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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Cruising The Out Islands
Now that you’ve tasted over-water flight, inter-island flying is far less daunting, and it’s a simple matter to pick up a cruising permit (Form C7A) at the Immigration office and head for a day trip to nearby Cat Island, or make the 25-minute flight westbound to have lunch on Norman’s Cay, an island that once was a smuggler’s transshipment port during the heyday of the Colombian cocaine cartels back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Norman’s boasts two guesthouses with units on one of the most stunning beaches in the Bahamas. It’s also the home of the famous McDuff’s Bar & Grill. The airport at Norman’s is sufficient for singles and most twins, but you’ll want to keep it straight upon touchdown. In the years since coke-laden DC-3s landed there, the trees along the edge have grown to such height as to considerably “narrow” the 3,000-foot runway.

fly the bahamasReturning Home
When it’s time to head back to the States, you must depart from an AOE, and after a quick review of your paperwork and a departure fee of $15 per passenger, you’re almost on your way. Now is the critical time to let the important folks back in the States know that you’re coming. Again, be sure to check the new notification rules and remember the basics: You must file an international flight plan and you must contact U.S.

Customs to let them know when you’ll be arriving. They advise that you plan your departure to guarantee that you’ll be there within 15 minutes of when you’re expected. Don’t count on Flight Service to notify U.S. Customs—that’s your responsibility. Do so by phone up to 24 hours (and no later than 60 minutes) in advance.

When you touch down back at Fort Pierce or Fort Lauderdale, taxi directly to the Customs holding area (right in front of the building and marked with a yellow outline). You’re expected to remove all of your belongings and take them inside (there are luggage carts available). You may or may not have an escort, so go directly through the well-marked door, have your passport and paperwork handy, and be sure to declare anything you bought in the Bahamas (make sure you smoke those Cuban cigars before you head home). After you’ve satisfied Customs that you’ve filled in all of the pertinent blanks on the arrival documents, they may request to examine your luggage. Then, they’ll welcome you home.

With your tanks filled, you’ll be on your way home. If you’re like most pilots logging flights over the waters between Florida and the Bahamas for the first time, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make that leap of faith earlier and when you can return.

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