Trip Report: Flying to Mexico

TRIP REPORT

 Austin, Tx >> Monterrey, Mex >> Laredo, Tx >> Austin, Tx

June 3rd, 2016

By: Ranferi Denova / Piloto Aviador

A few pilot and non-pilot friends asked me to write a trip report about our first international flight, so here it goes!

PREPARATION

It took me about 2-3 months in reading to get all the paperwork done and ready for this trip. I used AOPA and Caribbean Sky Tours as resources for flying to Mexico, and I also hired a CFI out of Mexico for 20 hours to learn about flying in Mexico, procedurals, etc. In summary, this is what the airplane needed to fly internationally: Airworthiness, Registration, FCC Radio Station License, CBP Decal, Insurance with Mexico coverage, and a notarized letter from the owner allowing the flight.
Pilots needed: FAA Pilot Certificate, Medical, Passport, FCC Restricted radiotelephone operators permit.

AUSTIN DEPARTURE

24 hours prior to departure, I submitted an eAPIS manifest to US CBP, for both departure and arrival. I also submitted a Mexican APIS manifest for departure and arrival.
30 minutes prior to departure, I once again re-submitted the Mexican APIS, as required.
We departed the Austin Bergstrom airport at 10:18am, flying a Piper Arrow PA-28R-200, N77WE. As a gentleman’s agreement, the other pilot (Jordan Larkins) and I flipped a join for the initial departure leg. Jordan won the flip, and he was the one to initially cross the boarder on an active IFR flight plan, with our CFII instructor on-board! As we were nearing Laredo TX, we were all excited to get handed off to the next controller, in Mexico! 10 minutes out, I started rolling the GoPro cameras to record it all… and finally, after close to 2 hours of flying, Houston Center handed us off to Nuevo Laredo Approach!
Nuevo Laredo Approach apparently did not have radar, he requested for us to report at a specific point on an airway from their VOR.
After about 30 miles on the Newla VOR, Monterrey Center made radar contact with us, and we continued flying on the V26 airway to Monterrey. We were flying at 8,000 feet, and we got an amazing sight of really tall mountains along our way. To end the flight, Jordan shot an ILS approach to runway 20.

LANDING IN MONTERREY

We landed at 12:55pm, once we had the airplane parked, we were greeted, by name, by the FBO handler who was helping us. We were walked to immigration and customs by the handlers, and he explained every little step of the process to me. After clearing customs, the rest of the crew went to the terminal to wait for me – I was taken to the DGAC (FAA equivalent of Mexico) to complete the paperwork, get a multi-entry permit, etc, etc). The entire process from the time we landed to the time we were ready to go was probably a little more than an hour. Because we got a multi-entry permit, next time we fly the process should be much faster, and we will not have to pay for the same fees again.
The handler towed the Piper Arrow aircraft using a Hummer and gave us a ride to the FBO office, were they had a courtesy car ready for us with minimal fuel.

We drove into the city of Monterrey for some good food. A friend of our instructors recommended “Restaurant Los Cabritos Alameda”. They had really good service and good food, I ordered 5 Tacos de Cabrito, and Chiles con Queso relleno.

DEPARTING MONTERREY

The FBO handlers drove us back to immigration and customs, and the DGAC sealed my ICAO flight plan (see attached picture for this manual flight plan). After completing my preflight, I called CBP to give them my notice of arrival, and we flew back to the USA. We cleared customs at Laredo, TX, fueled the airplane, and continued on our journey back to Austin.

LEARNINGS

Other than calling heads instead of tails during the coin flip, what I would have done different is to make sure all of my equipment was well charged. On our way back, my ADS-B receiver was completely dead.
For those who are wondering, the entire airport of Monterrey Del Norte was super safe, clean, and they had all the services you would expect of any nice airport. The entire staff was very professional and friendly. I never felt that I was being rushed into anything, nor did I feel unsafe at any point during the trip. I felt very welcomed into Mexico.

Video to come soon

Any questions, please ask! I also feel capable to walk others through the process if anyone wants to fly internationally. I also plan to revisit Mexico in a couple of months!
Special thanks for the entire crew of this flight. It was amazing!

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