August 8, 2012

If your travels require entering Venezuelan airspace, one NBAA Member suggests you ensure your navigation fees account is in good standing with officials in Caracas. If not, you may be denied overflight privileges.

”I encourage crews to communicate with their international service provider (ISP),“ suggested Pablo Peňalva, Region III (South America) lead for NBAA’s International Operations Committee. In addition to being an international captain, Peňalva operates a handling company, ARSOT Flight Support, which assists business aviation operators in South America. ”Have your ISP check with INAC (the Venezuelan civil aviation authority) for any unpaid fees prior to operation.“

Peňalva said business aircraft operators have been frustrated recently by Venezuelan officials who demand large payments for what they insist are overdue navigation fees.

”It’s like your town sheriff deciding out of the blue to charge you $5 or $10 for every green light you’ve gone through in the last ten years,“ he said.

After receiving a bill from INAC for past-due overflight fees, Peňalva said he did not recognize some of the flights listed by the Venezuelan government. ”I personally requested an official breakdown from INAC showing the so-called ”past/overdue charges,“ and most of them did not match our history of overflights,“ said Peňalva. ”I further inquired if an official receipt would be issued after submitting payment, something that would detail those charges. They told me, ”no,“ they would simply zero out your balance and you’d be good to go.“

Peňalva had a problem with that.

”Ten thousand dollars with no official proof of payment in return, let alone charges that are for overflights that don’t match our flight logs… I decided to add another 10 minutes of flight time and avoid that country altogether,“ he said.

Peňalva is not the only NBAA Member to face this issue.

John McClelland, who manages permit services at Universal Weather & Aviation, said as many as 300 operators are on the so-called ”blacklist,“ unable to pass over Venezuela because of past due navigation fees assessed by INAC.

”I’ve lost a few hairs over the situation in Venezuela,“ McClelland said. To have a customer removed from the list of operators denied overflight privileges for lack of payment, McClelland said INAC required a letter, properly formatted in Spanish, requesting reinstatement. Upon receipt of that letter, he said, INAC would confirm the amount owed by the operator. That amount can be transferred by wire, McClelland said, although the receipt for payment must be physically presented to INAC. To make matters even more complicated, even physically presenting the wire transfer receipt does not guarantee an operator overflight rights in Venezuela.

”You can find that there’s a little lapse in the time that INAC gets you cleared, then they pass that along to ATC,“ McClelland said.