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International Flight Planning

Your organization has purchased a new business jet capable of completing long-distance, international flights. You've hired an experienced pilot with loads of domestic flying hours and now feel you're ready to head for Europe, South America or wherever the need for an overseas trip may arise - right?

AvBuyer   |   12th May 2011
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By Bill Stine

Detailed study and preparation required.

Your organization has purchased a new business jet capable of completing long-distance, international flights. You've hired an experienced pilot with loads of domestic flying hours and now feel you're ready to head for Europe, South America or wherever the need for an overseas trip may arise - right?

Wrong, according to those schooled in the many complexities and nuances of international flying. With the possible exception of Canada or the Bahamas, flying internationally takes loads of planning and preparation, as well as training and experience.

It's not simply a matter of firing up the engines and taking off. “There is a bit of a tendency – particularly among people who think ‘I own the airplane, I'm going to go’ – that the worst they're going to run into is U.S.-lite, and it's not,” said Bill Stine, NBAA director of international operations. “In many cases, it may be the U.S. times a factor of 1.73. For example, you may be legal to shoot RNP approaches here, but you may not be legal to shoot them in Italy.”

Take roughly 190 countries, many with their own flight rules and regulations, and add in the differences that can exist in local infrastructures and flight support. You will start to get an idea of just how challenging an international flight can be.

“The FAA regulations that are in place here in the U.S. are not going to be the same in another country,” said David Stohr, President and an instructor of Air Training International, Ltd., (ATI) based in Southlake, Texas, near Dallas. “And the understanding is that when you operate in somebody else's airspace, you operate in accordance with that country's rules.”

There are also socioeconomic factors to consider. The unrest that has roiled the Middle East for several months is an example. “Now may not be the best time to fly into Libya,” Stine said. (These are just the issues you face once you arrive at your destination.

The unique factors involved in flying thousands of miles across the ocean bring in another set of challenges.) As an example, consider the task of calculating fuel requirements for a trip across the North Atlantic. Then, factor in the possibility that a depressurization emergency may develop, forcing you to descend to 12,000 feet (for example) so you can breathe, at which point you'll be burning way more fuel.

“You may not have the range to get where you thought you were going, so you have alternate destinations that you must compute,” Stine said.

Even when crossing land, flying long distances can't be taken lightly, according to Stohr. “There are parts of the world where you can be flying over land and have very limited availability of airports to go to,” Stohr said. To make matters more complex, there is no single source for researching your trip.

Suffice it to say, flying to England, India or Brazil brings into play a whole different set of circumstances than flying from, say, New York to Los Angeles. Summing up the challenges posed by international flying, Stine said: “It's not that it's more difficult flying. It is different.”

For that reason, success in planning and completing trips with minimal issues requires education and experience. Stohr and others urge anyone considering making international flights, or adding that capability to their flight department, to get training. For Part 135 operators it's required, but not for those in the Part 91 category.

Even after successfully completing training, Stohr and Stine suggest that organizations new to international flying bring along a pilot who is experienced in international flying on that first international trip. Stine also recommends hiring a flight planning service skilled and up-to-date in the constantly changing rules and regulations of international destinations.

“Do they cost you money? Yes. Are they cheaper than the alternative? Probably,” said Stine. “Many offer discounts, and they can help with hotels, catering and that sort of thing. The handling organizations earn their keep.”

 


Read more about: Operating Costs | Flight Planning

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