Another in a series of Twin Commander adventure travel destinations, written by the founder of Air Journey (www.airjourney.com).
You can expect a dominant tailwind flying southeast, possibly allowing you to make the flight nonstop. If you can’t, there are interesting stops along the way, and the highly recommended one is Aguadilla (Borinquen, TJBQ) on the northwest corner of Puerto Rico. The fuel there is cheap –– at press time less than $4 a gallon for jet, and slightly more than $5 for avgas.
The route from Florida to to Antigua basically follows the island chain of the Bahamas to the Turks & Caicos, skirts the coast of Hispaniola and then Puerto Rico, followed by the island chain of the British and American Virgin Islands before reaching Antigua.
The airport in Antigua (TAPA) is called V. C. Bird International, named for the first prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird. Sir Bird had an interesting life and is extremely well known in his country.
The destination is formally referred to as Antigua and Barbuda. The names derive from Spanish for ancient and bearded. It is known as a twin-island nation that lies between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, but there are also a number of smaller islands known as Great Bird, Green, Maiden, York Island, Long, Guinea and, further south, a rock in the water called Redonda. The population is slightly more than 80,000 people, and the capital and port city is known as St. John.
I’ve never had the chance to fly to Barbuda since the runway is not paved, and it’s pretty short –– around 2,000 feet long.
Antigua and Barbuda were settled a long, long time ago, and there are settlements going back to 3,100 BC. As in most of the Caribbean, Carib and Arawak Indians inhabited the different islands. After Christopher Columbus visited the Caribbean the Europeans took over and enslaved much of the population.
The country has been independent from the United Kingdom since November 1, 1981, but to this day the monarch is still Elizabeth II, the Governor General is named Louise Lake-Tack, and the Prime Minister is Winston Baldwin Spencer. The country’s legislative is fashioned on a parliament, with an upper house Senate and lower House of Representatives. The currency is the East Caribbean dollar.
Of course, tourism is the largest incomer producer for the island of Antigua, but banking and financial services also are an important part of the economy. Major world banks including the Royal Bank of Canada have offices there, and a few years ago the island was in the news because of the Stanford International Bank fraud in which $8 billion was funneled through the island bank to unknown destinations.
Now let’s go back to the aviation requirements for the journey to and from Antigua. The most important thing, of course, is proper documentation. As you know, an eAPIS outbound is required to be filed with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for each airplane, listing the passenger information and departure point. Keep in mind that if you decide to make a technical stop in Borinquen there is no need to file an eAPIS from Florida to Puerto Rico, but make sure you file one for the Puerto Rico to Antigua leg.
You also must file a Caribbean eAPIS with CARICOM (short for Caribbean Community) when flying to, from, and within any of 10 Caribbean member states, including Antigua and Barbuda (http://www.nbaa.org/ops/intl/customs-regulatory/apis/caricom.php). This is done online, and if you ask for our (Air Journey) help we will be happy to provide it. There is no feedback from the online program so we need to print a screen shot to confirm that the form has been filed.
The airport is pretty busy with international flights from the U.S. and Europe, and the airport doesn’t have a taxiway so it’s not unusual to have to hold to let preceding traffic land and clear the runway. Of course, the prevailing wind is from the east so the runway to expect is 07. The airport is on the east side of the island surrounded by part of the town and part of a field so it’s not too easy to find with the naked eye, especially if you have scattered clouds interrupting the view. So make sure to follow the approach procedure.
Upon landing, the one choice for general aviation is FBO 2000, which is located at the southeast end of the runway and provides pretty good service. Expect to pay a handling fee of about $400 per plane. The charges also will include a parking fee, a departure tax for passengers, and so on. Expect to pay about $500 to $700 in airport-related fees while in Antigua.
An immigration card will be provided and mostly filled out by the staff at FBO 2000. On a side note, on one of the last journeys I had to fly commercial to catch up with the group in Antigua, and my American flight arrived the same time as Delta, Virgin Atlantic, and British Airways. I spent about an hour and a half in line to go through immigration, so flying these islands in a private plane is really very, very exciting.
As of this writing, ForeFlight has extended its routing through the islands of the Caribbean so that resource can be used accordingly. Fltplan.com also offers the possibility of filing a flight plan online to any place you are flying to. It’s supposed to work –– the flight plan is supposed to be in the system. But I would highly recommend that you read the fine print confirming that the flight plan can be filed, and that you also keep a copy of the ICAO flight plan aboard. A number of islands in the Caribbean still want a hard copy to keep in their files.
On our last journey to Antigua we sent a copy of the flight plan directly to the FBO, and they managed and handled all the filing for us with no issues.
Antigua offers numerous exciting and beautiful hotels including one of the most exciting properties in the Caribbean. Run by Rosewood International and known as Jumby Bay, it is located on an island about three miles off Antigua in view of the international airport. Along with a privately owned mansion, there is a fully staffed all-inclusive hotel with magnificent accommodations. Air Journey has gone to Jumby Bay for the past four years, and will again in 2015.
Other properties include Sandals, the St. James Club, and other exciting resorts. The island has a lot to offer in the old town –– a visit to the slave quarters, the cathedral, and the remains of the British Empire among them. In the countryside you have century-old trees and numerous cultures to enjoy. Antigua gives you the feeling of safety that you would expect on any island of the Caribbean.
Check the winds aloft before departing for the U.S. –– it can exceed 100 knots on the nose. We always anticipate a stop in Borinquen to clear U.S. customs, refuel at a cheap price, and then reach anyplace in Florida without having to clear customs again.
|Jumby Bay||Phone: (268) 462-6000|
|St. James Club||Phone: (268) 460-5000|
|Sandals Grande Antigua||Phone: (268) 484-0100|
|FBO 2000 Antigua||Phone: (268) 462-2522|
|Copeca Jet Center Borinquen||Phone: (787) 890-1250|