the learning never stops!

The U.S. as an International Destination

International Operations

If your native country isn't the United States and you will be doing some flying here, you will of course do the obvious preparation. You will study the AIP (or the AIM). You will have a look at the most relevant FAA regulations. You will look at a few websites, maybe even this one. But is there anything else you should be aware of?

Yes, things are different here. Let's try to cover some of those differences right here.


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This is a case of me not knowing how to answer a question because I don't have the right background. But I'll do my best:

  1. Airports of Entry / Landing Approval — You probably know your first point of arrival in a country has to be at an "Airport of Entry" and may have assumed that if the airport is an "international airport" you are good to go. In the United States it is more complicated than that. Chances are your destination is actually a "landing rights airport" and you will need approval to use it.
  2. Customs / Immigration / Quarantine — First off, what do you need to do just to be "allowed" to travel to the United States?
  3. Philosophy — We think differently over here and understanding this mindset will help you make sense of how things work.
  4. Phraseology — "English" may be the international language of aviation but our English may not be the same as your English. Just about everyone understands that and a simple "say again" usually gets the job done. But there are some other tricks too.
  5. VFR Traffic — There are few places in the world with as much uncontrolled aircraft traffic and even if you are flying on an instrument flight rules clearance, you need to know be aware of the VFR aircraft around you.
  6. Unique Airports — We have airports here that bear considerable watching. Just because you are a seasoned pro at KJFK, for example, you should not expect smoothing sailing at KTEB without a lot of preparation. And the same goes the other way around. And there is much more to it than that.
  7. Tech Stops — Stopping for gas can be very easy or very hard, choosing the right airport will make all the difference.
  8. IFR Flight Plans — Filing a flight plan in the U.S. is remarkably easy compared to most parts of the world, but that is only the first part in the process. While you will rarely worry about departure or arrival slots, you do have to worry about delays. Knowing what an EDCT is the first step in learning how to deal with one.
  9. Weather — We have everything you have, but we have it on steroids. The East Coast can have snow totals rarely seen in non-mountainous terrain. Thunderstorms? Ours can outclimb you and top your aircraft's maximum altitude. Hot and cold? It can really get too hot and cold to fly here. Most of the time it is okay, but you should be prepared for when it isn't.
  10. Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) — I left this for last because it can be very confusing and discouraging, especially if English isn't your primary language. English is my primary language and I need to read some of these TFRs over and over again to understand them. My advice: always check to see if they impact your route of flight and if they do, study them to see what you need to do before flight.

Airports of Entry / Landing Approval

When I start to research travel to a country I've never been to, or haven't been to in a while, I do a search for that country's Aeronautical Information Publication (AIP). The ICAO 1944 Convention (the original ICAO agreement known as the "Chicago Convention") requires that every signatory publish an AIP. The problem is they are not always available on the Internet, not always in English, and not always understandable. The U.S. AIP is in English, is available on the Internet, and is quite readable. The problem, however, is that it is 1,685 pages long. So the next step is to find someone with local knowledge to help you through the research. Please allow me to be that "someone" and get you started. The first step is picking a place to enter the country.

All aircraft entering the United States must land at a designated "international airport of entry" unless prior approval to land at a "landing rights" or other airport has been obtained from U.S. Customs. But how do you do that? It depends on what kind of flight you are.

Scheduled Common Carriage / Nonscheduled Noncommon Carriage / Private

If you are a commercial flight, many of the rules and regulations are directed at the operator (as well as the pilot) and much of what follows needs to be looked at from a different perspective. But under which category do you fall?

Scheduled Common Carriage

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶2.1.1] Generally, when an operator of an aircraft advertises its transportation services to the general public or particular classes or segments of the public for compensation or hire, it is a common carrier. In turn, the transportation service the operator performs is considered to be in common carriage. The scheduled flights into, from and landing in the territory of the U.S. for purposes of loading or unloading passengers, cargo and mail (revenue flights), must first obtain from the U.S. DOT/OST, Office of International Aviation (X−40), a foreign air carrier permit.

Nonscheduled Noncommon Carriage

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶3.1.1] Nonscheduled, noncommon carriage flights are transportation services for remuneration or hire that are not offered to the general public.

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶3.1.3] Nonscheduled flights landing in the territory of the U.S. for reasons of loading or unloading passengers, cargo or mail (revenue flights), must obtain prior permission from the DOT/OST, Office of International Aviation (X−40), at least 15 days prior to the flight.

So, as you can see, things get complicated for commercial operators.

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶4.1.1] Private aircraft that operate to, from, within, or transit territorial airspace of the United States must meet special security requirements in effect through Special Notices pursuant to 14 CFR Section 99.7, Special Security Instructions.

Airports of Entry

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶1.2] Aircraft landing in or departing from the territories of the U.S. must first land at, or finally depart from, an international airport (see AD 2) except as may be otherwise noted in this section.

AD 2 is a partial list of international airports. It isn't useful because most of the airports you will be using are not on the list. But that really isn't a problem . . .

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶1.3] All aircraft entering the U.S. must land at a designated international airport of entry unless prior approval to land at a landing rights or other airport has been obtained from U.S. Customs. The terms “international airport of entry” refers to any airport designated by the Secretary of the Treasury or the Commissioner of Customs as a port of entry for civil aircraft arriving in the U.S. from any place outside thereof and for cargo carried on such aircraft. (Note: Frequently the word “international” is included in the name of an airport for other than Customs purposes, in which case it has no special Customs meaning.) The term “landing rights airport” refers to an airport of entry at which permission to land must be granted by the appropriate Customs officer with acknowledgment of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Public Health Service, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the Department of Agriculture. Such landing rights are required before an aircraft may land at an airport which has not been designated for Customs purposes as an international airport of entry. In the case of scheduled aircraft, such permission must be obtained from the Service/Area Director of Customs of the Port (see GEN 1.1, paragraph 4.) where the first landing will occur. In all other cases, including private aircraft, landing permission may be obtained from the Port Director of Customs (see GEN 1.1, paragraph 4.) or the Customs officer in charge of the port of entry or Customs station nearest the intended place of landing. All persons entering the U.S. must be inspected for U.S. Customs, Immigration, and Public Health purposes.

Just because the airport is called "International," however, doesn't make it a designated airport. In fact, the list is very short. 19 CFR 122, §122.13 gives the complete list, all 58 of them. The list may surprise you. Chicago Midway (KMDW), for example is an "international airport;" Chicago O'Hare (KORD) is not. What does this mean to you? It means you are probably landing at a "landing rights" airport and need specific permission from customs authorities to land.

Southern Border Overflight

If you are flying a private aircraft (not an airliner or regularly scheduled commercial service), you probably have several restrictions to consider when flying to the United States from points south. Exemptions are possible, as explained at: https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1029/~/application-requirements-for-overflight-procedures-for-private-planes%2Fcarriers. But for most non-U.S. private aircraft, the following applies.

[19 CFR 122, §§122.23] Certain aircraft arriving from areas south of the U.S.

(a) Application. (1) This section sets forth particular requirements for certain aircraft arriving from south of the United States. This section is applicable to all aircraft except:

(i) Public aircraft;

(ii) Those aircraft operated on a regularly published schedule, pursuant to a certificate of public convenience and necessity or foreign aircraft permit issued by the Department of Transportation, authorizing interstate, overseas air transportation; and

(iii) Those aircraft with a seating capacity of more than 30 passengers or a maximum payload capacity of more than 7,500 pounds which are engaged in air transportation for compensation or hire on demand. (See 49 U.S.C. App. 1372 and 14 CFR part 298).

(2) The term “place” as used in this section means anywhere outside of the inner boundary of the Atlantic (Coastal) Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) south of 30 degrees north latitude, anywhere outside of the inner boundary of the Gulf of Mexico (Coastal) ADIZ, or anywhere outside of the inner boundary of the Pacific (Coastal) ADIZ south of 33 degrees north latitude.

(b) Notice of arrival. All aircraft to which this section applies arriving in the Continental United States via the U.S./Mexican border or the Pacific Coast from a foreign place in the Western Hemisphere south of 33 degrees north latitude, or from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coasts from a place in the Western Hemisphere south of 30 degrees north latitude, from any place in Mexico, from the U.S. Virgin Islands, or [notwithstanding the definition of “United States” in §122.1(l)] from Puerto Rico, must furnish a notice of intended arrival. Private aircraft must transmit an advance notice of arrival as set forth in §122.22 of this part. Other than private aircraft, all aircraft to which this section applies must communicate to CBP notice of arrival at least one hour before crossing the U.S. coastline.

[19 CFR 122, §§122.24] Landing requirements for certain aircraft arriving from areas south of U.S.

(a) In general. Certain aircraft arriving from areas south of the United States that are subject to §122.23 are required to furnish a notice of intended arrival in compliance with §122.23. Subject aircraft must land for CBP processing at the nearest designated airport to the border or coastline crossing point as listed under paragraph (b) unless exempted from this requirement in accordance with §122.25. In addition to the requirements of this section, pilots of aircraft to which §122.23 is applicable must comply with all other landing and notice of arrival requirements. This requirement shall not apply to those aircraft which have not landed in foreign territory or are arriving directly from Puerto Rico, if the aircraft was inspected by CBP officers in the U.S. Virgin Islands, or otherwise precleared by CBP officers at designated preclearance locations.

(b) List of designated airports.

LocationName
Beaumont, TexJefferson County Airport.
Brownsville, TexBrownsville International Airport.
Calexico, CalifCalexico International Airport.
Corpus Christi, TexCorpus Christi International Airport.
Del Rio, TexDel Rio International Airport.
Douglas, ArizBisbee-Douglas International Airport.
Douglas, ArizDouglas Municipal Airport.
Eagle Pass, TexEagle Pass Municipal Airport.
El Paso, TexEl Paso International Airport.
Fort Lauderdale, FlaFort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
Fort Lauderdale, FlaFort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Fort Pierce, FlaSt. Lucie County Airport.
Houston, TexWilliam P. Hobby Airport.
Key West, FlaKey West International Airport.
Laredo, TexLaredo International Airport.
McAllen, TexMiller International Airport.
Miami, FlaMiami International Airport.
Miami, FlaOpa-Locka Airport.
Miami, FlaTamiami Airport.
Midland, TXMidland International Airport.
New Orleans, LaNew Orleans International Airport (Moissant Field).
New Orleans, LaNew Orleans Lakefront Airport.
Nogales, ArizNogales International Airport.
Presidio, TexPresidio-Lely International Airport.
San Antonio TexSan Antonio International Airport.
San Diego, CalifBrown Field.
Santa Teresa, N. MexSanta Teresa Airport.
Tampa, FlaTampa International Airport.
Tucson, ArizTucson International Airport.
West Palm Beach, FlaPalm Beach International Airport.
Wilmington, NCNew Hanover County Airport
Yuma, ArizYuma International Airport.

Cuba

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶7]

  • Aircraft arriving from or departing for Cuba must land at or depart from Miami International Airport. Upon arrival, the pilot will present a manifest of all passengers on board to an officer of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service or to a Customs officer acting as an Immigration officer. No passenger arriving from Cuba by aircraft will be released by Customs, nor will the aircraft be cleared or permitted to depart before the passenger is released by an Immigration officer or a Customs officer acting on behalf of that agency.
  • Aircraft proceeding to Cuba are required to have a validated license issued by the Department of Commerce or a license issued by the Department of State.
  • These special requirements do not apply to aircraft arriving from or departing to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. Aircraft from this base must meet the same requirements as aircraft arriving from other Caribbean nations.

The Approval Process

Your "approval to land" comes from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from a phone call, an email, or the eAPIS system. If you are flying for a scheduled common carrier, such as an airline, this is probably an automatic agreement that may not concern you as a pilot. But if you are a "private flight," you have some work to do.

Scheduled Common Carriage

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶2.1.1] The scheduled flights into, from and landing in the territory of the U.S. for purposes of loading or unloading passengers, cargo and mail (revenue flights), must first obtain from the U.S. DOT/OST, Office of International Aviation (X−40), a foreign air carrier permit.

Similar approval is needed but 15 days notice is required for flights that do not load and unload passengers, mail, cargo, and mail.

Nonscheduled Noncommon Carriage

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶3.1.3] Nonscheduled flights landing in the territory of the U.S. for reasons of loading or unloading passengers, cargo or mail (revenue flights), must obtain prior permission from the DOT/OST, Office of International Aviation (X−40), at least 15 days prior to the flight.

There is an exception for technical stops of no more than 24 hours where passengers do not leave the airport or are transfered to other aircraft.

Private Flights

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶4.1.2] If an operator intends to carry out a private flight in transit across the territory of the U.S. with intermediate landing, the operator must provide advance notice of arrival to U.S. Customs officials at or nearest the first intended landing. Custom officials, upon notification, will notify the necessary Immigration, Public Health, and Agriculture officials.

Advance notice is at least one hour, but individual customs offices can have longer minimum notification times. These should be published in the airport's aerodrome directory entry.

The AIP says advance notice can simply be a flight plan"ADCUS" (Advise customs) note if coming from Mexico or Canada if landing. But there is more to it than that . . .

[19 CFR 122, §GEN 1.2, §122.14] Permission to land at a landing rights airport may be given as follows:

  • Scheduled flight. The scheduled aircraft of a scheduled airline may be allowed to land at a landing rights airport. Permission is given by the director of the port, or his representative, at the port nearest to which first landing is made.
    • Additional flights, charters or changes in schedule—Scheduled aircraft. If a new carrier plans to set up a new flight schedule, or an established carrier makes changes in its approved schedule, landing rights may be granted by the port director.
    • Additional or charter flight. If a carrier or charter operator wants to begin operating or to add flights, application must be made to the port director for landing rights. All requests must be made not less than 48 hours before the intended time of arrival, except in emergencies. If the request is oral, it must be put in writing before or at the time of arrival.
  • Private aircraft. The pilots of private aircraft are required to secure permission to land from CBP following transmission of the advance notice of arrival via an electronic data interchange system approved by CBP, pursuant to §122.22. Prior to departure as defined in §122.22(a), from a foreign port or place, the pilot of a private aircraft must receive a message from CBP that landing rights have been granted for that aircraft at a particular airport.
  • The electronic data interchange system refers to eAPIS, described below.

  • Other aircraft. Following advance notice of arrival pursuant to §122.31, all other aircraft may be allowed to land at a landing rights airport by the director of the port of entry or station nearest the first place of landing.

eAPIS

You cannot depart from an airport outside the United States to the United States without prior approval from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

[19 CFR 122, §122.22(b)(1)] The private aircraft pilot is responsible for ensuring the notice of arrival and manifest information regarding each individual onboard the aircraft are transmitted to CBP. The pilot is responsible for the submission, accuracy, correctness, timeliness, and completeness of the submitted information, but may authorize another party to submit the information on their behalf. Except as provided in paragraph (b)(7) of this section, all data must be transmitted to CBP by means of an electronic data interchange system approved by CBP and must set forth the information specified in this section. All data pertaining to the notice of arrival for the aircraft and the manifest data regarding each individual onboard the aircraft must be transmitted at the same time via an electronic data interchange system approved by CBP.

[19 CFR 122, §122.22(b)(2)] The private aircraft pilot is responsible for ensuring that the information [. . .] of this section is transmitted to CBP:

  1. For flights originally destined for the United States, any time prior to departure of the aircraft, but no later than 60 minutes prior to departure of the aircraft from the foreign port or place; or
  2. For flights not originally destined to the United States, but diverted to a U.S. port due to an emergency, no later than 30 minutes prior to arrival; in cases of non-compliance, CBP will take into consideration that the carrier was not equipped to make the transmission and the circumstances of the emergency situation.

[19 CFR 122, §122.22(b)(6)] Prior to departure from the foreign port or place, the pilot of a private aircraft must receive a message from DHS approving landing within the United States, and follow any instructions contained therein prior to departure. Once DHS has approved departure, and the pilot has executed all instructions issued by DHS, the aircraft is free to depart with the intent of landing at the designated U.S. port of entry.

[19 CFR 122, §122.49a(b)(1)(i)] Basic requirement. Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, an appropriate official of each commercial aircraft (carrier) arriving in the United States from any place outside the United States must transmit to the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS; referred to in this section as the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) system), the electronic data interchange system approved by CBP for such transmissions, an electronic passenger arrival manifest covering all passengers checked in for the flight. A passenger manifest must be transmitted separately from a crew member manifest required under §122.49b if transmission is in U.S. EDIFACT format. The passenger manifest must be transmitted to the CBP system at the place and time specified in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, in the manner set forth under paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section.

[19 CFR 122, §122.49a(b)(2)] Place and time for submission. The appropriate official [ . . . ] must transmit the arrival manifest or manifest data [ . . . ] to the CBP system (CBP Data Center, CBP Headquarters), in accordance with the following:

  1. For manifests transmitted under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(A) or (B) of this section, no later than 30 minutes prior to the securing of the aircraft;
  2. For manifest information transmitted under paragraph (b)(1)(ii)(C) of this section, no later than the securing of the aircraft;
  3. For flights not originally destined to the United States but diverted to a U.S. port due to an emergency, no later than 30 minutes prior to arrival; in cases of non-compliance, CBP will take into consideration whether the carrier was equipped to make the transmission and the circumstances of the emergency situation; and
  4. For an aircraft operating as an air ambulance in service of a medical emergency, no later than 30 minutes prior to arrival; in cases of non-compliance, CBP will take into consideration whether the carrier was equipped to make the transmission and the circumstances of the emergency situation.

All of this seems more daunting than it really is. Enrollment is fairly easy at: eapis.cbp.dhs.gov . Once you've enrolled it is simply a matter of entering your crew and passenger data and keeping the system up to date about your arrival time. More about this: eAPIS.

Customs / Immigration / Quarantine

Once you've found a suitable airport to enter the United States and have approval to do that, the next step is "CIQ."

The "C" of CIQ is customs, and that governs the "stuff" you attempt to bring into or out of the country. The "I" is immigrations, and that governs the people you attempt to bring into our out of the country. The "Q" is quarantine, which are the restrictions against some of the "stuff."

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Photo: Forty years of Eddie's passports

Click photo for a larger image

What about those colors? In the U.S., blue passports are issued to most citizens. The red passports are "official" issued to members of the government and military. The green passport was issued in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the U.S. State Department (1989). I know of one other U.S. passport color. I've flown many U.S. diplomats with black passports.

Required Documentation

[AIP, §GEN 1.2, ¶1.6] All foreign civil aircraft operated to, from, or within the U.S. must carry on board effective certificates of registration and air worthiness issued by the country of registry. Also, each member of the flight crew must carry a valid airman certificate or license authorizing that member to perform their assigned functions in the aircraft.

Passports

[USCBP Guide, ¶I.C.] VISITORS / TRANSIT PASSENGERS – must provide the following:

  • Passport and visa (unless visa exempt)
  • The passport must be valid for the duration of the intended stay. Visitors from a few countries must have an additional six months of validity. See the USCBP Guide, ¶ III.D. for a list of the many exceptions to this rule.


    Visa Exempt Visitors:

  • Canadian Nationals — Passport required. Exempt visa requirements with the exception of E, K and V non-immigrant visa classifications.
  • Bermudans — Passport required. Exempt visa requirements with the exception of E, K and V non-immigrant visa classifications.
  • Mexican Nationals — Passport and visa or Passport and Border Crossing Card (BCC)
  • Mexican Diplomats (and accompanying family members) holding diplomatic or official passports, not permanently assigned to the United States, may enter without a visa or Border Crossing Card for a stay not to exceed six months. Family members not traveling with the principal diplomat require a visa to enter the United States.
  • NATO personnel attached to NATO Allied Headquarters in the United States traveling with official orders and a NATO identity card are exempt passport and visa requirements.
  • Bahamian Nationals or British Subject Residents of the Bahamas: A visa is not required if, prior to boarding, the passenger is pre-inspected by CBP in the Bahamas to determine admissibility.
  • British Subject Residents of the Cayman Islands or of the Turks and Caicos Islands: A visa is not required if the passenger arrives directly from the Cayman Islands or the Turks and Caicos Islands and presents a current certificate from the Clerk of the Court indicating the individual does not have a criminal record.
  • British Nationals of the British Virgin Islands traveling directly and only to the U.S. Virgin Islands: A visa is not required of a British National of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) who is proceeding directly to the U.S. Virgin Islands from BVI. British Citizens residing in the BVI may use the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
  • Visa Waiver Program Traveler: Citizens of specified countries are eligible to travel to the United States without a visa on short visits for business or pleasure. Refer to pages 15-17 for the VWP and the Guam-Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Program (G-CNMI) on eligibility requirements. More about this: Visa Waiver Program.

Visas

[DoS Visa Flyer] Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a non-immigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission of the U.S. immigration inspector to enter the United States.

  • A Business Visitor Visas (B-1) would be appropriate if the purpose of the planned travel is business related, for example, to consult with business associates, attend a scientific, educational, professional or business conference, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract.
  • For more information about Business Visitor Visas, see: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/business.html.

  • A Visitor Visa (B-2) would be appropriate if the purpose of the planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, visiting friends or relatives, rest, or is related to medical treatment, activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, or participation by amateurs who will receive no remuneration in musical, sports and similar events or contests.
  • For more information about Visitor Visas, see: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit.html.

  • There are many other types of visas. For example, representatives of the foreign press, radio, film, journalists or other information media, engaging in that vocation while in the United States, require a non-immigrant Media (I) visa.
  • Travelers coming to the United States for tourism or business (B-1 or B-2 category visa) purposes for 90 days or less from qualified countries may be eligible to travel without a visa if they meet the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) requirements. (More about this next.)

Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

If you are a private operator flying operating a non-United States registered aircraft, the Visa Waiver Program can create big problems for your passengers unless you know the pitfalls. But before we get to the pitfalls, let's look at the program itself . . .

[USCBP Guide, ¶III.A.] The VWP enables citizens of specific countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or fewer without obtaining a visa. Citizens of the countries listed [below] are eligible to travel without a visa, provided the following criteria are met:

  • Traveler has a machine readable passport (MRP) issued by a VWP eligible country
  • Passport has a digital photo if issued after October 25, 2005
  • Passport must be an e-passport if issued after October 25, 2006
  • Traveler is not a permanent resident of the United States
  • Traveler is seeking entry for 90 days or fewer as a temporary visitor for business, pleasure or transit
  • Arrives via air or sea on a signatory carrier
  • In order to take advantage of the VWP, the passenger must arrive and depart on a signatory carrier. This used to be a commercial aviation program only, but private operators based in the U.S. are now eligible. (Enrollment is easy.) It is important to note that a passenger arriving on an eligible carrier cannot depart on a non-eligible carrier. If, for example, you arrived on British Airways (an eligible carrier), you cannot depart of a private aircraft that is not a VWP participant. See: Visa Waiver Program for more about this.

  • Has an approved ESTA travel authorization *
  • Has return / onward tickets
  • Travel may not terminate in contiguous territory or adjacent islands unless the traveler is a resident of those areas
  • * The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a web-based system for the collection of information on the VWP nationals prior to boarding U.S. bound –air or sea carriers. Registration in ESTA is mandatory for citizens of all 38 countries.

    You can register at: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. Note the USCBP seems to change the URL of this frequently. If this happens, go to: https://www.cbp.gov and enter "ESTA" in the search window.

Participating countries:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile [3]
  • Czech Republic [3]
  • Denmark
  • Estonia [3]
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece [4]
  • Hungary [3]
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia [3]
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania [3]
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta [3]
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia [3]
  • Slovenia [1]
  • South Korea [3]
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan [3], [5]
  • United Kingdom [2]
  • [1] Citizens and nationals of Slovenia may use only the red cover Slovenian passport for admission into the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

    [2] Persons presenting UK passports must possess the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man to be eligible for the VWP.

    [3] It is important to note that Citizens of these ten countries MUST present an electronic passport (identifiable by the ICAO chip logo on the cover).

    [4] Only Greek e-PP issued by the Hellenic Police as of August 26, 2006, is valid for travel under VWP.

    [5] Only the Taiwan e-PP with personal identification numbers are VWP eligible.

Now, here is where the trouble for the non-United States private operator hides:

  • Eligible passengers can only take advantage of the Visa Waiver Program aboard signatory carriers.
  • Not too long ago, only scheduled common carriage carriers (airlines) were allowed to be signatory carriers. A few years ago, U.S. private operators were allowed to sign up. As of late 2017, non-U.S. based operators without a U.S.-based subsidiary are only allowed to participate commercially.
  • Regardless of where your aircraft is registered, your scheduled versus nonscheduled status, or even if you are a private aircraft, you must be on the list of signatory carriers. You can download the list here: https://www.cbp.gov/document/report/signatory-visa-waiver-program-vwp-carriers.
  • Your passengers may be quite used to traveling to the United States aboard an airline that is a Visa Waiver Program signatory, such as Air France. Now if they travel to the United States on your aircraft and you are not a signatory carrier, they will be subject to detention and fines. I know of an example where a passenger arrived from Italy without a Visa on a U.S. registered private jet that was not a signatory. He was levied a $4,000 fine.
  • It is even more complicated that that. I know of an example where a British national arrived into the United States without a Visa but on the Visa Waiver Program on British Airways (legal to do). Then that person went to Canada on a private jet but wasn't allowed to return because that private jet operator was not a signatory. The passenger was forced to find his way to another airport to return to the U.S. on Air Canada, who is a signatory.

So, if you are not a Visa Waiver Program signatory, you must ensure all of your passengers have Visas, even if they complain they didn't need a Visa on their last trip aboard the airlines. There are, as always, exceptions. (See Visa Exempt Visitors, above.)

Customs Concerns

[AIP, §GEN 1.3, ¶1]

  • Incoming passengers are required to complete a customs declaration. All baggage or articles belonging to the disembarking passengers are subject to customs inspection. Permission of the Customs officer is required prior to discharging any merchandise or baggage not previously cleared by Customs or prior to permitting passengers or persons employed on the aircraft not cleared by Customs to depart unless such removal or departure is necessary for the purpose of safety or the preservation of life or property. In case of an emergency or forced landing, Customs, Immigration, Public Health, and Agriculture officials must be notified immediately.
  • No departure formalities are required upon departure for embarking passengers.

Immigration Concerns

[AIP, §GEN 1.3, ¶2]

  • Aircraft operators are required to present all persons for U.S. immigration inspection. Aliens must comply with all provisions of current immigration laws and regulations. Aliens who are lawfully domiciled residents of the U.S., must, with certain exceptions not generally applicable here, present their valid alien registration cards (Form I−151) issued by the Immigration Office. U.S. citizens must be able to satisfy inspectors of their citizenship and should, therefore, carry with them sufficient identification.
  • Valid passports and visas are required for all alien passengers arriving and departing on the same or through flights or transferring to another flight at the same or a nearby airport. The visa requirement may be exempted for passengers in direct transit with a layover period of up to eight hours who are passengers on scheduled air carriers which are signatory to a previously approved transit agreement with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
  • An alien passenger entering the U.S. for the purpose of immigration must hold a valid passport and an immigration visa, the latter being issued at U.S. Consulates abroad. Temporary visitors must be in possession of a valid passport and visa.
  • Flight crew members must be in possession of a valid passport and visa regardless of length of stay unless the crew members are exempted through previous agreement.

Form I-94

[AIP, §GEN 1.3, ¶2.6]

  • The captain or agent of every aircraft (other than private) arriving in the U.S. from a foreign place or from an outlying possession of the U.S. is responsible for and must ensure that an arrival/departure card (Form I−94) is prepared by each nonresident alien passenger and is presented to the immigration officer at the port of arrival. The I−94 card, however, is not required for the citizens of Canada and the French islands of St. Piere and Migueion, near Newfoundland. In addition, an arrival/departure card is not required for an arriving, direct transit passenger at a U.S. port from which the passenger will depart directly to a foreign place or an outlying possession of the U.S. on the same flight, provided that a listing which includes the number of such direct transit passengers is provided or that the number of such passengers are noted on the U.S. Customs Service Form 7507 or on the International Civil Aviation Organization’s General Declaration and such passengers remain, during ground time, in a separate area under the direction and control of the Customs Service.
  • Captains of private aircraft not engaged in the carriage of persons or cargo for hire (nonrevenue flights) are not required to present arrival−departure cards (Form I−94). This, however, does not relieve a nonresident alien passenger from the responsibility of completing and submitting a Form I−94 to immigration officials when required. Most alien passengers must execute and present Form I−94 (revised March 1, 1986). Prior editions may not be used. Form I−94 must be completed by all persons except U.S. citizens, returning resident aliens, aliens with immigrant visas, and Canadians visiting or in transit. Mexican nationals in possession of Immigration Form I−86 or Form I−586 are exempt from Form I−94 reporting requirements when their itinerary is limited to California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas and will not exceed 72 hours in duration. This exemption does not apply when travel will exceed 25 miles from the international border between Mexico and the U.S. Travel to Nevada by Mexican nationals is exempted for periods of less than 30 days. Mexican nationals proceeding to destinations more than 25 miles from the border in these states will have to obtain a visitor’s permit I−444 when arriving in the U.S. Mexican nationals presenting official or diplomatic passports and destined to the U.S. for purposes other than permanent assignment are exempted from Form I−94 reporting requirements.
  • The captain or agent of every aircraft (other than private) departing from the U.S. for a foreign place or an outlying possession of the U.S. is responsible for and must ensure that all alien passengers on board (except for citizens of Canada and the French islands of St. Piere and Migueion, near Newfoundland), surrender to the immigration officer at the port of departure, prior to departure, the passport copy of the arrival/departure card (Form I−94) which was completed upon arrival in the U.S. Aircraft departing on regularly scheduled flights from the U.S., however, may collect the cards and defer their presentation, along with either the Bureau of Customs Form 7507 or the ICAO General Declaration, containing the listing of alien direct transit passengers for whom the arrival/departure card was not prepared upon arrival.
  • Private aircraft owners are responsible for the proper completion and submission of Form I−94 for all crew and passengers affected by the reporting requirement. Departure documents should be annotated on the reverse of the document to indicate Port of Departure and Date of Departure. Following Carrier, print the word PRIVATE. In the space provided for Flight Number/Ship Name, print the aircraft’s tail number. Departure documents should be submitted to a U.S. Immigration or U.S. Customs inspector at the time of departure from the U.S. or mailed to the Appalachian Computer Service address in London, KY. Aircraft owners are responsible for the submission of all I−94 Departure Records upon departure to a foreign destination.

Quarantine Concerns

Under "quarantine" we are generally concerned with public health, food items, and things like firearms.

Public Health Requirements

[AIP, §GEN 1.3, ¶3]

  • Disembarking passengers are not required to present a vaccination certificate except when coming directly from an area infected with cholera, yellow fever, or smallpox. Smallpox vaccination is necessary only if, within the 14 days before arrival, the traveler has been in a country reporting smallpox.
  • The pilot in command of an aircraft destined for a U.S. airport must report immediately to the Quarantine Station at or nearest the airport at which the aircraft will arrive, the occurrence, on board, of any death or any ill person among passengers or crew.
  • Ill person is defined as:

  • Temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or greater accompanied by rash, glandular swelling, or jaundice, or which has persisted for more than 48 hours; or
  • Diarrhea, defined as the occurrence in a 24−hour period of three or more loose stools or of a greater than normal (for the person) amount of loose stools.
  • The pilot in command is responsible for detaining the aircraft and persons and things arriving thereon and keeping them free from unauthorized contact pending release when required by Sections 71.31, 71.46, 71.62, 71.63, and 71.102 of the Foreign Quarantine Regulations of the Public Health Service (Part 71, Title 42, Code of Federal Regulations).

Garbage and Refuse

[AIP, §GEN 1.4, ¶2.1] The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Plant Protection and Quarantine Division (PPQ), has strict requirements regarding the entry, handling and disposition of garbage and galley refuse on all flights arriving from any foreign country, except Canada (7 CFR Parts 94 and 330).

The Fixed Base Operator should be well versed in handling what is known as "international trash." They will usually double bag it and send it off for incineration. If you are caught failing to comply with these steps, there can be fines levied.

Generally Allowed Food Items

[AIP, §GEN 1.4, ¶2]

  • Meat, meat products, milk, live birds, poultry, or other domestic farm animals can only enter the U.S. under certain conditions from certain countries under the regulations of the PPQ.
  • No insects or other plant pests must knowingly be transported into the U.S. If the pilot of any aircraft has reason to believe any flying or crawling insects are aboard his/her aircraft, such information should be relayed to the nearest PPQ office or inspector when landing
  • Permits are required to bring most fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, etc., into the U.S. from foreign countries. A guide to restricted or prohibited products can be secured from any PPQ office.

It is actually easier than it sounds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offer online resources to help you determine what food can and cannot be brought into the country.

[http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/home] — Click "Resources" / "Travelers International" and under "Related Links" select "Generally Allow Food and Agricultural Items by Category"

The following food items are generally allowed entry:

  • Condiments such as oil, vinegar, mustard, catsup, pickles, syrup, honey without honey combs, jelly, and jam.
  • Foodstuffs such as bakery items, candy, and chocolate.
  • Hard cured cheeses without meat, such as Parmesan or cheddar.
  • Canned goods and goods in vacuum-packed jars (except those containing meat or poultry products) for personal use.
  • Fish or fish products for personal use.
  • Powdered drinks sealed in original containers with ingredients listed in English
  • Dry mixes containing dairy and egg ingredients (such as baking mixes, cocoa mixes, drink mixes, instant cake mixes, instant pudding mixes, liquid drink mixes containing reconstituted dry milk or dry milk products, potato flakes, and infant formula) that are commercially labeled, presented in final finished packaging, and require no further manipulation of the product are generally allowed.

Remember, you must declare all food and agricultural products, including those listed above, to a CBP agriculture specialist or officer when you arrive in the United States.

Fruits and Vegetables

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) maintains a website where you plug in the country or the food item and get a ruling on import. The web site is: epermits.aphis.usda.gov.

If you enter "Papaya," for example, you will find out you can never bring one to Hawaii. You are also restricted from bringing any papaya from Chile, Ecuador, or Malaysia to any port of the United States.

The web site works well but the list is rather large. If you are en route and don't have an Internet connection, the USDA publishes phone numbers for inquiries: 1-301-851-2046 or 1-877-770-5990.

Animal Products and Animal By-Products

[http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/home] — Click "Resources" / "Travelers International" and then "Animal Products and By Products"

  • Meat, milk, egg, poultry, and products such as dried soup mix or bouillon, are either prohibited or restricted from entering the United States, depending on the types of animal diseases that occur in the country of origin. Fresh (chilled or frozen), dried, cured, and fully cooked meat is generally prohibited from most countries. Canned meat is allowed entry, except beef, veal, lamb, mutton, venison, elk, bison, etc., from countries affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
  • Products containing raw egg ingredients are not allowed from most regions.
  • Pork and pork products are not allowed from Mexico, except for cooked pork in small amounts for a meal.
  • Effective January 14, 2010, cooked pork skins (also known as pork rinds) entering as commercial cargo or in passenger baggage from some countries must be accompanied by additional documents. For more details, contact USDA's National Center for Import and Export at (301) 734-3277, or email AskNCIE.Products@aphis.usda.gov

Firearms

[AIP, ¶ 1.7] Transportation of firearms by aircraft passengers. Regulations of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division of the Internal Revenue Service make it unlawful for any person knowingly to deliver or cause to be delivered to any common or contract carrier for transportation or shipment in interstate or foreign commerce, to persons other than licensed importers, licensed manufacturers, licensed dealers, or licensed collectors, any package or other container in which there is any firearm or ammunition without written notice to the carrier that such firearm or ammunition is being transported or shipped; except that any passenger who owns or legally possesses a firearm or ammunition being transported aboard any common or contract carrier for movement with the passenger in interstate or foreign commerce may deliver said firearm or ammunition into the custody of the pilot, captain, conductor or operator of such common or contract carrier for the duration of the trip.

The regulations that apply to carrying concealed firearms on an airport or into an FBO fall can under the jurisdiction of U.S. federal and/or the local state government, depending on where you are on airport property. A good place to start when considering traveling into the U.S. with firearms is the Transportation Security Administration's page on the subject: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/transporting-firearms-and-ammunition

Non-immigrant aliens who bring firearms or ammunition into the United States for hunting or sporting purposes must obtain an approved import permit from ATF prior to entering the United States. Guidelines for obtaining such a permit are available at: https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/docs/firearms-imporation-verification-guidebook-general-informationpdf/download.

Violations

[USDA - APHIS] Individuals who fail to declare non-commercial agricultural items may be subject to penalties ranging from $1,100 to $60,000 per violation. These penalties are based on authorities granted to USDA through the Plant Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act.

If you discover a banned item on the aircraft it is best to declare it on inspection. I've done that and had the item confiscated, which was better than the times the item was discovered and the passenger was forced to write a check. More about this: Agriculture Import.

Clearing Customs

At some airports, the customs office is a huge complex with their own ramp, very large building, and regal entrances. At others? Not so much . . .

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Photo: The Hanscom Field Customs Shack, (Photo by Jon Cain)

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The procedures for clearing customs at various airports are not standardized and you would be wise to ask someone who has cleared customs at your planned destination for pointers, or simply ask the airport's customs office when setting things up. A few things to consider

  • The airport customs officer might have specific tolerances on your arrival ETA, above and beyond those specified in the eAPIS.
  • The airport customs office may require you to keep the aircraft door closed until the officer approaches.
  • Though their regulations say you can keep the APU running if the exhaust is more than 8 feet high, some customs officers will insist you do a full shutdown so they can do a walk around inspection of the aircraft. (This adds at least 15 minutes to the process for many of us.) Others won't even bother with the outside of the aircraft.
  • Some customs inspectors will insist on doing a Geiger counter inspection of the inside and out, even for a private aircraft. I once had an inspector carrying the Geiger counter but not use it. He told me it was only required for a commercial aircraft.
  • Passengers and crew will each need to have the necessary customs and immigrations paperwork, to include passports and visas (if required). All Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers are required to obtain a travel authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the U.S. under the VWP.
  • The Pilot in Command should carry copies of the APIS transmission and confirmation; and if applicable copies of U.S. Customs Bond, TSA Waiver and Border Overflight Exemptions (BOE).

You are probably wondering why there is such a wide variation of methods employed by inspectors of the same Federal department. Me too. But if you want to avoid these surprises, you might ask them directly when setting up your arrival: Do I need to shut down all power or can I leave the APU running? Should I leave the door closed until you approach? Do you expect any paperwork from me or will the eAPIS be sufficient? What are my arrival time tolerances and at what point should I call you?


So now that we've covered the legal procedures, lets take a look at some "local knowledge."

Philosophy

First, you got to "get your mind right." If you are coming from a region of the world where you need permission for all things aviation or nothing gets done without approval from Brussels, your are in for a liberating experience. But you need to understand how far this freedom goes.

Differences from ICAO Standards, Recommended Practices and Procedures

The ICAO offers a standard for the world to follow so that we all know how to fly our aircraft the same way, right? Well, almost. Every ICAO signatory is allowed to deviate from the standard provided they publish those differences in their AIP. The United States has many such differences, published in Section GEN 1.7 of the AIP. As of this writing, there are 108 pages of such differences. I recommend you first understand how your home country's rules and regulations differ from the ICAO standard and then skim these pages to see how the U.S. differs. Not every page will pertain to you and some might seem silly. But it is important to at least give them a quick look for the "gotchas" that could be important.

Things that might surprise you

Here are some things that might surprise you about flying in the United States:

  • "Cleared direct . . ." (The good) — Every air traffic control sector is connected in the continental United States and if traffic permits, you can often be cleared direct hundreds or thousands of miles down the line. In fact, you might try asking for that. "Request direct Columbus, or further down if you can do that." If the current sector says they can't, don't be discouraged, ask the next center.
  • "Cleared direct . . ." (The bad) — You may be used to getting assigned a Standard Instrument Departure (SID) or Standard Terminal Arrival Route (STAR) and flying that to its end. In the U.S. you can be taken off the procedure with expectations to rejoin it at some time. It pays to have the procedure out and to be familiar with the points along the way.
  • "Cleared direct . . ." (The ugly) — It isn't uncommon to be cleared to a point that isn't on your flight plan. It is either a mistake or there might be more routing you need to know about. In either case, just ask.
  • "Slots? We don't need no stinking slots!" — For a vast majority of airports, you simply file the flight plan and go. There are exceptions here and there. During ski season, for example, you often need slots for some of the more popular mountain destinations.
  • Engine Start — You very rarely need approval to start engines. If there are restrictions, you will normally hear about that on ATIS. (More about that in a bit.)
  • IFR Clearance — You can normally ask for your clearance 30 minutes before the filed departure time, though some airports will retrieve it for you early if you need it. Clearances are usually good for two hours, but you can ask for extensions.
  • Arrivals — Some airports want you on a Standard Terminal Arrival Route (STAR) and will keep you on it until the instrument approach. Other airports will vector you to final. If you have a preference to fly an instrument approach, request it. (That may delay you a little since they then have to enforce spacing rules.) Most U.S. pilots have a preference to fly visual approaches and many airports also prefer that.
  • Vacating the Runway — Most airports assume you are going to spend a minimum time on the runway and will take the first convenient exit point. If you have a reason to do something else, just ask.
  • Taxi instructions — If your call sign obviously places you in the "not from here" category, most controllers will speak more slowly and with less jargon. But sometimes they don't. Very long taxi instructions can be given too quickly to really comprehend unless you are a local. If you are at an airport where the taxiway numbers exhaust all 26 available letters, (such as Taxiway AA, AB, and so on), be prepared for this. Just tell the controller your English isn't quite as good as his, "say again slowly, please" should get the message across.
  • Spacing (in the air) — When the weather is good it seems that all air traffic control spacing goes out the window, they will pack you in tight. You should become familiar with the rules dealing with wake turbulence and wing tip vortices. More about this: Wing Tip Vortices.
  • Spacing (on the ground) — You will find your ground marshalers often try to pack too much airplane into too little parking space. (There is a light pole at KJFK that gets at least one GV/550 wing tip every year.) I've never hesitated to set the parking brake and have a look for myself. (This saved me once.)
  • Non-metric — There are only three countries in the world that are not on the metric systems (Liberia, Myanmar and the United States). While much of the world understands what the imperial system is, many in the United States are willfully clueless about kilograms and liters. So when you order your fuel, do so in U.S. gallons, simply known as "gallons." An easy way to convert pounds of fuel (not kilograms) is to divide the number of pounds by ten and add half again as much. For example, 1,000 pounds of fuel becomes 100 and half again (50) to become 150 gallons. I have a cheat sheet that includes liters here: Cockpit Reference Guide.

Confused? Take a page from what we U.S. pilots do when in your countries. Show up a little early. If you see a pilot who speaks the same language, ask for any pointers they may have. Tune up the local ATIS and listen for any clues. Then monitor clearance delivery, ground control, and tower for a while. Study the progression from one to the others. Are other pilots asking for permission to start or taxi? Are pilots being asked to monitor separate frequencies prior to ground control? Are pilots automatically switching to tower from ground? Listening to ground control can save you a lot of heartache at times. Teterboro, for example, will sometimes institute a metering program that can delay your departure for hours. (I once had a six hour delay.) If you didn't know that, you would start engines and request taxi before you found out.

At most locations, you get your clearance on clearance delivery if they have one, ground control if they don't. You rarely need clearance before engine start but you will need clearance to taxi. At some airports, when you get close to the departure runway, you will simply change frequency on your own. (But not every airport is like that.) After getting your takeoff clearance, if you are told to contact departure control, you do that once airborne. If you aren't told that, wait until tower instructs you after takeoff.

If you can find someone who has already been to the airports you will be visiting, take a page from professional golfers: "local knowledge trumps all."

Even if you don't know anyone with local knowledge, there are other sources available to you:

  • NBAA Airmail — There are forums for just about everything and if you don't see what you want, you can ask. (Help is just a click away.)
  • NBAA International Feedback — You can find out what other pilots are saying about the airports before you go.
  • Ops.group "Slack" — The ops.group is one of your best sources. It isn't free, but I think it is well worth the price.
  • Social Media — Facebook, for example, has several groups that can connect you to pilots with the local knowledge you need. You can try "CAJL International Flight Planning" or "Professional Jet Pilots" to get started.

Now strap in for a few more hints of a more specific nature.

Phraseology: "Speakin' 'merican"

When I flew for Compaq Computer out of Houston, Texas, I once visited Warsaw, Poland and was at a local trade show with a fellow Compaq pilot. I don't think I have an accent of any kind and neither did my fellow pilot. While we were looking in a particular shop the salesman asked where in the U.S. we were from. "Texas," we both said. "You don't sound like Texans," he said. "Everyone from Texas sounds this way," we said, thinking that funny.

The U.S., like much of the world, has become a melting pot of foreign speakers. And even us "natives" tend to move around. So rather than address these local dialects, let's talk about the slang you may hear on the radio or at the airport.

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Photo: John Wayne

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A Glossary

The NBAA provides a glossary of airspace management terms: https://www.nbaa.org/ops/airspace/tfm/glossary/.

You might also look at the FAA version: http://www.fly.faa.gov/FAQ/Acronyms/acronyms.jsp.

Numbers

You may find we Americans can be a bit sloppy on the subject of numbers in aviation:

  • Tens versus hundreds versus thousands — We tend to use these interchangeably for almost no reason. It could be a particular person has a particular way of talking, or the same person may not be consistent just for the sake of variety. Ordering 1,200 gallons of fuel, for example, can be "twelve hundred" or "one thousand, two hundred."
  • Headings — 000 ("zero, zero, zero") can be "zero" can be "three-sixty" can be "north." 090 ("zero niner zero") can be "east" can be "ninety." 180 ("one eight zero") can be "one-eight" can be "one-hundred-eighty" can be "south." 270 ("two-seven-zero") can be "two-seventy" can be "two-hundred-seventy" can be "west."
  • Flight Levels — The U.S. pilot/controller glossary does not recognize "flight level one hundred" and so on, but you may hear it used now and then. We are technically supposed to say "flight level" and the following three numbers in sequence. But you might hear "flight level two fifty" or even "flight level two hundred fifty." But for the most part, most pilots in the U.S. adhere to each number in turn, such as "flight level two fife zero."
  • Number pronunciation — Not many pilots adhere to the pronunciation of numbers as given in the AIP. "Tree" is usually "three." "Fife" is usually "five." "Niner" is usually "nine."

Slang

Air traffic controllers tend to be good about avoiding confusing slang but you will often hear it from other pilots. Knowing what they are talking about will help your situational awareness.

  • "Angels" — means thousand of feet
  • "Bingo" — means minimum fuel
  • "Bogey" — means target, as when calling out traffic
  • "Charlie, Charlie" — means "yes"
  • "Fish finder" — means TCAS
  • "No joy" — means the traffic, airport, or navigational aid is not in sight or received
  • "Popeye" — in the weather (look at the world with one eye shut)
  • "Smash" — means speed
  • "Soup" — means weather
  • "Speed of heat" — very, very fast
  • "Tally Ho" — means traffic is in sight

Accents and Enunciation

You aren't alone if you find some U.S. accents hard to understand. Our chief mechanic has a very strong Boston accent and when we are in Savannah for maintenance I have to translate some of his sentences to our Southern mechanics. I've found the best way to deal with this is just plainly state your confusion. "I'm not from around here, please say again more slowly."

I'm not sure it is a problem unique to us in the United States, but many of us do tend to mumble into the microphone and it can be difficult to understand. Even those of us who have the problem tend to know it is a problem and a simple "Say again, please?" should be enough to prompt us to speak more clearly.

Radio Etiquette

You may find U.S. radio etiquette more relaxed and casual than in Europe, Asia, or just about anywhere else. This can be good, bad, or ugly.

  • Good — You can quite often get your message across more easily by simply stating what you want as plainly as possible. "Request direct Wichita," for example tells the controller what you want. But try this: "Request direct Wichita or anywhere along the line to save some gas."
  • Bad — Some pilots may use three or four sentences to arrive at the question they really mean to ask, tying up the frequency. This is considered bad form in any country.
  • Ugly — Some U.S. pilots don't understand that their extraneous talk prevents others from getting their messages through. You will often hear pilots talking about sports scores and other completely unnecessary topics. Don't be tempted to follow their leads.

VFR Traffic: "The Hornet's Nest"

What is a hornet, you might ask? It is a bee with a bad attitude. A common attitude you might see on a U.S. motorway is a driver with the attitude that says, "I own this road, get out of my way." Sometimes I think some VFR pilots have that attitude. You need to keep an eye out for them.

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Photo: The Oshkosh North 40

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Much of the world flocks to the United States for flight training because it is relatively easier here, there is a lot of airspace open to anyone with an airplane, and there are a lot of small airplanes. That's all good, right? Well consider this:

  • Some of those airplanes do not even have a basic radio and quite a few don't have transponders.
  • There are aircraft flying under visual flight rules up to 18,000 feet.
  • Many of the airports favored for training have a mix of high speed jet and low speed propeller-driven aircraft traffic.

So, even if you are flying under an instrument rules flight plan you will need to keep your eyes out of the cockpit when below 18,000 feet, especially in a traffic pattern.

Unique Airports: "The Mad House"

If you are a seasoned world traveler and Tokyo Narita or Paris Le Bourget are no big deal to you, then you will probably be okay for many U.S. airports. But not all.

The major international airports

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Photo: Los Angeles International Airport

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Most major U.S. international airports are very well mannered; if you can handle Le Bourget, you will have no problems. In the category I would include Los Angeles (KLAX), Chicago O'Hare (KORD), and Dallas-Fort Worth (KDFW).

That is not always the case, however. If you are headed for a major U.S. hub without prior experience, you should ask around for advice from someone who has. The ones I would think twice about:

  • New York John F. Kennedy (KJFK) — The traffic is very dense, some of the arrival procedures are fairly complicated, and once you are on the ground things really get complicated.
  • Newark (KEWR) — The airport itself is fine, but the surrounding area may be one of the densest in the world in terms of air traffic. You will be contending with JFK, La Guardia, and Teterboro.
  • San Francisco (KSFO) — Everything is fairly straight forward except the arrivals to Runways 28L and 28R. Take a look at the Quiet Bridge arrival and be aware aircraft are sequenced to normally alternate and avoid TCAS resolution alerts. But things don't always work out as planned.

The corporate hubs

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Figure: Teterboro ILS Runway 06 Circle to Runway 01, Unstable Approach, No wind, from GoogleEarth with Eddie's Scribbles.

There are more than a few other corporate aviation hubs that have a few challenges you need to think about before trying. In each of these cases, it pays to look at the arrivals, approaches, and airfield diagrams with the thought: "what can go wrong?" You might consider asking someone who has been before you venture to these airports for the first time: (in order of difficulty level, in my opinion)

  • Teterboro, NJ (KTEB) — Not many airports in the world can rival the pandemonium found on a normal weekday at Teterboro Airport, New Jersey. You will rarely find a routine arrival there, that is one where you are vectored for a straight-in approach that ends with an ILS you are allowed to simply intercept and then land. If you've never been to Teterboro, it will really be to your benefit to try a few of the circling approaches in a simulator. Circling? If you fly routinely to Teterboro, about half your approaches will be off circles. But circling at IFR minimums is easy by comparison. See the KTEB Circling Conundrum for more about this. More about the airport: KTEB.
  • New York area, NJ, NY — Any airport below or near the KJFK Class B Airspace will pose unique problems. Flying into Caldwell (KCDW), Morristown (KMMU), or White Plains (KHPN) will require you keep your situational awareness at its best. The other two major airports in the area, La Guardia (KLGA) and Newark (KEWR), are also challenges, but since nearly all of that traffic is IFR you will have a little less chaos.
  • Chicago Midway, IL (KMDW) — Chicago Midway can be exceptionally easy or exceptionally hard. If the weather is good and the winds allow a straight-in to the runways 31C or 31R, the only remaining challenge will be to fit in with all the 737s arriving and departing. The controllers will pack you in, spacing between aircraft will be critical, and your exit time on the runways closely watched. But other than that, no issues. If, on the other hand, it is snowing or the winds require circling to the other runways, things get more challenging. More about this airport: KMDW.
  • Los Angeles area, CA — Flying into one of the airports below or around the KLAX Class B Airspace can be hectic. While flying into Los Angeles International Airport (KLAX) is fairly easy for anyone with experience at larger international airports, the same cannot be said for Van Nuys (KVNY), Burbank (KBUR), Hawthorne (KHHR), Santa Monica (KSNA), and Fullerton (KFUL). For these you need to keep your ears and eyes open; there will be a lot of VFR traffic and you don't have a lot of airspace to play with.

Presidential Airports

Any place Air Force One shows up can turn into a challenge, but the two airports that are most often impacted are these:

  • Ronald Reagan National (KDCA) — Even without the White House sitting a few miles away, this airport would still be a challenge. But given the way much of the nearby airspace is off limits, you cannot fly to this airport without knowing what you are doing. Besides that, there are a lot of other hoops to jump through before you go to KDCA. See TFRs, below.
  • Palm Beach International (KPBI) — This airport is usually quite easy, but if the President happens to be in the area, things get a little more complicated. See Mar-a-lago Playbook.

Mountainous Areas

There are unique aircraft performance and aircrew procedural challenges when flying into many of the airports near mountainous terrain. You should study arrival and departure charts as a minimum. You may want to give these airports a try in a simulator first. I would pay particular attention to Aspen, CO (KASE), Eagle, CO (KEGE), and Hailey, ID (KSUN).

The FAA puts out a list of airports with mountainous terrain considerations: http://fsims.faa.gov/wdocs/opss%20guidance/specialairportlistrevisionfeb2010.htm.

If you are going to Aspen, look at Jason Herman's excellent tutorial: KASE.

You might also want to see the following course: Departure Obstacle Analysis.

Tech Stops

You have to clear customs, even if you are just stopping for fuel. If you are stopping for fuel prior to your eventual U.S. destination, you will have to do that someplace where U.S. customs is available.

Stopping for fuel when you need customs can be easy or can be hard, airport selection is key. The following airports generally offer a 45 minute turn and are better than the big city alternatives. They are open 24-hours, though you might need to call ahead for customs at some hours. There are no PPRs or SLOTS, but you will need to call ahead for landing approval at Great Falls.

  • Fairbanks, AK (PAFA) — Fairbanks is on the great circle route to and from Asia, offers good fuel pricing, has short notice customs, and has better weather than Anchorage (PANC). We used to favor Anchorage for getting our crews in and out on the airlines, but that is no longer a problem.
  • Bangor, ME (KBGR) — Bangor has everything you need without the delays you will find in the New York area. Boston Logan has improved its customs service but their fuel pricing is terrible.
  • Great Falls, MT (KGTF) — Great Falls is quick and fast and if you are coming from Europe going someplace on the West Coast without customs, this would be a good option.
  • Duluth, MN (KDLH) Duluth is another good option when heading for the West Coast to a destination without customs.
  • Brownsville, TX (KBRO) Brownsville offers quick turns and customs for those arriving from South America.

IFR Flight Plans

Filing a flight plan in the United States is a bit easier than in Europe or most of Asia. There are a few "gotchas" when the airspace gets busy, however.

A few pointers about timing:

  • File using the FAA/ICAO flight plan form, make sure the equipment codes reflect what is approved for the aircraft, the operator, and the flight crew.
  • File a realistic departure time. While some U.S. pilots routinely file 30 minutes early, that could come back to bite you if you get an Expected Departure Clearance Time (EDCT). If you aren't able to go by the EDCT, you may find yourself behind a very long line. More about this: EDCT.
  • Submit your flight plan as far in advance as possible, the night before if possible. Filing before 0700 ET allows you to become “known demand” and might put you ahead of others who filed after this time.
  • The airspace can be smoothly operating in one part of the country and then become completely bogged down in another and things grind to a halt nationwide. You could, for example, be flying from the New York area to Florida and be held on the ground because of the weather in the Midwest. Submitting a flight plan after an Airspace Flow Program (AFP) or Ground Delay Program (GDP) is instituted can significantly increase delays. Read more about these programs at: EDCT.
  • Once you have an EDCT, do not re-file unless you are filing a “Route Out” option for an AFP – otherwise, the flight becomes a “pop-up.” Ask ATC if they can replan a route for you. That should be your fastest way forward.
  • You can help things along if you tell clearance delivery what you are willing to do. Saying you are "overwater capable," for example, can speed you along if the overland routes are congested. Years ago you could beat flow into one city by filing to another and then refiling in the air. But don't do that, ATC is wise to these tricks and may deny your attempts to refile in the air.

A few pointers about route selection:

  • File an IFR Preferred Route or a Coded Departure Route (CDR) that does not require coordination.
  • File “direct routing” only in more sparsely populated areas of the U.S.; you are generally better off staying on victor airways and jet routes.
  • If RNAV capable, file RNAV SIDs and RNAV STARs to improve the odds of getting what you file. (Do not file a conventional SID or STAR.)

A few more pointers about departure delays:

  • Advise ATC that you are willing to use non-standard routes or altitudes, such as switching to a different departure fix or flying lower altitudes.
  • Tell ATC you “Can accept non-standard routing or non-standard altitudes”
  • Let ATC know you can use Overwater Routes (e.g., route over AZEZU west of Atlantic Warning Areas), if you are able.

Weather

The weather in the U.S. can be found throughout the world, but not in the same combinations.

images

Photo: Supercell Thunderstorm, Over Chaparral, NM, April 3, 2004 (Photo: Greg Lundeen)

Click photo for a larger image

We have towering thunderstorms than can outclimb aircraft and reach into the 50,000 and higher range. We have snow in parts of the Northeast that are more commonly found in more mountainous areas. Hail? The size of oranges. Here is what I worry about:

A Few Weather Links:

We have a lot of weather information available on the web as well as other things to worry about. More of all of that: Weather.

Getting Help

You can improve your odds . . .

I believe most aviation professionals in the United States understand the challenge of flying in this country for someone who doesn't speak our American version of English and hasn't dealt with our unique blend of IFR and VFR traffic. While many of us can seem ill mannered, impatient, and rude, most of us realize it does nobody any good if we make life hard for you. So my advice is to make sure everyone knows you are not a local. The best way to do that is with your radio call sign. If your call sign begins with "Japan Air . . ." or "X-ray Alpha . . ." you should be seeing us on our best behavior. But if that doesn't happen, just let us know. In fact, I use this technique when I am the foreigner. "Sir I am sorry I am having difficulty communicating. What I really need to do is ____."

Other Helpful links:

  • FileSmart: filesmart.org — FileSmart is a public awareness initiative, designed to educate aircraft operators of the importance of filing timely and accurate flight plans, helping them to avoid air traffic delays and operate more efficiently in the National Airspace System.
  • NBAA Traffic Flow Management (TFM) Resources: nbaa.org/ops/airspace/ — The NBAA has provided resources to allow operators of all sizes of business aircraft to maximize their efficient operation through the U.S. National Airspace System.

Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs)

I left this part for last because it can be daunting. You don't need to read this particular TFR unless you are flying into the Washington DC Area. But you need to know what a TFR is and how to check them. I know I said flying in the U.S. is easy. And it is, except when it isn't . . .

The FAA will come down with Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) for political, sports, or other situations, with almost no notice at all. It is something you should check prior to every flight. You can do that here: https://www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/airspace_restrictions/.

One particular TFR isn't so temporary and bears considerable watching when you are flying in the Washington, D.C. area: (Please note not all TFRs are this scary)

  • FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 1 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, WASHINGTON, DC. THIS NOTAM AND COMPLEMENTARY NOTAMS REPLACE FDC 6/6464 TO PROVIDE UPDATED INSTRUCTIONS. THIS NOTAM REFERENCES THE WASHINGTON DC FLIGHT RESTRICTED ZONE (FRZ) PROCEDURES. A SEPARATE NOTAM REFERENCES THE WASHINGTON DC SPECIAL FLIGHT RULES AREA (SFRA) PROCEDURES. SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS FOR AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS IN THE DC FLIGHT RESTRICTED ZONE (FRZ), A PART OF THE DC SPECIAL FLIGHT RULES AREA (SFRA), ARE IN EFFECT PURSUANT TO 14 CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS (CFR) SECTIONS 93.335, 93.337, 93.339, 93.341, 93.343, 93.345, AND 99.7, AND 49 UNITED STATES CODE (USC) SECTION 40103(B)(3). THIS NOTAM AND THREE RELATED NOTAMS REGARDING THE: DC SFRA, EXCLUDING THE DC FRZ, WHICH IS ADDRESSED BY THIS NOTAM; THE LEESBURG MANEUVERING AREA (LMA); AND UNMANNED AIRCRAFT SYSTEM (UAS) OPERATIONS IN THE DC SFRA CLARIFY AND SUPPLEMENT THE OPERATING REQUIREMENTS PRESCRIBED BY THE CITED 14 CFR SECTIONS.
  • SECTION I. RESPONSE AND ENFORCEMENT: PURSUANT TO 49 USC 40103(B)(3), THE FAA HAS ESTABLISHED THE DC FRZ, A PART OF THE DC SFRA, AS 'NATIONAL DEFENSE AIRSPACE'. PERSONS WHO DO NOT ADHERE TO THE PROCEDURES PRESCRIBED BY THE CITED 14 CFR SECTIONS AND THIS NOTAM MAY FACE THE FOLLOWING RESPONSE AND ENFORCEMENT ACTION OUTLINED: A. PILOTS OF AIRCRAFT THAT DO NOT ADHERE TO THE PROCEDURES IN THE SPECIAL 1610120301-PERM END PART 1 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 2 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, SECURITY REQUIREMENTS CONTAINED IN THIS NOTAM MAY BE INTERCEPTED, AND/OR DETAINED AND INTERVIEWED BY FEDERAL, STATE, OR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT, OR OTHER GOVERNMENT PERSONNEL. B. PILOTS OF AIRCRAFT THAT DO NOT ADHERE TO THE PROCEDURES IN THE SPECIAL SECURITY REQUIREMENTS CONTAINED IN THIS NOTAM MAY FACE FAA ADMINISTRATIVE ENFORCEMENT ACTION, INCLUDING IMPOSING CIVIL PENALTIES AND THE SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION OF AIRMEN CERTIFICATES. C. ANY PERSON WHO KNOWINGLY OR WILLFULLY VIOLATES THE RULES CONCERNING OPERATIONS IN THIS AIRSPACE MAY BE SUBJECT TO CRIMINAL PENALTIES UNDER 49 USC SECTION 46307. D. THE U.S. GOVERNMENT MAY USE DEADLY FORCE AGAINST A FLIGHT OPERATING IN THE DC SFRA, INCLUDING THE DC FRZ, IF IT IS DETERMINED THAT THE AIRCRAFT POSES AN IMMINENT SECURITY THREAT.
  • SECTION II. OPERATING REQUIREMENTS: ALL AIRCRAFT FLIGHT OPERATIONS ARE PROHIBITED WITHIN THE DC FRZ, A PART OF THE DC SFRA, UNLESS IN COMPLIANCE WITH 14 CFR SECTIONS 93.335, 93.337, 93.339, 93.341, 93.343, AND 93.345, AND THE FOLLOWING SUPPLEMENTAL SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS REQUIRED PURSUANT TO 14 CFR SECTION 99.7 AND 49 USC SECTION 40103(B)(3): A. APPLICATION OF DEFINITIONS IN 14 CFR SECTION 93.335: 1. A DC FRZ FLIGHT PLAN MUST BE FILED WITH FLIGHT SERVICE AT 866-225-7410. 2. A DC FRZ FLIGHT PLAN IS REQUIRED FOR VISUAL FLIGHT 1610120301-PERM END PART 2 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 3 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, RULES (VFR) OPERATIONS IN THE DC FRZ. PILOTS MAY NOT FILE A DC FRZ FLIGHT PLAN WHILE AIRBORNE. B. ADDITIONS TO REQUIREMENTS IN 14 CFR SECTION 93.341-DC FRZ: 1. AIRCRAFT OPERATING IN THE DC FRZ MUST BE EQUIPPED WITH AN OPERABLE TWO WAY RADIO CAPABLE OF COMMUNICATING WITH AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL (ATC) ON APPROPRIATE RADIO FREQUENCIES OR UNICOM. IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THAT A PILOT CONTINUOUSLY MONITOR VHF FREQUENCY 121.5 OR UHF FREQUENCY 243.0 FOR EMERGENCY INSTRUCTIONS WHEN OPERATING AN AIRCRAFT IN THE DC FRZ, EITHER IN AN AIRCRAFT THAT IS SUITABLY EQUIPPED, OR BY USE OF PORTABLE EQUIPMENT. 2. AIRCRAFT OPERATING VFR WITHIN OR TRANSITING THE DC FRZ WHO BECOMES AWARE OF AN INABILITY TO MAINTAIN RADIO CONTACT WITH ATC MUST IMMEDIATELY SQUAWK 7600 AND EXIT THE DC FRZ BY THE MOST DIRECT LATERAL ROUTE. A. IF THE DEPARTURE POINT IS WITHIN THE DC FRZ AND THE AIRCRAFT IS WITHIN 5 NM OF THE DEPARTURE POINT, THE PILOT MAY RETURN TO THE DEPARTURE POINT BY THE MOST DIRECT ROUTE. OTHERWISE, THE PILOT MUST EXIT THE DC FRZ VIA THE MOST DIRECT ROUTE. 3. ANY INSTRUMENT FLIGHT RULES (IFR) AIRCRAFT OPERATING WITHIN OR TRANSITING THE DC FRZ WHO BECOMES AWARE OF AN INABILITY TO MAINTAIN RADIO CONTACT WITH ATC MUST CONTINUE THE FLIGHT IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE TWO-WAY RADIO COMMUNICATIONS FAILURE PROCEDURES FOUND IN THE FAA 1610120301-PERM END PART 3 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 4 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, AERONAUTICAL INFORMATION MANUAL (AIM) AND/OR/ APPLICABLE FEDERAL AVIATION REGULATIONS (FAR). 4. AIRCRAFT OPERATING WITHIN OR TRANSITING THE DC FRZ WHO BECOMES AWARE OF AN INABILITY TO SQUAWK AN ASSIGNED TRANSPONDER CODE MUST IMMEDIATELY ADVISE ATC AND COMPLY WITH ALL INSTRUCTIONS. IF UNABLE TO CONTACT ATC, PILOTS MUST EXIT THE DC FRZ. A. IF THE DEPARTURE POINT IS WITHIN THE DC FRZ AND THE AIRCRAFT IS WITHIN 5 NM OF THE DEPARTURE POINT, THE PILOT MAY RETURN TO THE DEPARTURE POINT BY THE MOST DIRECT ROUTE. OTHERWISE, THE PILOT MUST EXIT THE DC FRZ VIA THE MOST DIRECT ROUTE. 5. THE FOLLOWING OPERATIONS ARE NOT AUTHORIZED WITHIN THE DC FRZ: A. FLIGHT TRAINING. B. AEROBATIC FLIGHT. C. PRACTICE INSTRUMENT APPROACHES. D. GLIDER OPERATIONS. E. PARACHUTE OPERATIONS F. ULTRA LIGHT, HANG GLIDING. G. BALLOON OPERATIONS. H. TETHERED BALLOONS. I. AGRICULTURE/CROP DUSTING J. ANIMAL POPULATION CONTROL FLIGHT OPERATIONS. K. BANNER TOWING OPERATIONS. L. MAINTENANCE TEST FLIGHTS. M. UAS (INCLUDING MODEL AIRCRAFT, CIVIL, AND PUBLIC OPERATIONS). N. MODEL ROCKETRY. O. FLOAT PLANE OPERATIONS. P. AIRCRAFT/HELICOPTERS OPERATING FROM A SHIP OR PRIVATE/CORPORATE YACHT. 6. TRANSIT FLIGHTS ARE PROHIBITED EXCEPT FOR APPROVED OPERATORS LANDING OR DEPARTING AIRPORTS WITHIN THE SFRA ON 1610120301-PERM END PART 4 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 5 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, ESTABLISHED ATC PROCEDURES. 7. ALL FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AND AIRCRAFT AIR AMBULANCE FLIGHTS MUST OBTAIN AND COMPLY WITH A FAA/TSA WAIVER FOR OPERATIONS WITHIN THE DC FRZ. 8. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (DOD) AND NATIONAL GUARD OPERATORS CONDUCTING VFR, ROTARY WING FLIGHTS IN THE DC FRZ MUST OBTAIN APPROVAL FROM THE FAA AT THE NCRCC AT 866-598-9525 PRIOR TO ENTERING THE FRZ. 9. APPROVED DOD, NATIONAL GUARD, LAW ENFORCEMENT, AND LIFEGUARD/AIR AMBULANCE OPERATORS MAY CONDUCT TRAINING/MAINTENANCE FLIGHTS WITHIN THE DC FRZ WITH PRIOR APPROVAL AND COORDINATION WITH THE FAA AT THE NCRCC AT 866-598-9522. A. THESE OPERATIONS ARE TO BE KEPT TO A MINIMUM CONSISTENT WITH FLIGHT SAFETY AND PILOT PROFICIENCY. 10. THE FAA OFFICE OF SYSTEM OPERATIONS SECURITY MAY EXEMPT OPERATORS FROM THE OUTLINED DC FRZ REQUIREMENTS BASED ON SAFETY, CRITICALITY, AND URGENCY OF THE PROPOSED FLIGHT. C. ADDITIONS TO REQUIREMENTS IN 14 CFR SECTION 93.341 - OPERATIONS AT RONALD REAGAN WASHINGTON NATIONAL AIRPORT (DCA): 1. PART 121 AND 129 REGULARLY SCHEDULED AIR CARRIER FLIGHTS OPERATING IN COMPLIANCE WITH A TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION (TSA) STANDARD SECURITY PROGRAM - THE APPROVED AIRCRAFT OPERATOR STANDARD SECURITY PROGRAM (AOSSP), FULL ALL CARGO AIRCRAFT OPERATOR STANDARD SECURITY PROGRAM (FACAOSSP) OR MODEL 1610120301-PERM END PART 5 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 6 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, SECURITY PROGRAM (MSP) - AND HAVE SPECIFIC AUTHORIZATION FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT), MAY LAND AND DEPART RONALD REAGAN WASHINGTON NATIONAL AIRPORT (DCA), AND ARE HEREIN REFERRED TO AS DCA APPROVED CARRIERS. 2. DCA APPROVED AIR CARRIERS, OPERATING UNSCHEDULED, CHARTER OR ADDITIONAL SECTIONS MAY OPERATE WITHOUT A WAIVER UNDER THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS: A. ALL OPERATIONS MUST BE CONDUCTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR TSA AOSSP AND MUST DEPART A TSA OR EQUIVALENT SCREENED TERMINAL GATE. B. THE TSA NCRCC MUST BE NOTIFIED BY TELEPHONE AT LEAST ONE HOUR PRIOR TO DEPARTURE AT 866-598-9520. C. UNSCHEDULED OPERATIONS AT DCA REQUIRE A SLOT RESERVATION. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED IN ADVISORY CIRCULAR (AC) 93-1. 3. ALL OTHER FLIGHTS MUST OBTAIN AN FAA/TSA WAIVER OR DCA ACCESS STANDARD SECURITY PROGRAM (DASSP) SECURITY AUTHORIZATION. ELIGIBLE OPERATIONS FOR A FAA/TSA WAIVER ARE LIMITED TO: A. U.S. GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS (GOV). B. ELECTED OFFICIALS (ELO). C. SPECIAL OPERATIONS (SPO). D. DOD, NATIONAL GUARD E. LAW ENFORCEMENT. F. AIR AMBULANCE FLIGHTS. G. FLIGHTS BEING OPERATED IN COMPLIANCE WITH A TSA APPROVED AOSSP BUT ARE NOT DCA APPROVED AIR CARRIERS. 4. UNSCHEDULED OPERATIONS AT DCA REQUIRE A SLOT RESERVATION. A. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED IN ADVISORY 1610120301-PERM END PART 6 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 7 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, CIRCULAR (AC) 93-1. 5. DOD, NATIONAL GUARD, AND FEDERALLY OWNED AND OPERATED AIRCRAFT ON AN OPERATIONAL MISSION, WITH PRIOR FAA APPROVAL, MAY LAND AND DEPART DCA WITHOUT A WAIVER. A. APPROVAL FROM THE FAA NCRCC MUST BE OBTAINED AT LEAST ONE HOUR PRIOR TO DEPARTURE VIA TELEPHONE AT 866-598-9522. 6. DOD, NATIONAL GUARD, AND FEDERALLY OWNED AND OPERATED AIRCRAFT ON A TRAINING OR FERRY FLIGHT MAY NOT LAND OR DEPART DCA UNLESS THE OPERATOR HAS APPLIED AND RECEIVED AN FAA/TSA WAIVER. 7. FOREIGN STATE OR DIPLOMATIC AIRCRAFT ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO LAND OR DEPART AT DCA. D. ADDITIONS TO REQUIREMENTS IN 14 CFR SECTION 93.341 - OPERATIONS AT ANDREWS AFB (ADW) AND DAVISON ARMY AIRFIELD (DAA): 1. DOD AND NATIONAL GUARD OWNED AND OPERATED AIRCRAFT MAY OPERATE AT ADW OR DAA WITHOUT AN FAA/TSA WAIVER AND ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SECURITY OF THEIR AIRCRAFT, CREW, AND PASSENGERS. 2. FEDERALLY OWNED AND OPERATED AIRCRAFT MAY OPERATE AT ADW OR DAA WITHOUT AN FAA/TSA WAIVER. A. THESE APPROVED GOVERNMENT OPERATORS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SECURITY OF THEIR AIRCRAFT, CREW, AND PASSENGERS AND ARE REQUIRED TO NOTIFY THE FAA AT THE NCRCC ONE HOUR PRIOR TO DEPARTURE AT 866-598-9522. 3. DCA APPROVED CARRIERS, OPERATING UNSCHEDULED OR CHARTER FLIGHTS INTO ADW OR DAA, IN SUPPORT OF U.S. GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS MAY OPERATE WITHOUT A WAIVER UNDER THE 1610120301-PERM END PART 7 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 8 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, FOLLOWING CONDITIONS: A. ALL OPERATIONS MUST BE CONDUCTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THEIR TSA AIRCRAFT OPERATORS STANDARD SECURITY PROGRAM (AOSSP), INCLUDING DEPARTING FROM A TSA OR EQUIVALENT SCREENED TERMINAL. B. NOTIFICATION TO THE TSA AT THE NCRCC VIA TELEPHONE AT 866-598-9520 IS REQUIRED AT LEAST ONE HOUR PRIOR TO DEPARTURE. 4. A FAA/TSA WAIVER IS REQUIRED FOR ALL: A. STATE GOVERNMENT AIRCRAFT. B. LOCAL GOVERNMENT AIRCRAFT. C. DOD CONTRACT OR NATIONAL GUARD CONTRACT INCLUDING CONTRACT AIRCRAFT USING MILITARY CALL SIGNS). D. ON DEMAND PASSENGER OR CARGO OPERATIONS. E. INCLUDING ALL PART 121, 125, 129, 135 FLIGHTS LANDING AND DEPARTING ADW OR DAA THAT ARE NOT OPERATED BY A DCA APPROVED CARRIER IN COMPLIANCE WITH A TSA APPROVED AOSSP. 5. NOTIFICATION TO THE TSA NCRCC VIA TELEPHONE AT 866-598-9520 IS REQUIRED AT LEAST ONE HOUR BEFORE DEPARTURE. 6. 14 CFR SECTION 93.341 (C)(4) STATES THAT PRIOR PERMISSION MAY BE REQUIRED TO LAND OR DEPART ADW OR DAA. A. A PRIOR PERMISSION REQUIRED (PPR) APPROVAL DOES NOT AUTHORIZE ENTRY INTO THE DC FRZ OR SUPERSEDE THESE NOTAM REQUIREMENTS. 7. FOREIGN OPERATED MILITARY OR FOREIGN STATE AIRCRAFT OPERATIONS WITH A U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT DIPLOMATIC CLEARANCE AND A PPR MAY LAND AND DEPART ONLY AT ADW WITHIN THE DC FRZ. A. DAA IS NOT AUTHORIZED FOR FOREIGN 1610120301-PERM END PART 8 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 9 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, DIPLOMATIC FLIGHTS. E. ADDITIONS TO REQUIREMENTS IN 14 CFR SECTION 93.343: 1. OPERATIONS TO OR FROM COLLEGE PARK AIRPORT (CGS), POTOMAC AIRFIELD (VKX), OR WASHINGTON EXECUTIVE/HYDE FIELD AIRPORT (W32): A DC SFRA FLIGHT PLAN WILL NOT FULFILL THE REQUIREMENTS OF A DC FRZ FLIGHT
  • SECTION III. RESOURCES: A. ANY PILOT QUESTIONS REGARDING DC SFRA OR FRZ PROCEDURES SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO THE FAA SYSTEM OPERATIONS SECURITY REPRESENTATIVE AT THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION COORDINATION CENTER (NCRCC) AT 9-AWA-ATS-NCRCC@FAA.GOV OR (866) 598-9522. B. FOR WAIVERS AND REQUIREMENTS IN THIS NOTAM THAT REQUIRE NOTIFICATION TO THE TSA AT THE NCRCC, CALL (866) 598-9520. C. THE LATEST POTOMAC TRACON (PCT) LETTER TO AIRMEN CAN BE FOUND AT: HTTP://NOTAMS.AIM.FAA.GOV/NOTAMSEARCH/ (SEARCH LOCATION PCT). D. INFORMATION ABOUT FAA/TSA AIRSPACE WAIVER APPLICATIONS AND TSA SECURITY AUTHORIZATIONS CAN BE FOUND AT WWW.TSA.GOV/FOR-INDUSTRY/GENERAL-AVIATION. E. INDIVIDUALS MAY SUBMIT A REQUEST FOR A FAA WAIVER AT WAIVERS.FAA.GOV AFTER NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS. F. FOR EMERGENCY OR SHORT NOTICE REQUESTS, CONTACT TSA AT THE NCRCC AT (866) 598-9520. G. FOR OPERATIONS IN THE DC FRZ, PILOTS WITH A WAIVER OR CONFIDENTIAL PILOT IDENTIFICATION CODE MUST CALL FLIGHT SERVICE AT 866-225-7410 TO FILE A DC FRZ FLIGHT PLAN. H. 1610120301-PERM END PART 9 OF 10 FDC 6/7196 ZDC PART 10 OF 10 SECURITY...SPECIAL SECURITY INSTRUCTIONS, SPECIAL AWARENESS TRAINING FOR THE WASHINGTON DC METROPOLITAN AREA IS MANDATORY FOR ALL PILOTS THAT FLY UNDER VFR WITHIN 60 NM OF THE DCA VOR/DME (14 CFR PARTS 61 AND 91, EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 9, 2009). THIS TRAINING IS AVAILABLE IN THE AVIATION LEARNING CENTER AT WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV. IT IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED THAT ALL PILOTS FLYING UNDER VISUAL FLIGHT RULES (VFR) WITHIN 100 NM OF THE DCA VOR/DME ALSO COMPLETE THIS TRAINING. 1610120301-PERM END PART 10 OF 10

References

19 CFR 122, Air Commerce Regulations

Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)

USCBP Carrier Information Guide, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, May 2014

United States Aeronautical Information Publication

Note: The FAA changes this link from time to time. I've found the best way to do an Internet search for it is the following string: "aeronautical information publication faa.gov"

U.S. Department of State Visa Flyer, 1P85SK, March 2015

Revision: 20171210
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