This can be one of the most frustrating questions when chartering an aircraft—especially if you’ve flown into an airport before!
There are a lot of factors that go into operational decisions like whether or not an aircraft can use a specific airport. In this article, I’ll list out a few of them, explain how they can affect your flight, and hopefully shed some light on why the go/no-go decisions are made the way they are.
There’s no fuel available
This can be particularly frustrating if the airport you’d like to use is on the smaller side. Aircraft use two different types of fuel, 100LL (100 octane low lead) for small piston aircraft, and Jet-A (regular jet fuel) for turboprop and jet aircraft. A small reliever airport may have a long enough runway to operate from, but if they don’t have fuel there your jet has to carry enough fuel on the way in to get back out. Sometimes this can be remedied by adding a fuel stop, but often times it makes more sense to use a larger airport that has Jet-A available.
The runway is dry-only
Air charter providers, like those in the Magellan Jets Preferred Network, have to operate under the general rules that apply to all charter operators as well as rules specific to their aircraft and operations. A large part of being certified as a charter operator involves creating an operations manual that defines the rules, restrictions, and procedures for their flights. Some operators, as part of this manual, have a list of runways that are only usable when they’re dry (no rain, snow, or mist). In simple terms a wet runway keeps the brakes from working as efficiently and depending on the construction of the runway surface it can become slippery enough to be unsafe. Also, just because the runway looks dry when you’re there on the ground doesn’t mean there won’t be an issue. The rules say that the crew has to base their decision on the official weather reports which are usually only updated once per hour.
The runway isn’t long enough
When a new aircraft is being certified for production it goes through a series of flight tests to record and set the basic performance information and specifications. One part of these flight tests checks the length required for an aircraft to accelerate to takeoff speed, then abort the takeoff and come to a complete stop (Balanced Field Length). This number is calculated for every flight based on atmospheric conditions, runway construction or features, and takeoff weight and is different for every aircraft. Chartered aircraft are required to calculate this for every flight and cannot use a runway if the length is less than this distance. For aircraft operated by their owners (non-chartered) they don’t have the same requirement, so they’ll sometimes trade off this essential safety margin for the convenience of using a smaller runway.
Weather and atmospheric issues
When a charter operator is calculating their Balanced Field Length, a lot of factors go into the formula. Aircraft weight (which is largely affected by how much fuel they need on board), atmospheric conditions like temperature and air pressure, winds, runway contamination (standing water, snow, etc), and airport elevation all go into the math and help them decide if it’s legal—and more importantly safe—to use a particular airport.
What can I do?
All of these factors go into the decision of whether or not your jet can use a particular airport. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about it! You’ve done your part by booking your flight with Magellan Jets.
Our Sourcing department works closely with Magellan Jets Preferred Network providers to make sure your itinerary can be completed safely, and we identify possible issues before they come up so we can work with our providers and with you to have backup plans or alternate airports in place.
Have you had trouble getting into an airport before? We’d love to hear your stories in the comment section!