For many operators, the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed most international flying for more than two years. This sustained reduction in long-haul travel has impacted many aspects of business aviation, but among the most severely affected are those pilots who have been unable to maintain their training and flying experience.
Pilots thrive the more they fly. Regular flying sharpens cognitive skills, enhances knowledge of critical procedures and builds the experience and confidence to handle the unexpected.
Now, as international travel starts to slowly ramp up, pilots returning to overseas operations must ensure they are ready to return to the flight deck, while also preparing themselves for an operating environment distinctly different from the pre-pandemic norm.
“A return to flying is less to do with training and more about making sure your flows are not off or that your procedures are not rusty,” says Shawn Scott, co-founder of Scott International Procedures.
“Like anything else, if you haven’t flown an international crossing in several years – or don’t fly that routing regularly – you must make sure you are ready to get back in there. Study the matter well,” he suggests.
“Country entry requirements continue to change, even during the execution of a trip, and can result in itinerary changes.”
JOE SEARS Instructor, 30West IP
Start with a mock trip, recommended Joe Sears, an instructor at aviation training company 30West IP.
“Run a mock trip with your trip planning service and crew. Be sure to include all the planning, up to showing up with a trip packet and NOTAM to validate that you are familiar with the process,” says Sears. “Consider additional training on international operations, and look to resources like OpsGroup updates, 30West IP Webcast, Universal Weather and Aviation Blog Post, as well as international trip planning services, to review recent regulatory changes.”
“Hangar crossings” also help, says Scott. “If you haven’t crossed [an ocean] in two or three years, or if international flying is new to you, it would be helpful to sit in the hangar with the pilot you’re flying with and go through the entire flight.
“Be sure to do more than the oceanic portion,” suggests Scott. “Make sure you familiarize yourself with what happens at the other end [of the trip] and go through some contingencies. You don’t want to spend 20 minutes trying to find a procedure when you’re coming off a cleared route,” he explains.
For operators unfamiliar with current procedures, Scott recommends the FAA’s 2019 Advisory Circular on Oceanic and Remote Continental Airspace Operations, AC 91-70B, which provides detailed guidance for operators planning flights in oceanic and remote continental airspace, including the authorizations needed for operations outside the continental U.S. “This resource is comprehensive and contains most considerations for an international flight,” notes Scott.
The starkest change for pilots who have not flown overseas since the start of the pandemic are country entry requirements.
“The rapidly changing individual state requirements have made it extremely difficult to plan and execute international operations,” notes Sears.
“Country entry requirements continue to change, even during the execution of a trip, and can result in itinerary changes,” Sears added. “Plan on spending more time preparing your trips and reviewing the current requirements.”
Review NBAA’s international operations resources at nbaa.org/intl.