Preparation is the key to a successful international trip. With experience the process becomes easier, but preparation is still necessary. Much of the “leg work” is taken care of by handling agents and flight planning services, but the pilot remains responsible for their completion.
It really pays to be diligent about this, even if you are a seasoned pro. I once flew into China with a veteran international ops pilot that hadn't been in a few years. He was stunned to find the Flight Level Allocation Scheme in China was unique to the world. I thought he was an idiot. Years later I flew into London Luton for the one-hundredth time and was stunned to find every single approach into EGGW was deleted from the database. I felt like an idiot. Just because you've been doesn't make you an expert; if you haven't been recently, you need to study up.
When you are handed a trip, there are a few things you need to consider:
This section begins an example G450 trip from Bedford, Massachusetts (KBED) to Rome, Italy (LIRF), to Tokyo, Japan (RJAA), back to Bedford.
What follows comes from the references shown below. Where I think it helpful, I've added my own comments in blue.
Figure: Example routing as requested, from Eddie's notes.
For the purpose of example, we have been asked by our lead passenger to set up a trip from Bedford, Massachusetts (KBED) to Geneva, Switzerland (LSGG), then Tokyo, Japan (RJAA), finally returning home. The trip was originally planned in a G550 which could have made the first two legs without a doubt, but was questionable on the third leg because of past performance reports saying RJAA to KBED for some reason was problematic. The G550 dropped out and the trip has come to you, in a shorter range G450.
Figure: Twin Engine Flight Planning for Mach = 0.80 at ISA, from G450 Performance Handbook, pg. PB-18, with Eddie's crayons.
While aircraft range changes with passenger / cargo load, temperature, winds, and the vagaries of air traffic control, it helps to know what your airplane can do in generic conditions. In the case of the G450: a 4,000 nm trip at Mach 0.80, ISA conditions, no wind, and about a 43,000 lbs operating weight will leave the airplane with 5,000 lbs of fuel remaining at the destination. More about this: G450 Normal Procedures / Range.
Crew duty limits will vary will operation and may necessitate additional crew members or crew swaps.
Figure: 4,000nm ranges from LSGG and RJAA, from Eddie's notes.
It appears we will have no range issues with the first leg, from KBED to LSGG, but the remaining two legs will both required fuel stops. Using flight planning software or the excellent free resource available at http://gc.kls2.com/, we can examine the areas that are within 4,000 nm of both LSGG and RJAA. As much of this part of the world is troubled, we offer Moscow (UUEE) to our passengers as somewhat along the great circle route, an easy location for a crew swap, and a bit more reliable than many of the other options. Our passengers express an interest in spending a day in Mumbai, India (VABB) which is within the 4,000 nm range of both LSGG and RJAA. So we add VABB to our itinerary.
We run a similar exercise with the RJAA to KBED leg and determine that adding Anchorage, Alaska (PANC) could easily get the trip home in a day with a simple crew swap. Once again the passengers have a better idea and ask about spending a few days in Hawaii. From the standpoint of aircraft range and crew duty days, our itinerary becomes:
Figure: Example routing as modified, from Eddie's notes.
Aircraft performance should be considered for each airport and each en route leg:
When considering maximizing the range of your aircraft, it helps to have a general idea about how much runway is needed under most conditions at maximum weight. A G450, for example, can take off fully loaded up to 105°F at sea level in less than 7,000 feet of pavement. You should also have an idea of where to look for the easiest source of tabulated data. In the G450 that would be G450 Airplane Flight Manual, Appendix A. More about: G450 Normal Procedures & Techniques / Performance - Takeoff.
Obstacles between the airport and your en route altitude can be a factor and should be considered. Simply ensuring your AFM performance numbers are satisfied by meeting SID requirements might be good enough, but it could needlessly reduce your payload (and therefore your range). More about: Departure Obstacle Avoidance.
You have minimum en route altitude restrictions to meet in the event of an engine failure which could be a factor, especially in mountainous terrain. Unfortunately many aircraft manufacturers do not provide easily understood data to make this determination. Nevertheless, you need to consider this. More about: G450 Normal Procedures & Techniques / Performance - En Route.
You should know the absolute minimum amount of pavement your airplane needs to safely stop, the minimum your company requires, and the minimum you require. You should also have a handy way of figuring this out without a lot of fuss. In the case of the G450, landing data can be found in five places, but the best source is in the Gulfstream G450 Operational Information Supplement, G450-OIS-02, Table 45c. The book says the aircraft must have at least 2,500' to stop in absolutely ideal conditions. In my opinion you would be crazy to try anything less than 4,000' and I rarely venture to a runway less than 5,000'.
Takeoff and Landing Performance: Our example trip will take place in late March and there may be weather to consider when departing and arriving at KBED. We let our passengers know that if the runway is likely to be contaminated, we may need to reposition the airplane to KBOS to take advantage of the longer runways and the greater number of runways which will minimize the impact of crosswinds on contaminated surfaces. The other airports do not appear to have takeoff and landing performance issues.
Obstacle Analysis: Of the selected airports, Geneva can pose problems. In fact, the common practice of using AFM engine-out climb data when assessing all-engine Standard Instrument Departure (SID) procedures will make the LSGG - VABB leg impossible because the G450 cannot make SID climb requirements engine-out. Using only the data available in the cockpit, a knowledgeable pilot can plan a safe takeoff at maximum gross weight. (Even a less than knowledgeable pilot can do this with the right mission planning software. More about this: Departure Obstacle Avoidance / Ad Hoc Method Example.
En Route Performance: Since we plan on performance to beat close-in obstacles, keeping minimum safe en route altitudes is rarely an issue. So too with this trip, only the obstacles in Switzerland pose a risk and we have ensured these are beaten early in the flight.
Theoretically, ICAO Doc 7030, Regional Supplementary Procedures, is your best source of airspace requirements throughout the world. Unfortunately, as of this writing in December 2013, it hasn't been updated in four years. Airspace rules are changing every year and it pays to have a good international trip planning service to keep on top of this. (You should keep up on it too; sometimes your handler may be blind sided.)
You should consider any special airspace requirements for each leg of the trip:
ADS-B Out is becoming required in parts of the world, but work arounds are readily available. You can expect delays and reroutes if you are not equipped and authorized. More Information: International Operations / Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out.
B-RNAV is required in most of Europe. More Information: International Operations / Basic Area Navigation (B-RNAV).
ETOPS does not apply to 14 CFR 91 operators and only constrains 14 CFR 135 operators from flying in the most remote regions of the world. It only applies when flying beyond 3 hours of a suitable airport with an engine failed. More Information: International Operations / Extended Operations of Multi-engine Airplanes (ETOPS).
Operating in what many simply call "polar ops" requires special certification under 14 CFR 135 and special procedures for anyone venturing the high latitude regions. High latitude operations occur in areas above 78°N, below 60°S, the northern and southern poles, and the Canadian Northern Domestic Area (NDA). The NDA includes the Northern Control Area (NCA), the Arctic Control Area (ACA) and the Area of Magnetic Unreliability (AMU). The NDA, NCA and ACA are depicted on Canadian HI en route charts and encompass the northernmost Canadian airspace. More Information: International Operations / High Latitude and Northern Domestic Airspace.
The NAT HLA applies to most of the North Atlantic and the Canadian Arctic Control Area. More Information: Airspace / North Atlantic High Level Airspace (NAT HLA).
P-RNAV is used to fly RNAV departure and arrival procedures in European Civil Aviation Conference countries (most of Europe) and some other areas throughout the word, i.e., Hong Kong. Terminal procedures will have "P-RNAV Required" annotated. More Information: International Operations / Precision Area Navigation (P-RNAV).
While RVSM is now the standard just about everywhere, there are country-specific rules for flight level selection and contingency procedures. More Information: International Operations / Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM).
The Required Navigation Performance-4 (RNP-4) applies to parts of Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, but all of these still allow RNP-10 as a substitute. In theory, ATS can monitor aircraft with RNP-4 more closely and will have traffic priority. More Information: International Operations / Required Navigation Performance-4 (RNP-4).
RNP-10 is required in the Central East Pacific (CEP) between Hawaii and the west coast of the United States, and portions of the North Pacific (NOPAC) require RNP-10. There are other areas of the world that have adopted RNP-10, such as parts of Africa, the Indian Ocean, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and some parts of South America near Recife. More Information: International Operations / Required Navigation Performance-10 (RNP-10).
Our trip takes us through the NAM, NAT, EUR, MID/ASIA, and PAC regions. A review of ICAO Doc 7030 reveals:
Note that some of these requirements are changing back and forth rapidly. RNP-4, for example, was supposed to be mandatory over much of the ASIA region by December 2013, but many countries are showing increasing flexibility as their air traffic has been slow to equip. You need to ask prior to every trip if you are lacking a requirement they classify as mandatory.
Note also that ICAO Doc 7030 is quiet on the subject of ADS-B Out, which is becoming required in parts of the world. As of December 2013, ADS-B Out not yet required for our routes of flight, but that will change. More Information: International Operations / Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out.
Each ICAO member is free to make exceptions to ICAO rules but they must post these exceptions in their individual Aeronautical Information Publications. These are usually issued in host nation languages and rarely available in English.
The Jeppesen State pages attempt to compile the notable differences and are your best "go to" source of these individual country differences. The Airport Directory for each destination airport and likely alternates are good places to start when researching airport suitability. A legend and explanation appears in the Jeppesen Airway Manual text pages under Airport Directory, Airport Data General, Legend and Explanation. Note: these pages often have errors and you should double check on anything critical or anything that just doesn't make sense. For example, I've found they don't do a good job of keeping up with WGS-84 status on these pages, though their web site on the issue is excellent.
Figure: Airport Directory, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, Entry Requirements, State Rules and Procedures, Europe, Switzerland, National Regulations and Requirements, 17 May 2013.
The first and last airports visited in a foreign country must normally be designated as “Apt of Entry” in the Jeppesen Airport Directory and AIP. In some countries, any declared alternates must also be airports of entry. You need to check each's country's pages to be sure.
Figure: Mumbai Airport Directory Example, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, Airport Directory, Airport Data, Middle East, Airport Directory, India, 27 Dec 2013.
Will the airport be open at the necessary times for arrival and departure? The Airport Directory provides UTC-to-local time conversions, the airport hours of operation, and other items of interest.
Having a trip handler with a presence at the airport will be helpful, as the times in the JeppView pages may not be up-to-date. If you do not have anyone with local knowledge, the page does provide phone numbers you can call.
Figure: Maun Airport Directory Example, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, Airport Directory, Airport Data, Africa, Airport Directory, Botswana, 25 Oct 2013.
Are the runways long and strong enough? Are the ramps adequately stressed? The Airport Directory Pages are a good source of the following information:
Don't forget to consider fuel loading when computing ACNs. I was once scheduled into Maun, Botswana as the last stop in Africa and then on to Paris. A fully loaded GV exceeded the only suitable runway's PCN so we had to reorder the trip so Maun wasn't our last stop in the area.
Figure: Narita Airport Directory Example, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, Airport Directory, Airport Data, Pacific, Airport Directory, Japan, 20 Dec 2013.
Does the airport offer the required grade of fuel, if refueling is necessary? If you are planning on a full load of fuel, remember fuel densities often preclude that in some parts of the world. A G-450's fuel capacity, for example, can vary over 2,000 lbs at allowable fuel densities. The best place to put on a full load of fuel is the west coast of the United States. The worst? Southeast Asia. More information: Technical / Fuel Density.
Figure: Bedford Airport Directory Example, from Jeppesen Airway Manual, Airport Directory, Airport Data, United States, Airport Directory, Massachusetts, 27 Sep 2013.
When given a choice of airports in a city, it may be advantageous to select the airport with appropriate airport rescue and fire fighting capability. More information: Technical / Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting System. A G-450 has a U.S. ARFF code of "A" and an ICAO code of "5."
You should also consider the following:
Airports of Entry (AOE) — The JeppView pages do not list PHNL or KSFO as airports of entry, but they are. Each of the other destinations are listed as AOE's. When we flight plan, we should ensure that any declared weather and ETP alternates are also AOE's While this isn't always a requirement, it simplifies trip planning in case a particular country does mandate it.
Hours of Operation — Each of our airports is listed as H24 but LSGG is PPR, so that merits a phone call by you or your handler.
Runways — Each airport on our itinerary has runways of adequate length, load bearing strength, and lighting.
Fuel — Each airport has the correct type of fuel but Japanese fuel is notoriously weak in terms of fuel density. We know from a Gulfstream study that a G450's total fuel capacity can be reduced from 29,500 lbs to just 28,230 lbs at the lowest available densities. Contrary to popular belief, jet engines derive thrust from the fuel in terms of weight, not volume. So warned, we run flight plans for the RJAA to PHNL range and find our worst case winds requires only 23,000 lbs of fuel, including reserves. More about this: Technical / Fuel Density.
Rescue and Fire Fighting System &mash; Each airport has good rescue and fire fighting capability. Note that this is rarely a show stopper for most operators.
Other Considerations — On our example trip we could run into problems with getting adequate ramp space for the aircraft, hotels for the crew, and we may want to consider hiring aircraft security at one of the locations. I recommend having a good trip planner who has recent experience with each airport. Failing that, call upon your network of pilot associates to get up-to-date intel.
There are a lot of things to consider here and if you don't spend a lot of time in the areas you will be visiting, you may miss something. It helps to have someone with local and recent knowledge, a good trip planner can be invaluable. But you should be aware of at least the following issues.
[AC 91-70A, ¶3-1.i.]
The anticipated routing should be checked for security concerns and any special airspace requirements.
Are there any US State Department Warning regarding the routing? International Notice to Airmen are available biweekly and provide international information and special notices which could affect a pilot’s decision to enter or use certain areas of foreign or international airspace. International NOTAMs are available from flight planning providers and from http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/air_traffic/publications/notices/
There are quite often restrictions on what food, plants, and animal products you can bring into a country, including the United States. Within the United States, there are also restrictions into and out of the State of Hawaii.
[AC 91-70A, ¶3-1.n.] Private pilots and commercial operators should understand cabotage, formally defined as “Air transport of passengers and goods within the same national territory.” The definition adopted by ICAO at the Chicago Convention is as follows: “Each state shall have the right to refuse permission to the aircraft of other contracting states to take on its territory passengers, mail, and cargo destined for another point within its territory.” Although cabotage rules are different in various countries and usually incorporate the term “for hire,” some countries do not allow foreign aircraft within their boundaries to carry even non-revenue passengers. The restrictions range from no restrictions to not allowed. The fines for cabotage can be extremely high; therefore, pilots and flight departments should be absolutely sure of a country’s cabotage rules before carrying passengers.
Generally speaking, you cannot fly to some foreign countries, pick up local citizens and transport them within that country. Not all countries have cabotage restrictions and many that do will allow exceptions if the citizens are employees of a company associated with the airplane. The rules vary by country and you need to ensure you follow them. AC 91-70A, ¶3-1.n. offers an FAA web page that was very helpful in determining country-specific cabotage rules but that service is no longer offered. You are left to ask your flight planning service provider or looking for the country’s AIP.
Customs requirements vary by country of departure and arrival. You should check with your handler, and the Jeppesen Airway Manual Entry Requirements pages. It may be helpful to have customs and immigration phone numbers available. More information: International Operations / Customs.
Are there aircraft import or other taxation issues? In some cases, these duties and taxes can make the planned trip prohibitively expensive. The solution once available in Europe to plan a free import no longer exists, you need to talk to your international planner about this prior to every trip.
[AC 91-70A, ¶3-1.h.] Does a State Department warning exist for health, security, or other precautions?
This information could prevent travel to the country or limit access to the airport only. International Notice to Airmen are available biweekly and provide international information and special notices which could affect a pilot’s decision to enter or use certain areas of foreign or international airspace. International NOTAMs are available from flight planning providers and from http://www.faa.gov/airports_airtraffic/air_traffic/publications/notices/.
Our example trip will be concerned with multiple country-specific concerns:
Portions of this page can be found in the book International Flight Operations, Part VII, Chapter 1.
Advisory Circular 91-70A, Oceanic and International Operations, 8/12/10, U.S. Department of Transportation
Gulfstream G450 Aircraft Operating Manual, Revision 35, April 30, 2013.
Gulfstream G450 Aircraft Service Change 016A, Maximum Takeoff Gross Weight Increase, May 30, 2012
Gulfstream G450 Airplane Flight Manual, Revision 35, April 18, 2013
Gulfstream G450 Operational Information Supplement, G450-OIS-02, Contaminated Runway Performance, Revision 1, August 3, 2011
Gulfstream G450 Performance Handbook, GAC-AC-G450-OPS-0003, Revision 20, November 30, 2011
ICAO Doc 7030 - Regional Supplementary Procedures, International Civil Aviation Organization, 2 2008
ICAO Doc 7030, Amendment 1, International Civil Aviation Organization, 8 January 2009
Jeppesen Airway Manual
NAT Doc 007, North Atlantic Operations and Airspace Manual Doc 007, Edition 2013