Operating to Panama – Part 2: Airports and Operational Tips
This business aviation blog post continues from our article last week, entitled "Operating to Panama – Part 1: Flight Permits and Approvals."
For business aircraft operators traveling to Panama, there are a number of suitable airports to choose from. Full support services and credit are available at most Panamanian Airports of Entry (AOEs). Advance notification, however, may be needed for certain locations and/or hours of operation.
The following is an overview of what you need to know:
1. Popular destinations in Panama
Most operations to Panama are to Tocumen Int.’l, Panama City (MPTO) or Marcos Gelabert Int.’l, Panama City (MPMG). Operators also routinely fly to both David (MPDA) and Bocas Del Toro (MPBO). While MPMG, a former military airport, is closer to central Panama City than MPT0 (a five-minute drive versus a 20-minute one), runway length of 5,906 feet may be a factor for some operations. Note that the runway at MPMG cannot accept aircraft the size of a Boeing 727 or larger. From time to time, particularly during high season, aircraft parking availability may be an issue at MPTO and/or MPMG. At this time Panama has no Stage 2 operating restrictions in place.
2. Airport operating considerations
MPTO is a 24/7 AOE with no airport slots or Prior Permission Required (PPR) mandates. Be mindful, however, that ground handlers at MPTO do not normally operate 24 hours. Because of this advance notification may be needed, and overtime fees may apply.
MPMG is also an AOE with no slots or PPR requirements. MPMG normally limits operations to 0600-2230 local with overtime available. MPDA and MPBO, likewise, are AOEs with no slot or PPR requirements and normal operating hours of 0600-2200 local (overtime is available).
Full aircraft support services are possible at all of these airports, but it’s best to check in advance on towbar and ground support equipment availability. Note that no fuel is available at MPBO, and 48 hours’ advance notice is recommended for fuel uplifts at MPDA.
3. Tech stop considerations
If you are just looking for a tech stop, MPTO makes a great one. In fact this is one of the best tech stop options in Central America for quick turns. Permit requirements and the customs, immigration, and quarantine process are not onerous at this location.
4. In-flight catering
In-flight caterers are available for both MPTO and MPMG, but you may need to consider sourcing catering from hotels/restaurants at other locations.
5. Aviation fuel
Major aviation fuel cards are normally accepted in Panama, but it’s best to have a fuel release sent in advance as a backup. Be aware that scheduled commercial operations are always given priority for fueling.
6. Hangar parking
Hangar space is available with prior arrangement for transient operations at both Panama City airports.
Prior to operating to Panama, it’s always best to confirm aircraft security options/restrictions as well as aircraft access. For example, at MPTO armed aircraft security is not possible; however, unarmed security may be arranged. At MPMG aircraft security can be set up, but crew members need to make special advance arrangements for airside ramp access prior to scheduled day of departure.
8. Hotels and local transport
A wide range of major and international hotel chains is available in Panama, particularly in the Panama City area. There are seldom shortages in terms of available 4- and 5-star crew accommodations options. For local travel prepaid transport (car with driver) is recommended; however, rental vehicles and public transport are generally considered safe in this region.
9. Additional reading: Operating to Panama – Series Index
Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.
You have a number of airport options to choose from in Panama. If you are looking for a tech stop, we recommend MPTO.
Stay tuned for Part 3, which covers customs, immigration, and security information when traveling to Panama.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Panama, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.