Technical Fuel Stops in the Bahamas or Provo

Discussion in 'Cool Places to Fly' started by Bill Watson, Nov 29, 2018.

  1. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Messages:
    2,150
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleDriver
    I'm planning a flight to St Thomas. Can't do a non-stop flight without a good tailwind so need to plan a fuel stop.

    Is it possible to do a fuel-only or technical fuel stop in the Bahamas or Provo without paying the full customs/immigration fees?

    Our plan is to fly to St Thomas, do some sailing, then mosey on back to the states with a few stops in the Bahamas - one of our favorite destinations!

    I'm sure the best way to figure this out is just call an FBO but it's after hours and I just want to know. Thanks!
     
  2. hindsight2020

    hindsight2020 En-Route

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2010
    Messages:
    3,402
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    hindsight2020
    This is in the same path of my bucket list trip (TX to PR), and I've done tons of research on it. It's not a complicated flight. For those who can't make it domestic to domestic (FL to PR nonstop) you're looking at an international stop. Provo is absolutely out of control, but they can afford to be, because they are exactly the middle point between Florida and PR (520NM from the Ft Lauderdale coast). All the ports of entry from the bahamas are significantly father out from your destination, which runs you into range issues. Great Inagua is the only exception, problem with Inagua is that fuel availability is not a given, and turn around time to get out of that remote location can run you into problems. Lord help you if you find yourself AOG in Inagua, compared to Stella, Exuma, et al.

    No technical stop discounts as far as I've been able to research, in either the Bahamas, or the Turk and Caicos. Also remember, if you use flight services (basically ATC services from Miami Center) to go from intl to intl, you're gonna pay an overflight fee for every "intl to intl" leg, which negates the savings of not going to Provo, and makes the day hella longer. So your best best is to two leg it, as opposed to stopping in the Dominican Republic just to avoid Provo. I don't have current intel on the cost structure in Puerto Plata these days, but I figure the least amount of hassle would be to do Exuma or Stella, and probably the least amount of added cost. The "book guide" people who re-print this gouge every year for a fee might have a more updated information, but I'm sure you can find a buddy to give ya the info or call the FBOs directly.

    This route isn't a cheap trajectory my man, that's the one constant in this discussion. The caribbean is the rich man's playground when it comes to costs. For the record, the Bahamas is not part of the caribbean, so those who bounce back and forth between Florida and the Bahamas don't really encounter this to the degree it exists once you venture into the actual Caribbean. It's all pay to play.
     
  3. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Messages:
    2,150
    Location:
    Durham NC
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleDriver
    Thanks for the response!

    You are confirming the little research that I've done so Provo it would have been. For right now, our little sailing adventure is cancelled.

    I've actually done this flight once before but planned on the Turks because I was intent on spending a few days Bonefishing in the Middle Caicos. Well that turned out to be a fiasco! There are airports on Middle and North Caicos that were officially listed as 'international' POEs. They are small but photos showed small terminal buildings along with small adjunct buildings that resembled the customs buildings on many of the Bahamian out islands. I didn't figure on fuel (there was no one to call) but my plan was to fly direct to Middle Caicos, fish for a couple of days, then fly to Provo to tank up and proceed on to the BVIs.

    I filed an IFR plan and took off from FL. When I got close to the TCIs, ATC told me that the Middle Caicos AP was closed and that I would have to land at Provo! That was a surprise but not a problem since they were on the itinerary anyway. We landed and did the dance at the very fine Provo FBO and Customs complex. However I was told that Middle Caicos was closed permanently and along with N. Caicos!!

    Now I had done some research with my host in M. Caicos and was not only assured that the airport was open but that N. Caicos was as well and that all would be fine. He really sounded knowledgeable and keyed in. And afterall, we would be staying in his (or a relative's) rental. Well, he was full of more than a little of it. Long story short, we spent an agonizing day talking to various officials including our M. Caicos host with regard to getting permission to takeoff and land at one of those 2 airports. We were led on all day with promises that with one more call, all would be good. It was not and we struggled to find a last minute overnight bed close to Provo airport.

    We had to take the ferry boat from Provo over to N. Caicos, then rent a car (from our GD host and former local airport official) to explore and fish M. Caicos. Lost a whole day and a half with the kind of frustration that can ruin a trip. Fortunately I had a good guide and some good fishing in a nice place. Despite my wife getting quite ill, we were lucky enough to catch a local nurse and roaming doctor to get her all fixed up. It was a good time, except....

    It became clear that our host, car rental supplier, and former airport official was more than well aware of the airports not just being closed, but sealed up with more than one stranded private aircraft parked at one of them. Why? Apparently the ferry boat erased their reason for being, that is in terms of scheduled and charter flights. But the hard and fast rule was that if there was no fire equipment, there is no flying, commercial or private (the info site specifies no commercial but the fact is, to airport officials, commercial is synonymous with flight, period, the end). There might be some secret hole in the wall where money can be stuffed thru and access granted, but I couldn't find it. Seeing stranded aircraft at that airport suggested I wasn't alone. This had happened sometime ago but the Web sites were not up to date and most important, our gracious AH of a host just lied. Flat out lied to our faces even as we bought groceries at his freakin' store. He just wanted us to show up.

    I don't have a problem with high prices at remote places in other countries. It's just the price of traveling around and seeing the world. I feel privileged to be able to be there especially when I do it in my own small homebuilt RV-10. But that SOB soured me on the TCIs and Provo for the rest of my life. I may stop there again for fuel but I'll never spend another night there if I can help it.

    We proceeded on to Tortola as I recall, went sailing with friends, then flew to Anegada, BVI for some Bonefishing and exploration. By the time I flew out of Anegada, I fully understood the "no fire equipment, no flying" attitude though I think they miss the boat with it. Just makes me more thankful for the wonderful folks throughout the Bahamas!

    Though our sailing adventure is off, I kind of got interested in PR, especially Vieques. Haven't been there in years but I hear there's some good fishing and my wife LOVES PR, so we may hop down there anyway. With a little flexibility, maybe I can choose a day with a bit of tailwind and make it non-stop. It's just on the edge of my range.

    If you have any current intell on private flying in PR, especially during their recovery from the disastrous storm, please share.

    Hope you make your bucket list trip soon and thanks for taking the time to respond!
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
  4. Wrench978

    Wrench978 Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2014
    Messages:
    227
    Location:
    San Juan, Puerto Rico
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Wrench978
    what kind of info are you looking for on puerto rico? I live down here now and, while I haven't been able to fly down here yet, my coworker has a 172 and is very familiar with all the local airports. I can get some information from him.
     
  5. hindsight2020

    hindsight2020 En-Route

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2010
    Messages:
    3,402
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    hindsight2020
    Flying in my native PR? Goodness, easiest flying you'll ever do. It's the US, part 91 all the way. Aguadilla is a good spot to land on arrival (TJBQ), since it's on the western edge, especially if you're feeling lucky and want to attempt the hop non stop. I'm familiar with it as it is also my father's hometown and where I spent my childhood summers at my now long time passed grandmother's ranch. Drive was awful from San Juan in the 80s as a child due to no highway, but that has since been generally rectified.

    Forget landing at SJU (TJSJ), the fees will make Provo look like a bargain. Your spot is Isla grande (TJIG). They have several FBOs and I believe the hangars have been repaired since Maria hit. They re 100 pct up and running but don't be surprised to see some airport structures both in aguadilla and Isla grande alike still unrepaired due to lack of economic interest.

    Vieques and culebra, the two island municipalities of Puerto Rico, are imo a required stop for anyone going through the expense of flying his own airplane down there. Great seafood, local cuisine and lodging are readily available in vieques, as well as culebra though the latter is more austere. The flying is a breeze. It's a 20 minute hop from San Juan at rv 10 speeds. There are tons of amazingly picturesque beaches in vieques; secluded cove laden ones too. Excellent sunsets. Culebra has world famous flamenco beach, which is also the stuff of post cards. Both islands are known by English speakers as the Spanish virgin islands but us natives have never referred to them as such. Cell phone service by all mainland carriers in the main island and vieques and culebra alike, including 4G. Your phone won't even know the difference, it'll just get on your network. Ditto for credit cards and mainland bank ATMs. I'm telling you PR is the easiest hop for a US citizen by far.

    Even though the usvi are no different than PR, the "guardia palitos" at the CBP have made up their own BS rules about coming back from usvi. No eapis required but they still make you go through customs and comply with the arrival announcement requirements when coming back into PR from USVI, even though the trek is USA to USA both ways. I digress. At any rate I bring that up because it's so close it's a very economical way of making a day trip out of it, versus the tourist trap way of flying commercial there. Ditto for the Dominican republic by the way, though for that one you will have to go through the eapis kabuki. You could spend the day in punta Cana (eastern tip of DR and a favorite spot for anglos these days) and it's literally a 30 minute hop from aguadilla. Frankly I think punta Cana is overrated and you can do all of it and more by flying locally in PR.

    Both TJBQ and TJIG have ready access to rental cars. The west coast is an anglo hideout, especially Aguada and Rincon municipalities (just south of aguadilla). The drive up and down the Western coast of the island (the island is almost a perfect 100x35 rectangle) is short and pleasant. Take the wife to the lighthouse and cliffs in Cabo Rojo muncipality (southwestern tip of the island). Better yet, take her flying at 500agl down there. I'm telling you it's views you won't forget, and you'll never be able to do it flying commercially. All of this can be done under good ol part 91, just like if you were in Hawaii. Take advantage of it if you fly your own bird down there. I could give ya more end points but I'd be giving ya my entire bucket list itinerary and that's really a multi day affair. Vieques and culebra alone could be an entire weekend by themselves.

    I'm planning on chucking the arrow in 2019 and getting either a C33 debo or strut wing 210. Both allow me a good clip faster than the arrow and more importantly, have the right endurance to allow only one fuel stop, or even non stop from Florida in the right conditions. Part of my bucket list involved filing domestic IFR from FL and stroll right into my parents car in Isla grande like I do when I fly the family from San Antonio to Brownsville.

    At any rate, if I were you I'd do what I'm planning on doing when I get the replacement plane: Florida to Stella (MYLS), then A555 all the way to aguadilla. Easy peasy in an rv-10. Same deal on the way back. Tailwinds prevail heading conus, so you might get away with nonstop to FL on this one. The whole thing is circa 865nm (from KFXE for reference). Exuma is another alternative, just as easy a gas n go as Stella. Both ports of entry and access to 100LL. The Bahamas-only types on here can validate the status of these two for a fuel stop.

    Enjoy!
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018