Flying bizjets to southern and western Africa

Dependable service and infrastructure standards can still be lacking.

By Grant McLaren

(L) ExecuJet welcomes operators to CPT (Cape Town, South Africa) with full service support. Capetown, seen below with Table Mountain as the backdrop, is one of the most popular business and tourism destinations in the country.

Over recent years, southern and western Africa have become more GA friendly, providing a better operating environment in terms of infrastructure, services and communications. But there are still assorted and unique operating considerations bizav aircraft operators should be aware of.

"This region generally does not have the same service and security challenges as central and northern Africa. But even though the GA environment has become more reliable, service and infrastructure standards can still be lacking in places," says UAS Regional Ops Mgr Duke LeDuc. "There are good FBOs to consider where service quality is up, but don't expect the same standards found in Europe and parts of Asia. As operating challenges are encountered from time to time, having contingency options in mind is advised in many areas."

Jeppesen Vendor Relations Specialist Ian Humphrey points out that pre-trip diligence and security planning remains a must in this region. "This is not Europe or North America, where things always work, services are predictable and fuel/credit are never issues. If you have not done your pre-trip homework, don't assume issues will be easily resolved at destination. Should you encounter service problems or challenges, you may be stuck for days, with the potential for serious problems."

Popular airports

Popular destinations for GA in South Africa include HLA (Lanseria), JNB (Johannesburg) and CPT (Cape Town). DUR (Durban) and GRJ (George) also receive GA traffic, although less frequently.

Along the west coast of the continent, popular destinations and tech stops include WDH (Windhoek, Namibia), LAD (Luanda, Angola), ACC (Accra, Ghana), LOS (Lagos, Nigeria), DKR (Dakar, Senegal), and SID (Sal Island, Cape Verde).

Less traditional destination, crew rest and tech stop bases – although still feasible with additional advance planning – include options such as NSI (Yaoundé, Cameroon), FNA (Freetown, Sierra Leone) and BKO (Bamako, Mali).

Permit considerations

Overflight and landing permits are needed for this entire region. Universal Weather Master Mission Advisor Marcella Klauser points out that private and charter overflight permits can usually be obtained in 3 to 5 business days, and landing permits can be secured in 5 to 7 business days. "In many cases, permits for Africa are valid for 3 or more days and permit revisions are often fairly seamless. But if you do need to revise a permit, plan on allocating 24 hours or so lead time," she says.

Klauser also notes that permits to operate in Nigeria must be procured 4 business days ahead of time, and flights to and from Israel must certify that the purpose of the flight is non-military. Senegal permits, meanwhile, involve a 5 business day process and no cabotage is permitted without specific CAA permission. In the case of flights into Sierra Leone, plan on 4 business days to obtain permits, 3-day lead time for fuel uplifts, and be aware that CAA fees must be paid in cash upon arrival.

"Some parts of this region have longer permit lead times," observes Humphrey. "Cameroon usually requires a 10-day lead time for private/charter overflight or landing permits, and this can complicate short notice trips. Benin also mandates 10 business days lead time to obtain permits for all operations, including tech stops.

From time to time, operators report frustration in the timeliness of permit approvals. "While permit lead time for much of this region averages 3 business days, you may not receive your overflight permit confirmation until 4 hours or so before you enter the airspace," says Avfuel Account Exec David Kang. "Even if you request a series of overflight permits a week in advance, 1 of those permits may not materialize until the last minute."

Overflights and tech stops

LAD (Luanda, Angola), at right, is a frequent destination stop in SW Africa for business purposes. GA support services at Luanda have been improving. Photo below shows The Marginal, a seafront promenade on the Bay of Luanda.

Consider flight restrictions, safety risks and potential ground service challenges when flight planning in this region. Flying over Libya and South Sudan, for example, is restricted. This is also true for operations between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and overflight of Mali below FL260.

ITPS Ops Mgr Ben Fuller says, "There may be significant doglegs to consider in route planning. This is why having contingency options active can be very important. You may need to avoid certain airports that once may have been mainstay stops. DKR and SID are still reliable tech stops, while LAD keeps improving. However, Nigerian tech stops have become more challenging in terms of fuel supply and credit. Likewise, we've been using LBV (Libreville, Gabon) more infrequently for tech stops due to security considerations."

Kang adds, "When operating GA aircraft to and over the African continent, there are places you'll want to avoid for tech and destination stops. It's recommended to stay clear of certain tech stop locations even if they're airports of entry because they may not be safe, fuel availability could be an issue and/or credit card machines may be down. Stick with the more reliable locations and think of it as using islands of safety in a continent of unrest, rather than simply great circle planning over a large land mass."

At secondary locations, be aware that services, handling coordination, fuel credit, catering and security could all be issues. "You may be handled by the local airport authority and the handler might just take off for 30 to 40 minutes if an international arrival comes in or the local president wants to go flying," says Jeppesen International Trip Specialist Stewart Whittaker. "In some cases we recommend flying in with a supervisory ground agent to oversee local handling. Keep in mind that it may cost $5000 to $6000 to bring in an agent to Namibia from South Africa, for example, and lead time needs to be allowed for this."


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