Operations to Spain: Flight Permits, PPRs and Slots
This is a post by author Gonzalo Barona. Gonzalo is Managing Director for Universal Aviation Spain, which has aircraft ground handling facilities in Madrid, and Gerona. Gonzalo is an expert on business aircraft operations in Spain and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Spain and continues from our last article: “Business Aviation in Spain: Security Considerations.“
Compared to other regions of the world, Spain’s landing permits, Prior Permissions Required (PPRs) and airport slot procedures are relatively uncomplicated, accommodating and flexible in terms of revision. Still, it’s always best practice to work with a 3rd-party provider and local ground handler in advance to obtain the best options and to be aware of any operating restrictions and local airport nuances.
1. Know flight permit requirements
Landing permits are required for charter (non-scheduled commercial) and scheduled commercial operations only. All permit requests are sent to the Spanish Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Medevac, state and emergency flights do not require landing permits. Documentation necessary for landing permits includes certificate of airworthiness and registration, noise certificate, European Union (EU) insurance, air operator certificate (AOC), crew/passenger information and full schedule. Landing permits are valid for a window of 24 hours. In the case of aircraft on experimental certificates, overflight permits are required – with submission of certificates of airworthiness and registration and confirmation of EU insurance.
2. Consider landing permit notification requirements
A lead time of 48 hours is recommended for landing permits, but permits may be arranged within 24 hours at the discretion of the CAA. Landing permits are issued by CAA Spain (known in Spain as AESA) – the same department that conducts random ramp checks at airports in Spain. CAA is closed on weekends in Spain. There’s a phone number that can be used for emergency contact during weekends, but the situation must be an emergency.
3. Know the process in obtaining landing clearances
After submitting your landing permit request and all required documentation, CAA will process the permit and advise on the permit status. CAA prefers to receive requests and all documentation via e-mail. They will respond to the entity that requested the permit (such as 3rd-party providers or ground handlers) via e-mail. No permit confirmation number is issued; however, you’ll be informed as to when and if the permit is approved. Cabotage is not an issue in Spain for private non-revenue flights, and charter landing permits cover any cabotage risk based on the information that was submitted.
4. Landing permit revisions are usually not problematic
If a landing permit has already been approved, schedule changes beyond the 24-hour permit window involve just notification. If the landing permit is still in process when a revision is submitted, this seldom delays the permit process.
5. PPR is needed at some destinations in Spain
Some high-traffic airports require PPRs, which must be requested in advance. PPRs are most commonly needed during summer months along the Mediterranean coast or at airports when large events are underway. Some destinations – such as Ibiza (LEIB) – have very limited aircraft parking, and it’s recommended that you request a PPR as soon as a firm schedule is known. If the PPR cannot be obtained, you’ll normally be permitted to drop off or pick up the passengers while repositioning to another airport for aircraft parking.
6. Know all requirements for airport slots
All major international airports in Spain require airport slots for both arrival and departure. In some cases, airport slots – as announced by notice to airmen (NOTAM) – are only issued when large local events are underway. Official lead time to request airport slots is 48 hours prior to operation. When requesting airport slots 24 hours or more prior to operation, requests should go directly to the airport slot coordinator. With less than 24-hours notification, you may contact the local airport authority. Spanish authorities are lenient on airport slot deviations on arrival, but they’re much stricter in terms of deviations on departure. You must file your flight plan for the airport slot time given. Air traffic control will check to ensure that aircraft have departure airport slots for the time filed, or the flight plan will be cancelled. Best practice is to obtain a departure airport slot a little earlier than you need it, as delaying a flight plan is easier than having to re-file for an earlier time. At larger airports, you may not receive exactly the airport slot time you request, but you’ll likely receive a slot close to the requested time. Airport slots will be confirmed, but no actual confirmation number is given.
7. Scheduled airline operations may be given priority
While CAA views business aviation positively – as a benefit to Spain – scheduled commercial airlines take priority over general aviation at major international airports. You are, for example, more likely to receive a requested airport slot time at Madrid Torrejon (LETO) than at Madrid Barajas (LEMD), as the latter airfield has a high volume of scheduled carrier activity, where LETO doesn’t have any.
8. Be mindful of best practices
Airport slots are requested via ARINC or SITA with a specific format. While airport slots can often be obtained quickly in Spain, it’s recommended that requests be submitted 24-48 hours or more in advance. It’s best to avoid peak hours of scheduled airline operations – normally 0730-0900 local. Once a flight plan is filed, with an approved departure slot, Eurocontrol’s network manager (NM) will advise if the aircraft can depart on time, or if there will be a delay. Eurocontrol airway slots always override airport slots, and you will not have to re-file the flight plan as a result of any delays from Eurocontrol. It’s always best practice to reconfirm airport slots on day of operation.
Charter operators need to be mindful of permit and documentation requirements when operating to or from Spain. The good news is that the permit process is relatively accommodating, in terms of short-notice operations, and revisions to permits are very seldom an issue.
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