GENERAL AVIATION TO CABO
Private aircraft and Cabo San Lucas have a long history. For decades, long before the Baja Transpeninsular Highway was completed in 1976, the only way to get to Cabo San Lucas was to fly your bird down, or take a boat. Driving down in a four wheel drive vehicle was an option for only the most masocistic.
For many years Baja and Cabo San Lucas were the private playgrounds for pilots who dared to fly into a land with no navigational aids, no reliable fuel, and no paved runways (things are not too much diffeent today!) Those were the good ol' days for flying Baja and those who were crazy enough to do it had the times of their lives.
As you might have guessed Carlos Fiesta is a pilot. He earned his wings in 1976 and has had a passion for flying ever since. And since flying and Baja seem to be a perfect match, he had to include this section in Cabo Expo. Carlos has enjoyed flying in Baja by Bonanzas, Cessnas, Epic, Musketeer, R-44 helicopters, a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter and Cessna CJ-1 Citation. He has landed in Baja's small dirt strips, dry lake beds and on her huge paved runways. It's always an adventure!
Flying to Cabo San Lucas is still a great way to get to the Cape, and each year more private pilots fly down to experience the spectacular Baja Peninsula and Cabo San Lucas. Although some things have changed, flying to Baja today is not a whole lot different than it was 50 years ago.
Today's pilots do have to follow a few rules, but not many. For starters it is important to file a flight plan with the FAA before departing the United States, along with the new eApis on-line border crossing tango. After crossing the border all private aircraft must stop at an Airport of Entry to file Mexican Customs and Immigration forms. Obtaining a Tourist Card is an important part of that process ($20). For more information visit the TOURSIT CARD section of Cabo Expo.
Official airports of entry commonly used by private pilots when flying to Cabo include Ensenada, San Felipe, Loreto and for those with enough range and good bladder control La Paz or the Los Cabos International Airport. It's about 800 miles from the border to Cabo so most aircraft can make it down with just one stop for fuel and a stretch.
Half of the fun of flying to Cabo is the journey down. Most pilots fly along the eastern edge of the Baja Peninsula, along the Sea of Cortez. Flying along the coast one can see spectacular empty beaches, deserted islands, rugged terrain, and mile after mile of beautiful coastline. Some pilots plan thier trip down with stops on the way down just to break up the trip and have some fun.
Fun places to turn off the mags and enjoy the warmth of Mexico (after checking in at an airport of entry) include GONZAGA BAY, BAHIA DE LOS ANGELES, MULEGE, LORETO and LA PAZ. And there are still one or two strips open along the EAST CAPE as well.
Cabo San Lucas actually has two options for a man and his bird. Cabo San Lucas International Airport is where the heavies land, and they also have a good general aviation terminal, fuel and services. For those pilots who want to cut to the chase and land closer to Cabo, there is an airport a few miles up the hill from downtown Cabo. The runway there is long and in good shape, but there are no facilites or fuel at this field.
Currently pilots returning from Baja and heading for home need to stop and a Mexican Airport of Departure before flying out of Mexican airspace. This law is not particularly efficient, and there are efforts underway by Jack with the Baja Bush Pilots to change this rule. Time will tell if his efforts are successful.
Before heading home from Cabo the good folks at US Customs want a head's up before you cross back into the States. Most pilots provide this notice with their flight plan on the way down with the words "Advise Customs" (or AD CUS) on their flight plan, along with the eApis filing. If the time mentioned in the flight plan needs to be modified prior to your actual arrival you must give at least an hours notice to Customs for any changes. Arriving at the US airport of entry Customs Facility on time is important (landing early is asking for trouble, landing more than 15 minutes late is not a good idea). Brown Field near San Diego and Calexico near Mexicali are the most commonly used US airports of entry. Carlos likes the friendly folks at Calexico.
It is an excellent idea to review the web site of the BAJA BUSH PILOTS before flying down to Baja. Joining the Club is an even better idea. Their bulletin Board is chocked full of good information on flying into Baja, and their Airport Guide is an excellent tool to bring along for the flight down.
Another good book to bring along on any flight to Baja or Cabo is Air Baja by Baja aficianado Galen. His Baja aviation map is an excellent resource! The AIR BAJA pilots package includes information, photos, and the spectacular Baja map is the best available in the world. Telephone (877)-428-2665 or E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The package contains a 624 page book with over 100 Baja airstrips and over 200 color photos, plus lots of tips for flying into Baja!
Remember Mexico has strict laws about guns and drugs. Looking for a reason to loose your plane? Bringing guns, ammunition, or even the smallest amount of drugs into Mexico put you at serious risk.
And it's always fun to check out the web site from the good folks at A.O.P.A. to see what's new in general aviation!
For aviation insurance for flying into Mexico try a quote from the Baja experts at MACAFEE AND EDWARDS (800) 334-7950. They can fax you a policy the same day you call in.
LOS CABOS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
AEROPUERTO INTERNACIONAL LOS CABOS
CABO SAN LUCAS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT