Do NOT enter this building More Photos
Weather and Flight Plan
For the flight, I calculated that we needed to take off by 8:00am in order to arrive in Manzanillo a comfortable interval before sundown, the cutoff time for flying VFR in Mexico. The last leg of the flight would have to be VFR due to the minimum IFR altitudes for the leg being out of my reach in the Arrow.
We received our IFR clearance and took off into clear skies at 7:56 am, 4 minutes ahead of schedule.
Along the route we did encounter IFR conditions with a cloud deck below us but it was not a factor for our flight. When still some 50 miles away from the border, we received an amendment to our flight plan. Rather than direct to Monterrey we were now to fly direct to Nuevo Laredo then V26 (an IFR airway) to Monterrey. This was apparently a relayed request from the Mexican ATC (Air Traffic Control, which is CTA in Mexico). I don't think Mexico is much on GPS navigation. I haven't seen any GPS instrument approaches for Mexico yet.
When I contacted Monterrey Approach, they told me to expect the ILS approach. But they never gave me a descent to the interception altitude and when arriving at the airport, which was VFR (no instrument approach required), they cleared me for a visual approach while still at the enroute altitude.
When on the ground, one of the taxiways was closed so I had to circle around behind the terminal to make my way to the only general aviation FBO.
See More Photos from this leg of the flight.
The Monterrey Airport
When I arrived at the FBO, their parking signals were unclear so I just parked in front of the attendant near the FBO building. The FBO personnel did not know that I was an international flight so we had to move the plane slightly to the inspection area. The first official arrived and examined some of my paperwork. I think he was just the federale but it was not clear to me because he was not in uniform. The FBO said they would assist with the entry paperwork for a fee and this seemed like it might be worth considering since the offices were not near the general aviation area and I was not free to roam about the airport. I asked for the cost and was told it would take a few minutes. During this time the receptionist printed up the bill and it came to almost $500! This included the entry fee, my passenger's visa fee, and the airport use fee. At other airports this only comes to about $90. I then asked how much it would be if I handled the entry myself and was told that it would cost the same. This I believe was a lie.
So I paid it and elected to go with the FBO personnel to ensure that there was no further delay in securing the entry permits and visa for my passenger. The process was not easy since some of the officials were not in their office and had to be tracked down on the airport. The FBO personnel told me that normally their customers called them in advance and all this was done ahead of time. Incidentally in the 2-1/2 hours that I was there, I was the only customer. The lack of popularity of this FBO does not surprise me. I was also told by the FBO personnel that it would have been cheaper for me to go to the Del Norte airport. I don't know how much cheaper that would be. Since every public airport in Mexico can be an airport of entry as far as I can see, I see no point in ever flying into Monterrey again. So if you don't HAVE to fly to Monterrey, then don't fly to Monterrey.
Curiously, the FBO had nothing to do with fueling the aircraft. They did call the fuel truck for me. The truck came and fueled the airplane then left to go prepare the bill, returning 15 minutes later for payment. Normally, you can pay either at the truck or at a nearby office.