Your Guide to Juan Santamaría Intl. Airport - MROC

Welcome to Costa Rica’s main gateway to the world! Located in the capital city of San José and in operation since 1958, Juan Santamaría Intl. Airport currently serves 49 destinations across 19 countries. This is a comprehensive and detailed guide for any pilots or controllers willing to use this airport in the realm of Infinite Flight.

History

Juan Santamaría Intl. Airport was founded in 1958, under the name “Aeropuerto International el Coco”, in an age where air travel was becoming more and more common. It served as the hub for Costa Rica’s national airline Lacsa until they were bought in 1991 by fellow Latin American carrier TACA. Since then, it has become a hub for regional airlines Sansa and Costa Rica Green Airways as well as Avianca Costa Rica, the remnants of the country’s beloved former flag carrier. The airport received 5,000,000 passengers in 2017 and has been growing ever since.

The airport was renamed after Costa Rica’s national hero, Juan Santamaría. However, many still refer to it as “El Coco” due to its location and history. Furthermore, the VOR/DME in use at the airport is still called El Coco.

Runways and Taxiways

First and foremost, MROC disposes of a single runway, which is 07/25.

Runway 07

Runway 07 is used for most departures and arrivals, and is the preferred runway at this airport. It is equipped with and CAT I ILS approach.
Despite this, Runway 07 is not to be used for widebody departures due to high terrain ahead of the runway. Use Runway 25 instead.

Runway 25

Runway 25 is used less frequently for arrivals as it is not equipped with an ILS approach. As such, it is only to be used when wind directions are preferable to its use.
All wide-body aircraft depart from Runway 25.

Runway 07/25 is 9,882ft long and 148ft wide, which means that aircraft as large as the B747 are capable of operating to and from this airport.

This image shows some information about the taxiways at MROC. As you can see, Taxiway A is the main taxiway used for taxiing to and from Runway 07 as well as the main terminal. Taxiway K is used to taxi to and from Runway 25. Taxiway E is used to access the Domestic Terminal and splits up into branches E1 and E2.

Terminals

MROC currently has two passenger terminals and one cargo terminal:

Main Terminal (Red)

Main Terminal M (marked as A in Infinite Flight) is used for all international flights. Renovated in the early 2000s, it is easily distinguishable in real life because of its high, red roof.
Gates A1, A2, A3, A4 and A13 are used by wide-bodies; the rest are used by narrow bodies. Use Taxiway A to access.

Domestic Terminal (Orange)

Domestic Terminal (Domestic Apron in IF) is used exclusively by Sansa, Costa Rica Green Airways and Carmonair, which all operate services to and from various Costa Rican towns with their propeller aircraft from this terminal. Aircraft such as the C208 Caravan are most common here. Please mind the size restrictions and choose your aircraft accordingly. Use Taxiway E to access.

Cargo Terminal (Yellow)

Cargo Terminal (Cargo Apron in IF) sees operations from cargo airlines such as FedEx and DHL. Aircraft as large as the 777F and MD-11F can operate from here. Use Taxiway F (Foxtrot) to access. Be mindful not to confuse Taxiway F with Taxiway E, as it has happened to me a few times!

If you’re feeling creative and want to try a different type of flight, use these terminals:

Remote Stands (Green)

Remote Stands are used for general aviation and all other aircraft which do not fit into the previous categories. These stands are the only ones large enough in this airport to efficiently accomodate very large aircraft such as the B747 or the AN-128, which have all parked here in real life.
They are accessed by Taxiway F and are located next to the Cargo Terminal.

COOPESA Hangar (Blue)

Costa Rican MRO COOPESA is based at MROC and operates a hangar east of the Main Terminal which it uses to perform maintenance on aircraft from all around the world. Therefore it is not uncommon to see exotic aircraft such as an Alliance E190 or a Nouvelair A320 parked there for maintenance in real life!
In Infinite Flight, be careful when parking as space is limited. Also, COOPESA can’t handle aircraft larger than the B757, so choose your aircraft wisely!

SID and STAR Procedures

MROC is unique as it is located in a valley and is surrounded by high terrain. Therefore it is important to plan your flight accordingly with the use of SID and STAR procedures, as the last thing that you want is your aircraft crashing into the side of the nearby Poás Volcano!
I’ve also included a few tips when using these procedures to make your flight more realistic, namely which SID or STAR each departure uses. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to perfect your flight plan, and you’re not obliged to follow my tips, but I though it might be helpful to add which procedures aircraft use IRL at MROC.

SIDs
  • North:
    NANJ3R (07), NANJ4R (25) - Used for most Northeast America and Canada departures
    NANJ3C (07), NANJ4C (25) - Used for all European departures
    RAMON4 (07 or 25)
    POAS4 (07 or 25)

  • South:
    TEJA3T (07), TEJA4T (25)
    DOTA3D (07), DOTA4D (25)
    DOTA3E (07), DOTA4E (25)
    ATENA4 - Used for Panamá City and South America departures

  • East:
    TEJA3M (07), TEJA4M (25)
    PARAI3 - Used for Panamá City and South America departures

STARs
  • North:
    BARA3C (07), BARA4C (25) - Used for all European Arrivals
    BARA3P (07), BARA4P (25) - Used for most Northeast America and Canada arrivals
    BARA3L (07), BARA4L (25) - Used for most West America arrivals

  • South:
    CUAR3T (07), CUAR4T (25) - Used for Panamá City and South American arrivals
    PARI3D (07) PARI4D (25) - Used for South American arrivals
    PARI3E (07), PARI4E (25) - Used for South American arrivals

  • East:
    CUAR3I (07), CUAR4I (25) - Used for Panamá City and South American arrivals

Destinations

Juan Santamaría Intl. Airport is Central America’s second busiest airport, although it used to be the busiest in the region not long ago. With flights operating as near as Panamá City to as far away as Frankfurt, you definetly won’t be left disappointed with this list of destinations!

Passenger
Airline Destinations Seasonal Destinations Equipment More Info
Aeromexico Mexico City B738, B38M
Air Canada Toronto Montreal BCS3, A333, B38M, B789
Air Canada Rouge Montreal A319
Air France Paris CDG A359 Equipment switches to B772/B773 during Summer 2024
Air Transat Toronto, Montreal A21N
Alaska Airlines Los Angeles B738, B38M
American Airlines Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami B738, B38M
Arajet Santo Domingo B738
Avianca Bogotá A320
Avianca Costa Rica (Lacsa) Bogotá, Buenos Aires–Ezeiza, Cancún, Caracas, Cartagena, Guatemala City, Lima, Managua, Medellín, Mexico City, New York–JFK, Quito, San Salvador, Washington–Dulles Chicago-O’Hare, San Pedro Sula A319, A320, A321 Hub
Avianca El Salvador (TACA) San Salvador A320
British Airways London-Gatwick B772
Copa Airlines Guatemala City, Managua, Panama City B737, B738, B38M Focus City
Costa Rica Green Airways Quepos, Tambor C208, K100 Hub, national destinations only
Delta Atlanta, Los Angeles B752
Edelweiss Zürich A343 In high season, outbound Edelweiss flights make a stop at LIR
Frontier Atlanta Miami A320
Iberia Madrid A332 Iberia has operated the A359 on this route
Iberojet Madrid A359
JetBlue Fort-Lauderdale, New York-JFK, Orlando Los Angeles A320, A321
KLM Amsterdam B772 Outbound KLM flights make a stop at LIR or PTY
LATAM Perú Lima A320
Lufthansa Frankfurt am Main A343 A343 to be replaced by A359
Sansa Costa Esmeralda, Coto 47, Drake Bay, Golfito, La Fortuna, Liberia-Guanacaste, Limón, Nosara Beach, Palmar Sur, Pérez Zeledón, Puerto Jiménez, Quepos, Tamarindo, Tambor, Tortuguero C208 Hub
Southwest Baltimore, Houston-Hobby, Orlando Denver B738, B38M Orlando route begins on July 4th, 2024
Spirit Fort-Lauderdale, Orlando A320, A20N, A321, A21N
United Houston-George Bush, Newark Chicago-O’Hare, Denver, Los Angeles, Washington-Dulles B738, B38M United has operated the B752 on some routes
Volaris Cancún A20N
Volaris Costa Rica Bogotá, Cancún, Guatemala City, Lima, Mexico City, New York–JFK, San Salvador, Washington–Dulles A319, A20N Hub
Wingo Bogotá, Balboa B738

Sources: Wikipedia.com, Planespotters.net

Cargo
Airline Destinations Equipment Type
ABX Air Panama City B763
AerCaribe Panama City B734
AeroUnion Guatemala City, Mexico City, Miami A300, B763
Amerijet International Miami B763
Avianca Cargo Miami A332
CargoJet Miami B763
DHL (AeroExpreso) Miami, Panama City B752, B763
DHL (Guatemala) Guatemala City AT42
FedEx Aguadilla, Memphis B752, B763, B777
La Costeña Managua C208
LATAM Cargo (Colombia) Miami, Guatemala City B763
Mas Air Mexico City, Quito A332
UPS Miami B752, B763

Sources: Wikipedia.com, Planespotters.net

Additional Information
Tips for a Smooth Landing at MROC

Many factors make MROC an interesting airport to land at. Whether it be the high terrain, the dominant mountain ranges that form the valley the airport is located in or the challenging Runway 25 approach, you’ll certainly find landing at MROC a unique experience.

Runway 07 Landing

Runway 07 is equipped with an Instrument Landing System (ILS) making it the preferable runway to land at. As the airport is located at a high altitude (3,022ft), I recommend holding at 6,000 feet while waiting to intercept the localizer/glideslope. Lower gear 10nm away from the airport and call final once you pass waypoint “MONTE”. I recommend disengaging autopilot at 500ft. The runway is almost 10,000ft long but these 10,000ft pass by rapidly, especially when flying widebodies such as the 777 into this airport. For that reason I recommend aiming for an early touchdown.
Runway 07 is located at the foot of a small cliff in IF, so as you enter the Runway the GPWS will jump from a 200ft warning to a 50ft warning rapidly. Be careful for this warning as it may surpise you and disconcentrate you. As for any smooth landing, try flaring at around 20-30ft and set thrust to idle. The aircraft should touch down smoothly, giving you plenty of runway space to brake.

Runway 25 Landing

Runway 25 is not equipped with an ILS as it is surrounded by high terrain. Instead, pilots usually have to perform a complicated approach involving a sharp 180 degrees turn all while monitoring speed and altitude carefully. Here’s how to ace your landing on Runway 25.
For most approaches to Runway 25, you’ll start by flying parallel to the Runway 07 final approach path - essentially flying a right downwind pattern. As you pass the airport to your left, you’ll gradually start turning left base, slowly increasing the turn angle from just a slight bank to a sharp left turn to align with Runway 25 - all while being surrounded by high terrain. It is important that you do this turn correctly as you’ll end up overshooting the runway if you don’t - something you don’t particularly want in high terrain conditions. You have limited space to perform the turn, and all the while you must monitor altitude and speed. Call final once you reach base. When you complete your turn and are aligned with Runway 25 you’ll practically be in front of the runway due to the sharpness of the turn. Perform final alignment adjustments and aim for an early touchdown (if possible). As for any smooth landing, try flaring at around 20-30ft and set thrust to idle. The aircraft should touch down smoothly, giving you plenty of runway space to brake.
For beginners and intermediate flyers I recommend enabling landing aid in this approach as it really helps!

The Beauty of Costa Rica from the Cockpit

Costa Rica is a country blessed with diverse natural beauty, which you can spot on approach to MROC. Here are some of the natural landmarks you can expect to see whilst descending into San José.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to upload the photos I took of these landmarks in IF to this topic as for some reason it won’t let me add them, so tell me if I should create a separate topic with the photos.

North and East Arrivals

The North and East arrivals merge into one as you approach the airport so I have merged them both into one section as you will see most landmarks in either arrival.

  • Arenal Volcano
    This active, cinder-cone volcano is one of Costa Rica’s most famous natural landmarks. It produces stunning eruptions, with the lava glowing a fierce red at nighttime. At 5000ft high, this volcano is easily distinguishable in IF, making it hard to miss it. Both North and East arrivals can enjoy this sight from above when approaching MROC

  • Poás Volcano
    Continuing on the topic of volcanoes, the crater of the Poás Volcano is visible when approaching from the East (European arrivals). It is of a beige color which makes it stand out in the vast sea of green mountains surrounding it.

  • Tortuguero National Park
    Famous for turtle-nesting which occurs on its shores, Tortuguero National Park is adored by locals and tourists alike. The distinctive levees forming the park can be seen when approaching from the East. If you’re up for a challenge, fly to Tortuguero Airport (MRBT) on a small plane - the short runway, tight approach and stunning views make it an interesting destination to fly to!

  • Nicoya Bay
    When turning left base for Runway 07 you’ll get good views of the Nicoya Bay and the mountains below you. This approach is significantly prettier during sunset as the sun lights up the bay as well as the mountains in the distance. Try it out for yourself!

South Arrivals
  • Pacific Coast and Beaches
    On select Southern Arrivals you’ll get a good view of the Pacific coast of Costa Rica which is home to some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, as well as the tourist-famous Manuel Antonio National Park. Some of the beaches you’ll see as you descend include Esterillos Beach, Herradura Beach and the Los Sueños Marina, and Jacó Beach.

  • Cerro Chirripó
    Cerro Chirripó is Costa Rica’s highest mountain. At at height of around 12,000ft, it is said that climbers who reach the summit can see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean at the same time on a clear day. This mountain can be seen from all Southern arrivals.

  • Nicoya Bay
    When turning left base for Runway 07 you’ll get good views of the Nicoya Bay and the mountains below you. This approach is significantly prettier during sunset as the sun lights up the bay as well as the mountains in the distance. Try it out for yourself!

Sources


Thank you for reading this airport guide! It was a pleasure working on a guide for my hometown airport and I hope you’ll enjoy flying to MROC as much as I do, whether it be within the realm of Infinite Flight or in real life too!
I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have!

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i shall bookmark for latter :D nice guide

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Thank you! Hope you enjoyed it :)

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Great guide! Now I must fly here soon lol

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Amazing guide, must fly here more often

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Well… it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case here. Perhaps they only depart from 25 when it’s too hot outside or the plane is too heavy to make the turn above a certain safe altitude?

This must be an excecption. From what I understood wide-bodies tend not to depart from Rwy07 as it requires a higher climb rate which affects fuel consumption very negatively. Apologies for the mistake.

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