport.
6. Additional Reading: Services at Remote Locations – Series Index
Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.
It’s always important to determine what services are available at the intended destination. Research to obtain such information may take time to obtain, so it’s recommended that this is done far in advance of your intended operation.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to remote locations, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers information on services and credit options for ground handling at remote locations.