ProvidencialesTurks & Caicos to St. John's Antigua
Trip Start Dec 23, 2012
39Trip End Mar 30, 2013
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This probably is a good place to offer my critique of "Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot’s Guide", I guess the most commonly-used book by US and other pilots flying the Caribbean. This book is only a quasi-successful collection of information. It attempts to be a travel guide, but in this respect falls far short of other common travel guides from the usual suspects – Fodor, Frommers, Lonely Planet, etc. that are much cheaper. The Pilot's Guide would be better if it just stuck to piloting matters. In this respect, its strengths are lots of color photos of airports so you have an idea where you’re going, along with information on immigration and customs hours, fees, and FBO’s/handlers (if any), entering and exiting the US, and basic airport info
Entering an ICAO airport code (even SCRM in Antarctica) will bring up basic information and a satellite photo you can click on and zoom in to the point where you can see where the small aircraft park on the ramp. You can get the same bird’s eye view via Google Earth and rotate and tilt the image so you get a simulated view of final approach. Of course, none of this replaces having real en-route or VFR charts, and approach plates. The weakness of the Pilot’s Guide is that it has some bad and obsolete information, flight plan filing being the case in point. For example, in the Eastern Caribbean section on page 295 (2012 edition) it says you can file flight plans using the on-line tools listed above that I tried. Well, no you can’t, not everywhere. It also says you can print the ICAO flight plan form, fill it out, and fax it. Really, fax it where? To the tower, to the FBO? Not clear. Probably all of the above, and the Pilot Guide does have a lot of fax numbers. Fortunately, the Caribbean is generally a laid back place so you can often do things ad hoc at the FBO (if there is one) or tower at the last minute and get by
For the flight from Turks & Caicos (MBPV) to St. Johns, Antigua (TAPA), I filed IFR:
GTK A555 COY ANU at FL090
After HARDE, I was cleared direct COY. FltPlan said the net headwinds would be 15 kts, they turned out to 30-35 kts so a planned 4:30 flight turned into 5 hours. I’m glad I planned a fuel stop. Surface winds were 20-25 kts gusting at TAPA, and the tower cautioned me on wind shear on final approach. It’s a busy airport, but they have a good FBO in FBO2000 which is on the south side of the field toward the end of runway 07, the opposite side from the commercial ramp. Re-fueled, I was ready to taxi, and already late. Several commercial jets were in sequence for departure, a process aggravated by no parallel taxiway. So I was surprised when the tower instructed an Air Canada jet to back-taxi on runway 10, then told me to back-taxi right behind him. Hmmm, how’s this gonna work? Air Canada taxied to the threshold of 07, but the tower told me to stop and turn around at the 1000 foot markers. Ok, I get it – he then cleared me for takeoff ahead of Air Canada because I didn’t need the whole runway. I’ve never done that before, but probably common practice when you have no taxiway and a busy airport. Sometimes there are advantages to having a little airplane.
Addedum 130110. XM radio coverage became intermittent just south of Grand Turk (GTK) and then dropped completely. I didn't check if XM weather info was still there. Anyway, northbound to the US, based on this it should be possible to start picking up US XM weather info around GTK.