Operating to Koror (PTRO) – Part 1 of 2: Top Considerations
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operations to Koror, Palau.
The Republic of Palau, a part of Micronesia, is located in the far Western Pacific. This island state shares maritime boundaries with Indonesia, the Philippines and the Federated States of Micronesia. Most populous of the 250 island group, Koror (PTRO), is about 650 nautical miles (NM) west of Cebu (RPVM), in the southern Philippines, and 530 NM north of Sorong (WASS), in eastern Indonesia. These remote islands attract a steady flow of general aviation (GA) activity but there are important considerations to keep in mind when operating to PTRO.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Traffic to Palau
Palau is visited for its world famous diving/snorkeling opportunities, for those interested in investment opportunities, individuals looking for privacy and people just looking for rest and relaxation. Traffic to PTRO remains relatively constant and steady throughout the year with a peak in traffic during February and March. Hotel room availability is often a defining factor when planning a trip to Palau as local accommodations can sell out.
2. Peak hours
Peak operating hours are generally from 1930 – 0300 local daily. The local ground handler is staffed for scheduled commercial operations which differ depending on the day of the week. They will arrange staff to accommodate any additional general aviation (GA) flight operations. The middle of the day is usually the most opportune time to obtain parking and operational approval for PTRO.
3. Parking has improved
Priority for parking is given to scheduled commercial operations and the local airline – Pacific Mission Aviation. With the addition of four remote hard stands, parking is no longer as difficult as it was in the past. Tow bar is requested to be carried on board as it is sometimes necessary to move aircraft to accommodate demand. There are no hangar facilities at PTRO.
4. Tech stop information
While PTRO may look attractive as a tech stop option, you will need to be aware of slot restrictions. Note that there is only one runway at this airfield. If you have aircraft range restrictions, or need to make a stop due to crew duty day limitations, PTRO may be considered. For tech stops, or landings to pick up/drop off passengers, crews do not usually need to clear customs, immigration, or quarantine (CIQ). You’ll still, however, need to provide evidence that the aircraft cabin was disinfected prior to landing.
5. Operational considerations
Air Traffic Control (ATC) for PTRO is controlled by Oakland Oceanic and communications can be difficult at times. While this location is a 24 hour airport of entry (AOE) movements are limited to one per every 30 minutes and a maximum of 48 per day. If there’s an aircraft within 30 minutes of arrival, departures are put on hold. Once an aircraft departs the next aircraft cannot depart for at least 30 minutes. Traveling to PTRO during peak scheduled commercial operating periods – generally evening hours -can result in operational delays. It is important that Oakland Center be advised once an aircraft has landed as they will not clear a departure until the previous landing has been confirmed.
Also, it’s important to note that a fumigation certificate is needed upon arrival.
6. Alternates for Palau
For tech stop purposes, and when overnight parking is not available at PTRO, RPVM and Guam (PGUM) are preferred alternates. Yap Island (PTYA) is another available alternate – at 246 NM from PTRO – however landing permits for PTYA can be difficult to obtain as require two approvals, one from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and one from the Department of Immigration.
7. Runway facts
PTRO has a 7200 foot single runway, in good condition, but with no parallel taxiway. This location routinely accommodates larger aircraft – up to the size of a B767. Depending on wind direction you may need to do a 180 at the end of the runaway and taxi back to the parking apron. Note that the field is not ILS-equipped.
8. GSE and catering options
While ground support equipment (GSE), aircraft services and in-flight catering options are available at PTRO, it’s best to check in advance to ensure you can get what you need. During peak hours there may be delays in obtaining services such as lav and water. While lav service is available at PTRO, potable water is generally not available. Your ground handler may, however, be able to supply limited quantities of drinking water for GA operations. Be aware that there’s no in-flight caterer or kitchen located at PTRO. Catering requests are often handled by the Palau Pacific Hotel where Japanese, Chinese and Western cuisine is possible.
9. Hotels, local transport and local area
There are relatively few hotel options at Koror and at the Palau Islands in general. At times, you will not be able to obtain suitable accommodations due to increased demand. Hotels here are local brands and not major international chains. Prepaid car with driver transport and rental car options are limited at PTRO. The handler generally will coordinate with the local hotel for transportation, but this should always be confirmed in advance. Note that English is spoken at this location and local currency is USD.
10. Weather considerations
While Palau has a pleasant topical climate most of the year, the rainy season – July to October – can be very wet with 150 inches plus rainfall. PTRO is located largely outside the typhoon zone so it’s rare that this will be an issue for travel here.
It’s best to give yourself plenty of lead time when planning overnight stops at PTRO. A successful flight operation to this location involves coordinating airport slots, parking approvals, permits and hotel accommodation accurately. If you’re not able to arrange parking according to your planned schedule the closest alternates are some distance away.
Stay tuned for Part 2, which covers airport slots, customs, immigration, and landing permits for PTRO.