Dominican Republic is a Pilot’s Dream
– General Aviation / Dominican Republic – What a great place to fly a private airplane! (And yes, everyone in Air Traffic Control speaks English.) As shown in the interactive map below, there are 7 international airports (blue colored) and 4 domestic airports (orange colored) strategically placed around the Dominican Republic. It’s both beautiful and fun flying around the DR — and you are never more than minutes away from an airport with fuel, restaurants, bathrooms and maintenance. If you are not familiar with weather patterns in the Dominican, this Caribbean Island has easterly trade-winds most of the time. Moreover, the winds are generally calm in the morning and evening, and the wind-speed starts picking up late morning and lasting through late afternoon. So, if you are heading east it is best to leave in the morning because there are no headwinds. However, if you are traveling westbound, you may want to take advantage of afternoon tailwinds. One other thing: when the trade-winds pick up there is a tenancy for cumulus to build up over the mountain peaks. (The mountains in the center of the country reach over 10,000 feet high above sea level.) So if this is the case, a great alternative is to just follow the shoreline until you get to your destination. This may take a bit longer to reach your destination, but the ride will be much more comfortable. In most cases, flights within the DR last about 30 to 45 minutes. So, what’s a few minutes added on to that to keep everyone comfortable? And again, there are also morning flights with no clouds — or build-ups that you can always fly around.
Flight Rules in the Dominican Republic
There are Instrument Flight Rule (IFR) procedures to all International Airports in the Dominican Republic. Most of the Domestic Airports have Visual Flight Rule (VFR) procedures and some are only open from Sunrise to Sunset. So, this might take some planning for either time or weather conditions. But again, an International Airport is usually just minutes away. One of the things most of us love about the Dominican Republic is that the country has great flying weather all-year-round. (And there is no icing in-the-clouds.) If flying down from the United States, usual fuel-stops are in the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos. With long-range fuel tanks, you can by-pass the Turks & Caicos and come straight to Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. As a side note, going through immigration and customs in the Turks & Caicos can be very expensive. So if you can, come straight to the DR where immigration and custom officials are very friendly.
Private Airplanes & Hurricanes in the Dominican Republic
Quite frankly, most of us feel safer from hurricanes in the Dominican Republic then we do in southeastern portions of the United States. Many people are not aware that there is a mountain range reaching over 10,000 feet high above sea level in the Dominican Republic. This mountain range is located in the center of the island and is aligned east and west. (Don’t worry, there are valleys and passages through the mountain range for lower altitude flying.) In connection with this, many hurricanes miss the Dominican Republic because the mountain range tends to veer the eye of hurricanes to the north. For those techies among us, the counter-clockwise wind pattern around the eye of a hurricane puts the north coast of the Dominican Republic on the weak side of the storm. And when this occurs, the south coast of the Dominican Republic is barely affected. So what should pilots do when a hurricane is projected to come near the Dominican Republic? Quite simply: fill up the fuel tanks and wait for the track of the storm to be confirmed. Then, if it goes to the north… fly the airplane over the mountains and hunker down in the south. Conversely, if the eye of the hurricane goes to the south, fly (or keep) the airplane on the north coast. As a final thought: not all tarmacs have tie-down anchors embedded in the surface. If that is the case, you can either go to a grassy area and drive steaks into the ground, hang some weights under the aircraft wings, or fly to an airport that has tie-down anchors. Personally, I had a lot of fun during the last hurricane season by following the procedures stated above. I also stayed in resort-hotels that had high-speed Internet the whole time! And this allowed me to get a lot work accomplished in tranquil surroundings. (Yes, I could have been up north in a snow storm, but I prefer the Caribbean adventures)
Beaches or Golf Courses… Which Do You Prefer?
Some of the best golf courses in the world — and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world — are just minutes away by private airplane. No matter where you are, you can take off in the morning, play 18 holes of golf, and be back in the afternoon in time for beautiful sunsets. The same for pristine sandy beaches! Most beaches are within a 3o-minute drive from almost anywhere, but flying around the DR with friends or family is great fun and can create wonderful memories of the adventure.
Airplane Parking Fees – $5 / Night in Dominican Republic
Normal parking fees are $10 a night for most of the airports around the Dominican Republic. However, you can easily apply for a Permiso de Circulación (Circulation Permit) and pay just $5 a night no matter how long you stay. At this time, parking for light airplanes is FREE in Punta Cana, which makes a round of golf even more appealing.