Pilot Journal
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fly The Bahamas

What you’ll need to know as a first-timer to the out islands

fly the bahamasFor many pilots, it’s a rite of passage; for others, it’s their daily work. Some are fearful at the thought of so much water below, and their first flight over an ocean becomes an adrenaline-fueled leap of faith.
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The Flight
Using an average groundspeed of 120 knots and a heading of 190 degrees, a direct flight from Fort Pierce to Governor’s Harbour will take you almost directly over Grand Bahama International (MYGF) at Freeport, and you’ll be crossing the island about 53 minutes after takeoff. From there, it’ll take you 1:15 to cover the 149 nm to Governor’s Harbour (total flight time, 2:08). For flight following, you’ll get a handoff from the tower at Fort Pierce to Miami Center and then Freeport, and then self-announce with position reports on CTAF at Governor’s Harbour.

On your way into Governor’s Harbour, you’ll get a good look at the airport at North Eleuthera (MYEH), a stopping point for those on their way to the nearby three-mile-long Harbour Island, a celebrity playground with a pink-sand beach. Land there and tie down next to a Gulfstream, and it’s a taxi ride to the water ferry that’ll take you to oceanfront resorts.

VFR at night isn’t permitted in the Bahamas (many of the airports don’t have lights), so arrivals must occur before sundown to avoid a lot of unpleasant paperwork. Also, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before Customs and Immigration close to avoid hefty fees for keeping the staff beyond normal hours. Once you arrive at your AOE, you’ll remove your luggage and proceed directly to Customs and Immigration to check in for your stay. This is where having your paperwork done in advance will pay off.

fly the bahamasAt the Out Islands there are no ramp fees, and no landing fees for singles. Twins are charged a landing fee of $8. If you have everything in order, you can expect to pass through Customs and Immigration in a matter of minutes. Just be sure you declare what you’re bringing to the island: If you keep the total value under $100 per person, then there are no duties to be paid as you enter the country.

Rental cars are available at almost all airports of entry. The fleet may not be brand-new, and you easily can pay $75 a day, but unless you plan to spend all of your time at a resort, you’ll need a car to explore the island. Lodging near Governor’s Harbour can vary from camping to resorts like the recently built Pineapple Fields, where very comfortable accommodations range from $210 to $420 nightly.

A two-minute walk across the road from Pineapple Fields takes you to Tippy’s Bar & Restaurant, an open-air beachfront hangout that The New York Times called, “the center of the Island’s social whirl.” Its wooden veranda is built from the timbers of an old dock and rests right on the water, so it’s a great place to kick back and remember why you did all of that planning in the first place.

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