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.”
So be prepared to drop and reposition. “I recommend that operators carry a lot of fuel and file for Montevideo, Uruguay (SUMU), or Cordoba, Argentina (SACO),” Penalva said. Serving the second largest city in Argentina, SACO is a well-equipped airport with English-speaking controllers — but it's an hour away. “Another alternate, if Newbury has no parking, is Rosario, Argentina (SAAR), about 40 min. away,” Penalva continued. “It is the only airport in the country with a dedicated general aviation FBO, a small general aviation terminal in this case, based on the west side of airport. You have to let them know when you're coming so they can have the CIQ people there in advance.”
Coming in from any location other than Uruguay, operators will need the aforementioned permit for a general aviation aircraft to operate internationally. For planning purposes, Penalva advised, “Be aware that if the weather is crappy in Buenos Aires, it's generally the same in Uruguay. So where will you go? The point is to carry extra fuel so, if the situation changes, you have enough fuel to make it to Uruguay or one of the other alternates. And be sure to have the handler standing by wherever you're going.”
Garcia at ARSOT added some information about Jorge Newbery's slot process, specifically, that if airport volume is high, slots will be assigned when flight plans are filed with the field's dispatching office. “It is highly recommended to file the ICAO IFR flight plan at least 24 hr. prior to intended departure time to have a chance of getting a slot corresponding to the ETD,” he said.
On the street in Buenos Aires, visitors should exercise the usual cautions necessary to remain safe in a large city with a lot of poverty. During Argentina's monetary collapse a decade ago, street crime was rife; however, recent visitors said that as the economy has improved, crime has been significantly reduced.
The second largest metropolitan area in South America after São Paulo, Buenos Aires is classified as an “autonomous city,” a designation conferred in 1994 via a constitutional amendment that ended centuries of political infighting. Portenos (“people of the port,” the name accorded Buenos Aires citizens) are now able to elect their mayors, who previously were appointed by the republic's president.