I've been a private pilot for many years, but I have never flown internationally in small private aircraft. I'm about to buy a tiny, high-tech, super-efficient 2-seat airplane that has extended range fuel tanks that make it possible to fly 8000km == 5000 miles without refueling (24+ hours). The longest flights necessary to cross the south-pacific in hops is 4000km (about 16 hours of flight at 250kph).

Such long range makes it possible for this tiny aircraft to fly anywhere on earth. Nonetheless, I'd have to be nuts not to stop more often than every 16 hours when that is possible: for a meal, potty stop, walk around and stretch body & legs... and eventually sleep!

This raises the asked question. Can a pilot, with or without one passenger, stop in other nations JUST to refuel without needing to go through immigration (and get a visa for that nation)... just to land, pull up to the gasoline pumps, fill them up, get back into the airplane, then fly away?

Note that this is NOT a question about flying in a commercial airplane on a conventional scheduled airplane flight. I also presume the stop will not involve going inside any building or leaving the refueling area within the private aircraft portion of the airport. It will involve getting out of the airplane, because refueling of diverse small private airplanes is generally done by hand by pilots, not by the huge trucks that fuel jet airplanes. Typically small airplanes just pull up to a pump much like you'd see at any gasoline station, insert credit card, pump fuel into the wings, then fly away.

When I get the airplane, after a month or two of getting used to it in north america, I plan to flying down to Chile with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 stops between (depending on these rules), then fly to dozens of islands in the south pacific (and land many places and islands that have airstrips, but no buildings (or at least no legal/government buildings).

In the later cases (south-pacific islands with tiny populations), I suspect nobody bothers or cares, because they assume all air traffic is strictly local. But flying down through (or 20 miles offshore) of Mexico through central America then Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and then finally into northern Chile (where I intend to spend a great deal of time) may be another matter entirely.

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    $\begingroup$ Range is 5000 miles? What airplane is that? $\endgroup$ – Farhan Nov 9 '18 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ What's it use for fuel? $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Nov 9 '18 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure where you got 4000 miles from, at 100 liter tanks and maximum range is 767nm, with 300 liters it would be just over 2000nm. Keep in mind that's theoretical and you wouldn't in practice get that far as you'd need reserves. $\endgroup$ – GdD Nov 9 '18 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ I just looked at the formatting page and don't see how to make an image visible here without putting it on a webpage somewhere and linking to the image in the webpage. Maybe I'm missing something. Here, try clicking on the following internet link and see if you can download the PDF, then look on page 5: </br> pipistrel-usa.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/… $\endgroup$ – bootstrap Nov 9 '18 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ From the Pipestrel website: While the performance numbers of the Virus SW do not change, as the 912 iS maintains 100 HP, the fuel consumption decreases dramatically by as much as 21%, preliminary numbers show. This means that the Virus SW equipped with the new Rotax 912 iS cruises at 274 km/h (147 kts) in 15 litres per hour (3.95 gph). What an amazing achievement! It can be said that the double NASA Challenge Winner Virus SW finally got the perfect engine! 3227nm/147kts = 22 hours in the air. I'm pretty sure I couldn't do that and still be a good pilot. $\endgroup$ – CrossRoads Dec 31 '18 at 1:25

While it depends on the country, expect to have mandatory immigration checks on first port of entry in most countries. I know this to be true for the US, Canada, Britain, Russia and the EU (Schengen area). Usually only emergency landings are exempt. But they may lead to investigations so not really an alternative to declare one in each and every country.

Usually it's best to hire a service provider to prepare all the paperwork for your trip. While their main business is to prepare commercial flights (non airliner), most also accept private pilots as clients, a few even welcome them. They will not just plan your journey regarding visas, landing and crossing permits (some countries do require preregistration for each and every flight into their territory), but also make sure to pick only airports with the right fuel available, or making it available. Selecting and booking hotels can be included as well.

Anyone I know, who ever tried to fly further than the next door country, sooner or later took such service as it makes a huge difference. Well, some had to make the experiance to get stuck for a week at some border first :))

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    $\begingroup$ first point of entry is the crux here. If you never enter the country you don't have a first point of entry. And staying on board or on the ramp while a crew refuels you may or may not count as entry depending on the country and facility. I've had fuel stops (albeit as a passenger) many times in various places, and rarely had to go through customs in the process. Can't see how it'd be different if you're a pilot and just waiting for someone to "fill her up". $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jan 10 '19 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ Take the US as example. When entering, you're right away directed to the immigration apron. There's no fuel or whatsoever, and you're advised to stay inside your plane, even on a fricking hot day, until they done their way. The US is one of the countries even checking passengers between international flights - they always check. Canada is the same albeit a bit more relaxed. In the EU (and other countries) handling varies as sometimes most of the time you're allowed to leave the plane and wait in their office buildings or alike. $\endgroup$ – Raffzahn Jan 10 '19 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ Can you list a few of those companies... or at least provide the generic name for those types of companies so I can perform a search? You mentioned US, Canada, Britain, Russia, EU... but my flying will be US, Mexico, all the others in central America, then the western part of South America (Ecuador, Peru, Chile, western Bolivia and Argentina). Hmmm, maybe overfly Columbia up at the north end before Ecuador. Those companies should know, so try to tell me who they are and how to contact them. Thanks for that tip. $\endgroup$ – bootstrap Jan 11 '19 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ Since I never flown in South America (nor Mexico) or Asia, I can't give reliable information here. General term would be flight services or flight support. Not sure if names are wellcome here, but examples might be World Air Ops in the US, FlightWorx in the UK or FSINT in Germany. While the former are more geared toward large customers, seams FSI quite willing to support everyone - at least I made good experiance when planing a world tour (which never hapened). There are many more, jsut do a web search, maybe with 'overflight permissions' as additional keywords. $\endgroup$ – Raffzahn Jan 11 '19 at 1:00

It depends on the laws in the country you are landing in, but for the most part there's no reason you can't refuel without going through customs/passport control, commercial pilots do this all the time. They don't get out of the airplane for the most part but there's no reason they couldn't. Generally there's no reason to go through passport control unless you want to enter the general terminal area or exit the airport altogether.

  • $\begingroup$ That makes sense. Would the pilot generally inform approach or tower the landing is for refueling only? Also, would it be necessary to only refuel at POE (port of entry) airports? Probably, huh? $\endgroup$ – bootstrap Nov 9 '18 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ When we fly from the Lower48 to Alaska, transiting Canada, the customs language from both countries specifically state to "not get out of the aircraft" until a customs official is present. This is most tricky when arriving in AK, where the most common first stop is Tok, which has no customs facility on-site, but to where customs agents will drive to from the border crossing when the flight is pre-coordinated. They state: "it is important to arrive as close as possible to your ETA, because you cannot exit the aircraft until we arrive." $\endgroup$ – Jimmy Nov 9 '18 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Jimmy : What if one flew into international airspace in Washington state, then re-entered in Alaska without entering Canada airspace? Does that make anything easier? Probably not, huh? Nonetheless, fantastic if smaller airports in other nations do what you describe in TOK (Tok Junction Airport). $\endgroup$ – bootstrap Nov 9 '18 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ @bootstrap that happens all the time. "International Airspace" isn't the problem, nor is even flying through a foreign airspace. Most countries are part of ICAO, which have overflight agreements. Departing Chicago, flying over Canada, and landing in Anchorage, AK requires no customs upon arrival. It's only once you've had your boots on someone else's soil that the next country in line wants to talk to you upon entry. $\endgroup$ – Jimmy Nov 9 '18 at 19:14
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    $\begingroup$ @Jimmy : Obviously it makes sense that airplanes can fly over nations they won't land in without creating immigration / customs issue. If that wasn't true, a great deal of travel by flying would be utterly intolerable. From a similarly logical viewpoint, it makes sense that the runways, taxiways, aircraft fueling areas [and restroom] would be legally considered equivalent to "being up in the air" (overflying). This would make stops for refueling nearly as non-problematic as overflying (from the standpoint of immigration and customs issues). Maybe that's more-or-less how it works. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – bootstrap Nov 9 '18 at 19:21

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