Flying from California to the Caribbean (3)

Today was a short segment from Orlando to Nassau, Bahamas. It was also my first international flight and first long overwater flight. Both involves preparation. For any flight leaving the US, you need to file an eAPIS declaration with the DHS listing passengers and crew. This all happens electronically and once you have signed up for the account is fairly quick. We filed 24 hours before and received authorization within an hour. For overwater flights in small planes, life vests for passengers and crew are mandatory. We are also carrying a life raft and satellite phone and the plane has a radio, an ELT, a satellite phone and the CAPS parachute system. Together, that gives us good odds even if we have to ditch.

or the account is fairly quick. We filed 24 hours before and received authorization within an hour. For overwater flights in small planes, life vests for passengers and crew are mandatory. We are also carrying a life raft and satellite phone and the plane has a radio, an ELT, a satellite phone and the CAPS parachute system. Together, that gives us good odds even if we have to ditch.

We departed Kissemmee Gateway Airport (KISM) shortly after 9:00 on an international IFR flight plan. Once we came close to the coast we could see cumulonimbus clouds over the Atlantic. Some of them went up to 25,000 feet and our plane (unlike jets) can’t fly over them. We also no longer had satellite weather data that would show us convective activity (coverage is limited to the US) but instead had to rely on ATC for directions. In the end we hit a few bumps but overall it was a smooth flight.

Dodging a few cumulonimbus clouds over the Atlantic.

Miami Center eventually handed us off to Nassau Approach, and it’s apparent we are no longer in the US. What on earth is an SRE approach? ATC wants us to descend immediately instead of holding altitudes “until established on the approach”? A taxiway crosses the tail end of a runway but there is no hold short line?!? Bahamas ATC is on top of things and we are vectored behind several jets and then cleared for the RNAV 14 approach into Lynden Pindling International Airport. My landing was great despite light rain and a wet runway (not used to that in California) and we had a very short taxi to our FBO. Odyssey Aviation had a ramp packed with mostly private jets and their service was exceptional. Odyssey has their own customs and immigration with zero waiting time. Within 10 minutes we were parked, cleared through customs and in a taxi on our way to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. In the end, this was easier than expected.

Today we’ll explore Nassau (it’s my first time in the Bahamas) and tomorrow we’ll continue on the last leg to Punta Cana.

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