ProvidencialesTurks & Caicos to St. John's Antigua

Trip Start Dec 23, 2012
1
8
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Trip End Mar 30, 2013


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Flag of Antigua and Barbuda  , Saint George,
Saturday, January 5, 2013

My next overnight stop was planned for Grenada for three days. Normally this would be a single hop from Turks & Caicos in N788W, but given the strong easterly headwinds I'd been experiencing, I decided to make a fuel stop in Antigua. One thing I wanted to experiment with on this trip is on-line flight planning software, not so much for planning as for being able to file flight plans outside the US.  I have used CSC DUATS for years and have a number of flights stored there so I will try it first even though the user interface workflow is clunky.  It worked fine for filing the flight plan for KFXE to MBPV, but when I tried MBPV to TAPA (St. John’s), it didn’t know what TAPA was.  OK, so I moved on to FltPlan.com.  It planned flight routes for both MBPV-TAPA, and TAPA-TGPY(Grenada), and filed the one for MBPV-TAPA okay, but said it couldn’t file the one for TAPA-TGPY.  OK, so then I moved on to the AOPA flight planning tool which accepted both routings but when it came time to file the flight plan, it presented the old FAA domestic flight plan form - useless outside the US.  Maybe there’s a switch somewhere to get to the right form, but I didn’t see it.  Finally, I went back to EuroFPL which I had used to file flight plans crossing the Atlantic and in Europe on my RTW flight.  It was really designed to obtain validated flight plans from EuroControl, but has expanded use outside of Europe. It accepted and filed both flight plans, and even provides an address list for the relevant airspace control authorities where the flightplan is being sent, a list you can manually add to.  It also provides nice email notices of when the plan is filed and acknowledged.  So EuroFPL wins the flight plan filing contest.  Incidentally, another tool, Rocketroute, which is a great tool for Europe, didn’t recognize the Caribbean airport codes I entered.

This probably is a good place to offer my critique of "Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot’s Guide", I guess the most commonly-used book by US and other pilots flying the Caribbean.  This book is only a quasi-successful collection of information.  It attempts to be a travel guide, but in this respect falls far short of other common travel guides from the usual suspects – Fodor, Frommers, Lonely Planet, etc. that are much cheaper.  The Pilot's Guide would be better if it just stuck to piloting matters.  In this respect, its strengths are lots of color photos of airports so you have an idea where you’re going, along with information on immigration and customs hours, fees, and FBO’s/handlers (if any), entering and exiting the US, and basic airport info. However, these days you can get similar airport details for free for any airport in the world at:

http://worldaerodata.com/countries/

Entering an ICAO airport code (even SCRM in Antarctica) will bring up basic information and a satellite photo you can click on and zoom in to the point where you can see where the small aircraft park on the ramp. You can get the same bird’s eye view via Google Earth and rotate and tilt the image so you get a simulated view of final approach.  Of course, none of this replaces having real en-route or VFR charts, and approach plates. The weakness of the Pilot’s Guide is that it has some bad and obsolete information, flight plan filing being the case in point. For example, in the Eastern Caribbean section on page 295 (2012 edition) it says you can file flight plans using the on-line tools listed above that I tried.  Well, no you can’t, not everywhere. It also says you can print the ICAO flight plan form, fill it out, and fax it.  Really, fax it where? To the tower, to the FBO?  Not clear.  Probably all of the above, and the Pilot Guide does have a lot of fax numbers.  Fortunately, the Caribbean is generally a laid back place so you can often do things ad hoc at the FBO (if there is one) or tower at the last minute and get by.

For the flight from Turks & Caicos (MBPV) to St. Johns, Antigua (TAPA), I filed IFR:

GTK A555 COY ANU  at FL090

After HARDE, I was cleared direct COY.  FltPlan said the net headwinds would be 15 kts, they turned out to 30-35 kts so a planned 4:30 flight turned into 5 hours.  I’m glad I planned a fuel stop.   Surface winds were 20-25 kts gusting at TAPA, and the tower cautioned me on wind shear on final approach.   It’s a busy airport, but they have a good FBO in FBO2000 which is on the south side of the field toward the end of runway 07, the opposite side from the commercial ramp.  Re-fueled, I was ready to taxi, and already late. Several commercial jets were in sequence for departure, a process aggravated by no parallel taxiway.  So I was surprised when the tower instructed an Air Canada jet to back-taxi on runway 10, then told me to back-taxi right behind him.  Hmmm, how’s this gonna work?  Air Canada taxied to the threshold of 07, but the tower told me to stop and turn around at the 1000 foot markers.  Ok, I get it – he then cleared me for takeoff ahead of Air Canada because I didn’t need the whole runway.  I’ve never done that before, but probably common practice when you have no taxiway and a busy airport.  Sometimes there are advantages to having a little airplane.

Addedum 130110. XM radio coverage became intermittent just south of Grand Turk (GTK) and then dropped completely.  I didn't check if XM weather info was still there.  Anyway, northbound to the US, based on this it should be possible to start picking up US XM weather info around GTK.
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Comments

eskimo
eskimo on

Harry.
Brings back many happy memories of flying the 777 to Antigua, and shuttles to Grenada and Tobago! Thanks for the info about flight planning, very useful.
Enjoy South America, we shall be following your progress with smiling faces.
Sunny skies and fair winds.
Patrick and Linda.
G-LGEZ.

Luiz Mario Peixoto on

Hi Harry, I am Luiz Mario a brasilian pilot, again.
I wish you have a nice and safety flight. I'done this flight four times in the same route with my Piper Turbo Arrow IV and my Saratoga II TC. This is a very nice flight and is easy flying in Caribean.
Whem you are in Brasil if you want or need something please call me 92.9981.2512 or 92.8114.8105.
My Best
Luiz Marion

harry4123
harry4123 on

Hello Luiz Mario. I am now across the Caribbean and in Belem. Next I fly to SBNT, SBSV, SBVT then SBFL. Do you have any advice for these airports? You can send me a message direct instead of a comment.
Thanks, Harry.

Margi on

Harry, if you need anything, don't hesitate to call. Hope all goes smoothly and that the entry procedures weren't toooooo painful. Welcome to Brazil.

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