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Online Extra

When Non-Stop Is a Non-Starter

Sometimes you can’t get there from here. Sometimes you don’t want to.

Today’s long-range business aircraft can accomplish virtually any Point A-to-Point B trips. But sometimes, occasions or circumstances justify – maybe even demand – incorporation of a “technical stop” to satisfy an operational concern or, in other cases, to avoid potential problems.

Companies like ARINC Direct, Ascend, BaseOps, Jeppesen and Universal Weather & Aviation plan and execute technical stops for all types for operators. Those stops tend to fall under two headings: “operational to address fuel and/or crew issues or “bureaucratic, to meet requirements or avoid issues of access, permits, political entanglements” – alone or in combination.

Fuel and Crew Considerations

According to Bill Stine, NBAA’s director of international operations, fuel and crew-oriented technical stops lead operators’ considerations, with fuel drawing the largest number of responses from operators attending the most-recent NBAA International Operators Conference – and crew issues a close second.

Operators were most concerned about fuel availability and quality at the destination. Jeff Kelley of Universal Weather & Aviation noted that the solution typically involves stopping early to top off and tanker fuel.

The chief pilot for an operator that frequently flies to South America from the American Midwest said, “We can make our trip within IFR reserves. But we prefer carrying considerably more fuel since availability at our destinations has been spotty, at best. So we tech stop.”

“The technical stop is within the maximum range window,” he continued. “So we top off – take on full fuel, fly into our destination already carrying enough Jet A to fly back out again and, usually make it home non-stop…if we’re actually going home.

“If we fly with full fuel, we use a little more than going nonstop – but we still stop earlier for fuel.”

Kelley, a Universal “trip owner” who works directly with clients to assure their trip needs are fulfilled, noted another justification: IFR comfort margins as opposed to legal reserves.

“If the weather at the end is iffy, you want to make sure you’ve got more than minimum-required fuel,” said Kelley. And that may mean a tech stop to arrive with more than legal, minimum IFR reserves. “It is particularly important if there’s any chance you have to divert.”

As the midwestern pilot noted, “When we make the tech stop short of our first destination, we’re already prepared with flight planning for the next stops – incorporating any needed additional tech stops in that planning.”

Crew reaching duty-time limits is another reason for tech stops. A new crew, which usually has flown by airline to the tech stop, replaces the original crew, and the process is reversed on the return trip.

Beyond fuel and crew, Kelley and Stine both stressed the challenges of issues with international political complications – sometimes global, other times strictly regional, sensitivities.

Bureaucratic Stops

Weighing the needs for bureaucratic tech stops demands knowledge of national requirements on a case-by-case basis – and well before launch. The more countries involved, the more important expert knowledge.

“The Middle East has a variety of complications,” noted Ryan Frankhouser, business manager for ARINC Direct. “Getting into most countries isn’t complicated as long as you adhere to the requirements.”

And national requirements may hinge specifically on the point of origin or destination – with different treatments in the process.

Israel, for example, will admit passengers and crew regardless of their transient countries – provided the flight came from an approved departure airport,” Frankhouser explained.

Carry an “Israel” stamp on the passport, noted Jay Ammar Husary of United Aviation Services (UAS) and the only Arab countries that will admit the flight are Egypt and Jordan. Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, he stressed, will not.

In the Western Hemisphere, similar issues apply flying into Mexico. From the U.S. and Canada, for example, Mexico offers multiple points of entry (POE) through which aircraft can clear customs inbound – and Mexico doesn’t require inbound flights to depart from any specific U.S. gateway.

But, Kelley noted, flights originating from Caribbean, Central or South American nations must enter via one of two POEs: Tapachula International (MMTP) or Cozumel International (MMCZ).

Other regions of the world produce more complex and sensitive catalysts to tech stops, among the most complex of them the Middle East.

Husary highlighted the complications of obtaining landing permission in Iraq for aircraft with more than a 10-passenger capacity: “You will not be given a permission to land until you pay a so-called royalty fee, and sometimes it’s hefty.”

Other Tech-Stop Catalysts

Kelley recalled a recent situation for a client in which a flight returning from South America planned a tech stop in Panama to bolster fuel reserves and obtain an overflight permit for Columbia – with issuance time a concern. “But Columbia required no permit to land if you planned to leave within 48 hours.

Husary noted that Venezuela can be unreliable and uneven in its permits and fees.

“Permit times vary quite a bit,” Kelley concurred. “Then there are simply places where it’s unwise to go. You land nearby and charter because permitting or other restrictions will take so long.”

For bureaucratic tech stops, expert help can be priceless.

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