More Mexico Permit Changes: Part 2 – Potential Issues and Penalties
This business aviation blog post continues from previous article, titled "More Mexico Permit Changes: Part 1 – Positive Developments for GA."
With the implementation of Mandatory Circular CO SA-02/14 R1 in Mexico, be aware that local airport comandantes are still in the process of understanding the new regulatory changes, released on June 18, 2014 and effective as of June 3, 2014.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. There may be inconsistencies at certain airports
These regulatory changes are very new, and we expect a certain level of inconsistency in terms of local knowledge and implementation of them. As each airport comandante may not have all the information on the circular changes, it’s recommended that you have your ground handler provide the comandante the updated circular and ask the comandante to communicate with the Direccion General de Aeronautica Civil (DGAC) for any further clarification. This is important because if a local comandante suspects a cabotage violation he/she will issue a report, and the legal department of DGAC will take the next steps. It’s unknown at this time how long you may be grounded in Mexico if your operation is suspected of cabotage by the local comandante.
2. Potential issues – operating private flights that are on a charter certificate
If a local comandante is not up-to-date with the new regulations, it’s possible that he/she may not approve any private non-revenue flight for an N-registered aircraft which is on a charter certificate or is listed as a charter aircraft in the FAA’s database, as this was the rule under the DGAC circular issued on April 7, 2014. In this case, your 3rd-party provider may need to communicate with the comandante and DGAC directly to resolve the issue. This could cause some delay while the issue is being clarified, and your aircraft may not be able to proceed for some period of time.
3. Potential issues – delays in processing information
We’re unsure how long the process will take for comandantes to collect and verify all passenger information for every flight leg within Mexico. So, it’s best to provide passenger information in advance. This way, the comandante can review passenger details and, upon arrival, confirm the same passengers are on the flight. While there may still be delays on arrival, these delays will be shorter than if passenger information is not provided in advance.
4. Problem potential – interpretations by comandantes
There’s always room, of course, for various interpretations of passenger information as given to local airport comandantes. This may be particularly true – in terms of delays and confusion regarding regulatory changes – over the next few months since this is a new circular.
After verifying passengers onboard, and reviewing passenger database records for the specific aircraft’s past operations to Mexico (see Part 1 of this series), it’s possible that a comandante may make a determination of possible cabotage. If an operator is denied operation into Mexico, or is held on the ground due to a determination of cabotage, your 3rd-party provider will need to consult with DGAC central offices to work out a solution.
5. Penalties for non-compliant operators
If DGAC determines, by way of tracking your flight and crew/passenger details, that you’ve declared a private non-revenue operation, but are actually operating a charter flight, authorities may:
1) ground your aircraft in Mexico,
2) block your aircraft from traveling to Mexico for future trips, and/or
3) impose fines.
These penalties are assessed and imposed by the legal department of DGAC. If you’re suspected of operating a non-declared charter, the comandante may meet your flight on arrival/departure and interview passengers to determine if they’ve paid for the flight and/or they have a business association to the aircraft owner/operator.
Mexican authorities are very strict in terms of monitoring all private non-revenue flights, and they’ll impose fines, or ground aircraft, that do not adhere to regulations. Cabotage concerns have become a very important issue in Mexico. These new regulations attempt to address this concern while at the same time improving operational flexibility and safety for legitimate private operations.