International Operations

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Five Tips for International Flying

June 15, 2015

Listen to an NBAA Flight Plan podcast on international operations.

Flying internationally is different than flying domestically – not only in terms of routes and procedures, but also in terms of what you can expect on the ground. NBAA has a number of resources for international operations, including its International Operations web resource, Air Mail forums focused exclusively on international travel, and the International Feedback Database, all of which enable operators to share information on foreign destinations.

Pilots who have extensive international flying experience also are excellent resources. For example, Gary Tucker is a pilot for the Ball Corporation, based at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (BJC) near Broomfield, CO. Tucker has flown internationally for 15 years and is the technical coordinator of the NBAA International Operators Committee.

Here's his list of five things to keep in mind when flying internationally:

1. Don't Forget Your Body Clock

Tucker said that when crossing multiple time zones, an operator's duty time may not be excessive, but their body clock may betray them. The sun could be shining high overhead, but one's own circadian rhythm makes it feel like 2 a.m. and an operator's capabilities may be seriously impaired. Its effect on the body could be comparable to having consumed several alcoholic beverages.

2. Remember Where You Are

Be cognizant of cultural differences, noted Tucker. For instance, in some Middle East nations, one must be able to lock and seal the liquor cabinet on the plane so no one can gain access. Female crewmembers are sometimes required to wear particular types of clothing in deference to local religious beliefs.

3. Fly the Clearance, Not the Flight Plan

This is a mantra in international overwater flight, said Tucker. When in a radar environment, air traffic control will see if operators deviate from the clearance and they’ll correct them. But that’s not the case over water. “Nobody sees you, so when you do come into radar contact, you could be 50 miles off course," he said. "That can cause all kinds of problems.”

4. Be Ready for SAFA Checks

The Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) is an inspection that operators must be prepared for when flying to the European Union, said Tucker. It’s a checklist of more than 50 items, and European officials may require aircraft performance data from the flight management system. Operators may even need to prove they have a spare set of eyeglasses. To be prepared, keep a notebook of the SAFA checks and be ready to hand it over, if asked.

5. Keep Catering Considerations Top of Mind

When ordering catering overseas, use a trusted provider, added Tucker, who recalled ordering sandwiches in Germany and got something unrecognizable. “Have you ever heard of a blood tongue sandwich? Nobody on board was willing to touch it.” Also, “when you’re on a tech stop and you order lavatory services, make sure they dump the lav before they fill it,” suggested Tucker. “Sometimes they don’t, and it overflows. That stinks. Literally. And if we bring home trash from another country, our home airport charges us $425 to throw it away.”

Additional guidance on international business aviation operations will be presented at the NBAA's 2015 Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2015). The session “International Operations for the First Time Operator,” held on Tuesday, Nov.17, will provide the first-time international operator with an overview of how to plan and execute an international trip. Attendees will learn about regulatory requirements, flight planning considerations, equipment requirements, special use airspace, handling emergencies, ground handling requirements and security issues.

Review NBAA's resources on international travel.