Flying to the Turks and Caicos Islands represents the next step for pilots looking for an adventure above and beyond the Bahamas.
Farther south, farther east, and nearly four hours nonstop at 150kts from Florida, flying to the the TCI is a very approachable, yet rewarding flight for a general aviation pilot. While not much information exists on accomplishing a flight to the TCI specifically, much has been written about flying to the Bahamas, and due to the significant overlap this information can be very helpful.
Particularly useful is AOPA's Checklist for Flying to the Bahamas.
The items range from critical (passport, customs decal, eAPIS) to the obscure (FCC radio station license), but all can be obtained in a matter of a few weeks. A few further links that will be useful:
- Create an eAPIS Account
- Obtain a US Customs Decal
- Obtain an FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (RR)
(The above items are necessary for all international general aviation flights, so they're worth obtaining regardless.)
In addition to the required licenses, there are a few useful but sometimes hard to find paper charts and references that are very helpful to have as a backup to an electronic flight bag / panel:
When it comes time for the fun part, the flight itself, the procedure will generally follow the following steps when flying from the US:
- File a notice of departure with US Customs using the eAPIS system and the credentials you previously created, at least one hour in advance of your planned departure.
- File a flight plan with ATC, and if flying nonstop, your destination will be MBPV for Providenciales airport.
- You'll be in contact with Miami Center for the majority of your flight, and if flying below 10,000 ft, expect to lose radio coverage for roughly 50nm around the island of Mayaguana (MYMM).
- You'll be handed off to Providenciales Approach when below 7,000 ft, and as they do not have radar coverage you'll be asked to regularly report your distance.
- At this point, if flying IFR, and weather permitting, cancelling IFR and proceeding visually is recommended to avoid delays due to afternoon commercial arrivals.
Once you arrive at the very helpful and friendly FBO, Provo Air Center, they'll assist you in clearing Customs and Immigration.
For the final hop to Pine Cay, the following is generally accomplished:
- You'll fill out a paper ICAO flight plan form, provided at the FBO, to Pine Cay (MBPI) generally VFR at 1,000ft.
- If you intend to go on any sightseeing flights during your visit, it is recommended to write the words "KEEP OPEN" on your flight plan form to save time for your next departure.
- The FBO will fax the form Providenciales tower, and will generally call back if there are any issues with your flight plan.
- Enjoy the 5 minute flight to Pine Cay, and due to the prevailing winds, the beautiful approach over the beach to runway 11.
Once on Pine Cay, you'll be greeted by Meridian Club staff and be shown where to park and store your aircraft.
For sightseeing flights or your return flight, it is generally best to attempt to call the Airport Authority at (649) 9464420, ask to speak to the tower, and advise them of your intentions. If you're unable to reach them, simply calling them after takeoff on 126.00 works.
A few further notes and helpful pieces of information on flying in the TCI:
- Hearing "Q and H" is the equivalent of "Altimeter" when flying in the US.
- 100LL is readily available at the Providenciales airport.
- The entire country / island chain can be seen in a 45 minute flight, just call the tower and request a local flight plan along the North shore of North Caicos, to East Caicos, then South Caicos, and back.
- There are 7 active runways in the country, and day trips are very easily accomplished and highly recommended (Grand Turk and Salt Cay in particular).
This document was prepared by Eric Thunberg, a pilot and longtime Pine Cay homeowner, and last revised November 11th, 2014. For further information, any questions, or corrections, the author can be reached via email.