Like the mythical “Field of Dreams,” if business is there, they will come — “they” in this case being foreign corporations from all over the world eager to do business in Buenos Aires. As the accompanying “City at a Glance” pages reflect, operators versed in international procedures should have no trouble navigating Argentine airspace.
Once in the Buenos Aires terminal management area, however, there are “situational” issues of which operators should be aware. While the city hosts five airports and joint-use military fields with runways suitable for business jets, three civilian facilities tend to be most popular (and practical, as we'll see) for general aviation aircraft. These are Ezeiza Ministro Pistarini International (SAEZ), Aeroparque Metropolitano Jorge Newbery (SABE) and San Fernando (SADF).
Now, to the aforementioned “situations.” First, according to Pablo Penalva, a Global Express captain for J.W. Childs Associates, member of the NBAA International Operations Committee and an Argentine by birth, the airport authorities at Pistarini International have become “obsessed” with general aviation regarding transportation of illegal drugs, having discovered narcotics on board a transientChallenger 600, and are practically taking visiting aircraft apart with time-consuming and intrusive drug screening inspections. (Reportedly, some of these incidents have involved holding passengers outside the aircraft while their luggage was opened and inspected on the ramp.)
Consequently, Penalva recommends not using SAEZ in favor of Jorge Newbery, Buenos Aires' original airport (named after a pioneering Argentine aviator), which currently handles domestic airline traffic and international flights within South America and tends to be more welcoming of business aviation (the two airport administrations apparently are not talking to each other). While SABE is technically a port of entry (POE) only for flights arriving from or departing to locations on the continent, two options are available to operators: either fly first to another South American country — Penalva recommends neighboring Uruguay — or apply to the Argentine Civil Aviation Authority for an international landing permit.
Further complicating things this summer, San Fernando Airport has been closed due to major construction on the field until Aug. 3 (and probably later, if delays typical of large construction projects occur). This has created considerable competition for ramp space at Buenos Aires' other airports, as Pistarini administration has also banned general aviation parking during the period except for based aircraft.
In the meantime, Buenos Aires' joint civil/military airfields, Moron (SADM) and El Palomar (SADP), have been offered to civil operators for extended aircraft parking. However, Tony Garcia at ARSOT Flight Support, an Argentine handling service, advised against them. “They are in poor areas of town,” he said, “There is no English ATC spoken there, there is a lot of vectoring required to get into them, and there is no water or lav service available at either field.” Furthermore and most important, neither air base is a POE (i.e., no customs services), meaning that an operator would be required to land at either Pistarini or Jorge Newbery first to clear customs, reposition to either Moron or El Palomar, then repeat the process back to one of the POEs in order to depart the country. “So right now,” Penalva observed, “there are few options.” (In the interests of full disclosure, Penalva is a co-owner of ARSOT Flight Support.)
Then there is labor unrest, a common thread in the Argentine tapestry. “Visiting operators should be aware that currently there is a lot of contentiousness within Argentinean ATC,” Penalva pointed out. Strikes, controller layoffs, and a transfer of ATC services to the military — which is short of controller manpower due to the layoffs — have resulted in slowdowns, traffic delays and holding, which transient operators should be prepared to encounter when visiting Buenos Aires.
The irony here is that Argentina's government-operated civil ATC provider, ANAC, emerged only a few years ago to address discontent with how the military had previously been operating ATC. “Like many civil servants in Argentina, however,” Penalva claimed, “the civilian controllers came to expect raises every six months, and when the government didn't provide them, they began to strike.”
The situation has been aggravated by the temporary closure of San Fernando Airport and inability to park overnight at Pistarini. “It's a Pandora's Box,” Penalva lamented. “It's not trending well, very unpredictable. It's Argentina . . . lots of political turbulence, labor issues, strikes, refinery shutdowns and so forth since the reelection last November of the president [Dilma Rousseff], who promptly cut subsidies to industry and the frequent raises to government employees. With San Fernando open again, the congestion should decrease. But the situation is in flux, so plan accordingly. All this speaks to the necessity of working closely with your handler.”