“If there's money to be made, business will go there.” And if it's a dangerous place, you'd better do your homework and have a true exit strategy.
Picking Your Fights
You have to know when to back down, Manningham stressed. “When you are threatened, and the only way out is a bribe, you have to make a decision on whether to resist, bargain or pay the bribe. We were operating in Pakistan when 9/11 occurred and had to evacuate. We had to change our tickets in Peshawar and lost our luggage allowance, and the agent at Pakistan Airlines told us we would have to spend $900 for the luggage overage. It was obviously a rip-off. So I told him I was a retired UAL pilot and bargained with him and got it down to $500, whereupon he started to get angry.
“There were police there armed with machine guns, and when they started to move toward the counter, I gave in and forked over the $500. What was I going to prove? You have to pick your fights. The cash almost undoubtedly went right into his pocket. If you're looking for justice, it's not there - another reason to use a handling agent. You could run into situations where you might be charged huge handing fees for fuel - don't argue with them and pay it.”
The aviation manager at the government contractor quoted earlier added this incident: “We were taking an aircraft to Iraq and did a fuel stop in one of the 'Stans and were told that the landing rights and fuel 'handling fees' were $3,000 on top of the costs - it clearly was corruption. Have a U.S. embassy or consulate RSO contact to call if you are in one of those situations. The RSO is also a good source of information for flight planning before you leave - we even tell them we have an executive on board, so they know who is coming into the country.”
Tyler stressed the importance of briefing the passengers far in advance of the scheduled flight “so they understand what's at stake and what they shouldn't be taking on board the airplane. Be careful what's on your laptop or smartphone. Anything you have on your body, in your bags or on your computers can be examined. Flying into dangerous areas will increase as the amount of money to be made increases, as business becomes more lucrative. In some countries even if you don't have the proper inoculations, you'll get busted if you can't prove it.”
And he further cautions, “If you have to land in a country that the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with, and you have a military background that could be suspicious to them, what happened to me could happen to you. Also, it is incumbent [on whoever is in charge of the trip] to know the backgrounds of your crew and passengers that could pose a problem in some countries.”
When you're traveling to high-threat locations, LeBlanc said, you've got to be prepared to be very quick on your feet, as situations can turn very quickly. You must talk through those situations with your passengers. I had a crew rotating out who happened to notice large numbers of military vehicles moving toward the airport. The 20-min. head start they had to vacate the country was because they had a plan: When they got news that the country was about to explode, they were able to gather up the passengers, file their flight plan and get out. About 20 min. after the departure, the airport fell to the military. They did a good job - they had a plan and they followed it.” BCA