Oct. 8, 2015
U.S.-based aircraft operators authorized by the FAA to fly into Cuba may now keep their aircraft there on “temporary sojourn” up to seven consecutive days, according to changes recently announced by the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments. Previously, aircraft were limited to a single overnight.
The latest revisions also allow (on a case-by-case basis) for export/re-export to Cuba of items “to help ensure the safety of civil aviation and the safe operation of commercial passenger aircraft,” including aircraft parts and components, software and technology related to safety of flight, air traffic control, aviation communications and aviation weather-related equipment, airport safety equipment and devices used for security screening of passengers and baggage.
Air ambulance and other related emergency medical services for travelers in Cuba are now authorized by general license.
Non-aviation changes to the restrictions that may indirectly benefit business aircraft operators include telecommunications and Internet-based services, the ability to open bank accounts in Cuba, allowing a physical presence such as an office and permitting close relatives to accompany authorized travelers. However, tourism is not yet permitted for U.S. citizens.
“My observation is that within six months we aren’t going to have to worry about any of this. It’s going to be like flying to Mexico,” said William McNease, CAM, vice president of operations for aircraft management and charter operator Priester Aviation, which received FAA permission in August to incorporate Cuba in its operations specifications.
Other than FAA approval, there are two key requirements U.S. operators need to meet before flying into Cuba, said McNease.
“First, you need a permit from the civil aviation authority in Cuba to land at one of their designated airports,” he said. Second, passengers must fall within one of the 12 travel-authorized categories, such as professional research and professional meetings, educational, religious, humanitarian, journalistic and other defined activities.
A regulatory change on Jan. 15 eliminated a requirement to obtain a license to travel to Cuba through the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. A change on July 21 removed the need for operators to obtain a temporary sojourn license from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.
“The Cubans do require proof of liability insurance coverage and, at the moment, this is a problem for many aircraft owners and operators as many U.S. insurance carriers and agents are simply not up to speed with the new regulations,” said Jim Parker, owner of Caribbean Flying Adventures, who has flown into Cuba several times.
Parker said of the 10 international airports in Cuba, most have Jet A fuel and three have avgas. Landing and parking fees are based on maximum takeoff weight.