With MEBA just around the corner, FlyCorporate’s Jason Zappa Janse sits down with three trip support...
On The Fly
On the fly
Tips and Tricks for Flying into the Middle East
With MEBA just around the corner, FlyCorporate’s Jason Zappa Janse sits down with three trip support providers to discuss what operators need to know about flying into the Middle East.
There are a number of important aspects to consider when preparing a trip to the Middle East. “While the region is generally a straight-forward operating environment for business jet operators, depending on the country you are operating to, there are a number of considerations to take,” says Universal Weather and Aviation Master Trip Owner Keith Foreman.
At the top of the list is obtaining a visa. According to UAS International Trip Support Senior Operations Manager Patrick Cain, the subject of visas is extremely important in the Middle East. “While some western countries do not need visas, others do,” he explains. “So it is imperative to check this very carefully and allow at least a month to investigate and then obtain the necessary visas for crew and passengers.”
“Political sensitivities between nationalities must [also] be clearly understood when determining visa requirements,” he adds. Consequently, Cain advises every traveler flying to the Middle East to check with their embassy and trip support organization. Furthermore, he recommends having the following questions answered during the application process:
- Which type of visa does your crew need by country?
- What kinds of supporting information is required?
- What are the lead-times for obtaining a visa?
- What are the maximum validities of your obtained visa?
- What are the consequences of inadvertent over-stays?
- What are the associated costs?
Keep an eye on the news
A second crucial fact to keep in mind is that, due to pressing regional conflicts, flight routes are becoming increasingly more restricted.
“Depending on the nationality of the aircraft, Syria, Iraq and Iran all represent obstacles for flight planners,” Cain explains. “For example, nowadays a US-registered aircraft arriving from Europe or Russia and unwilling to use Iraqi airspace must arrive via Egypt.”
Due to these circumstances, it is recommended to always be aware of the latest NOTAMS and scrutinize Foreign Office advisories at all times. According to Jetex Flight Support Operations Manager Khaled Shurbaji, these flight route obstructions are a persistent hindrance: “Direct routes between countries that are in conflict can be abolished, forcing you to make a detour – often through other countries,” he explains.
Not only can flight routes be prohibited or abolished, but for certain countries trip support organizers even recommend avoiding airspaces altogether. “One always needs to take into account precautionary security concerns linked to specific parts of the Middle East,” explains Foreman. “Iraqi and Syrian airspace should be avoided – not to mention landing there, which is definitely something to be cautious about as well.”
Permits, permits, permits
Next on the list are permits. “Traffic rights and landing permits are required throughout the region for all type of flights,” comments Shurbaji. “In some countries, authorities even require a receiving part and sponsorship letter before granting a permit.”
Lead-times to acquire permits generally take a couple of days, depending of course on the purpose of the flight. But an informed trip support provider will advise you to plan at least ten days to avoid any surprises, such as a smaller extent of intra-regional flexibility. “If a planned airport of arrival changes, it must be amended prior to departure for Middle East countries,” explains Cain.
Also read: Jet Aviation in the Middle East
The same counts for extra-regional permits, says Cain: “For example, although not a Middle Eastern country, any arriving or departing aircraft that flies through Indian airspace must be aware that a minimum of three days is required – at least for planning purposes – to obtain or amend an over-flight permit.”
“Overflight permits are usually easier to obtain, but this also depends on the appropriate lead time by the particular Civil Aviation Administration you’re dealing with,” adds Foreman. “While most countries in this region don’t require knowing the individuals onboard the flight for overflight permits, some – including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – may require all crew and passenger information: full names, date of birth, nationality, passport number, and expiration date.”
Shurbaji considers one of the biggest challenges of operating in the region is the lack of acknowledgement when filing a flight plan. “Unlike [the standard procedure at] Eurocontrol, where immediate acknowledgement is given to confirm the validity of the route, someone [flying into the Middle East] might assume that their FPL is confirmed, only to be surprised when the captain asks for permission to take off and is informed they don’t have a valid FPL,” he says. Consequently, a professional trip support provider will always double check to ensure an FPL is on file and approved prior to departure.
On the ground
Once landed, the first thing to hit you - literally – is the heat. As one of the hottest regions on earth, hotels, FBOs and other corporate facilities will of course be air-conditioned. However, according to Cain, depending on the time of your arrival, the airport ramp could be an intensely hot place to be: “Consideration should be made to avoid departure in the extreme heat of the day, from midday to mid-afternoon in the Gulf summer, when apron temperatures frequently reach around 122° F.”
The temperature not only affects passengers and crew, but also your aircraft. “A few degrees change in temperature or runway head-wind component can have a significant effect on the climb performance of your aircraft,” adds Cain.
One last aspect to constantly keep in mind when planning a trip to the Middle East, as all three trip support providers agree upon, is respecting local customs. “Operating to this region can be a positive experience so long as you are open to cultural differences and adjust to local customs,” says Foreman.” “It’s important to be patient and respectful.” He notes that this particularly applies in Saudi Arabia, where it is especially important for women to dress appropriately and, consequently, conservatively.
Despite these considerations, all three believe the Middle East rarely fails to reward its visitors, both in terms of the unique culture of the region and the comfort and hospitality provided by some of the world’s finest hotels.
So tick your checklist, call your trip planning professional and gear up.
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