In an all-too-brief
seminar given by Jack McCormick, President of Baja Bush Pilots, at
last week's AOPA Expo, attendees attempted to learn the proper
paperwork and hints to fly into Mexico without incident.
The seminar concentrated on the Baja peninsula area. There are
80 or so ICAO Airports throughout Mexico, shown on charts and in
databases with an "MM" prefix. About 70 of the airports are
"international" and can be used for initial landing in Mexico.
Unlike in the US, you can overfly other international airports and
land at the one of your choice.
There are MANY other IATA airports -- which are likely not in
databases -- identified with three letter codes dotted all over
McCormick made the paperwork seem minimal. File your flight plan
in the US in both directions; this makes for ease of opening and
revising entry times. Land at the Mexican international airport of
your choice. Bear in mind fuel; not all the airports will have fuel
all the time. You're flying to Mexico to have an adventure... but
you don't want to have to stay there. Bringing along some extra oil
and other fluids.
One tip: don't select Mexico City as your choice. It's Mexico's
busiest commercial airport... and a landing there will be quite
costly for a small plane.
Once you land, "pick up fuel first," McCormick points out. Then
head to immigration, customs and flight service. The paperwork you
need will be a copy of aircraft registration, airworthiness
certificate, current medical, pilot's license and proof of
insurance. A prepared pilot will have made two sets of copies of
each document and have them stapled.
The three things NOT to
bring are guns, drugs and ammunition. If you are going to Mexico
hunting special permits can be obtained but these were not covered
in this seminar.
If you are planning more than one trip to Mexico, it is
advisable to ask for a multi-entry rather than single entry. This
should cost you around $55. The immigration fee is about $22 and
landing fee $10. Another hint offered by McCormick was to hold on
to your immigration ticket and of course, you multi entry so on
your next trip administrative costs will be the landing fee only.
Some airports like Loretto will collect your immigration card,
others like Ensenada, Mexacali and San Felipe won't.
For those of you interested in visiting Hacienda de los Santos,
written about previously in ANN, Guaymas and Ciudad are small plane
friendly and nearby. Alamos is the closest to Hacienda though.
For those of you who have always wanted to ignore what the tower
tells you to do, San Felipe may be your place. Their tower is
advisory only. Just remember, safety first. If you head to
Alfonsina's, unless you have floats, you may want to check the tide
table since the runway is sometimes under water.
Once you do land, there are many wondrous sights to be seen off
the normal beaten tourist path. Copper Canyon, which is seven times
the depth of the Grand Canyon and whale watching are only two of
the choices. Whale watching in Mexico is a different experience.
They often come right up to the boat and you can "pet" them.
McCormick tells the story of one girl who lost her footing, fell
onto the whale's back, stood up and stepped right back in the boat.
That's a whale of a tale in anyone's book.
Return flight instructions became a bit fuzzy as time was
running out for the class. Of course you should have filed your
flight plan outbound from the US if possible. There is no rule to
check out of Mexico but it is "custom". Landing back in the US
seemed more paperwork intensive but the requirements were not
discussed fully since the time was up.
"Always have enough money to go the route with cash," advised
McCormick, because many places in Mexico won't take American
Express, or even Visa or MasterCard. "Don't leave home without it"
doesn't count in Mexico.