INTERNATIONAL OPS

Flying bizjets to southern and western Africa

Dependable service and infrastructure standards can still be lacking.


Smaller locations

ACC (Accra, Ghana), at left, is another popular destination and tech stop in the region. Accra (above), the capital of Ghana, has a population approaching 3 million.

Additional planning and day-of- operation considerations often kick in when flying to smaller or secondary locations in this region. GRJ has a 6562-ft runway and is located close to popular national park areas, but this is not an airport of entry, operating hours and support services are limited, and prior permission required (PPR) is needed with 24-hours notification.

For SZK (Skukuza, South Africa), PPR must be requested at least 72 hours prior and only aircraft smaller than a Gulfstream IV may use this 5085-ft runway. SZK operates Mon through Sat from 0800 to 1500 local and on Sun from 0800 to 1400, no Jet A fuel, lav service or potable water are available there and you'll need to clear inbound and outbound customs/immigration elsewhere. In many cases the nearest adequate hotel may be a 30 or 40-minute drive from secondary airports.

"At smaller locations, there may be no available services, security fencing or credit available," says ITPS COO Phil Linebaugh. "There are some smaller airports close to tourism areas where you may need to overfly and buzz the runway prior to landing to clear away wildlife. After parking, you may find lions resting in the shade under your wings and/or assorted critters getting into your hotel room.

There are hotels near Victoria Falls where guests are asked to keep windows and balcony doors closed as monkeys come in and collect things. Not long ago, a group of monkeys was busted with a stash of bracelets, cell phones, watches and crew glasses within the grounds of one hotel."

Be aware, also, that it may be a very expensive proposition operating to some of these smaller or out of the way locations, even though virtually no services are offered. "With sufficient advance planning, however, some level of support can be set up," says LeDuc. "Sometimes you'll need to think outside the box and allow additional lead time. There was a case of a crew member who wanted to go into a smaller African location where fuel is normally not available, but it was possible to ship in 50 gallon drums of fuel to the location."

Fuel, credit, documentation and health considerations

While fuel shortages and credit issues are rare in South Africa it's always best to carry fuel releases and confirm uplifts 24 to 48 hours in advance. When operating outside South Africa, including up the western side of the continent, be prepared for occasional fuel and credit issues.

"Consider fueling in advance and make it as a checklist item to have sufficient fuel onboard to make it to a refuel alternate… just in case," says LeDuc. "We have regular operators to Africa who always have contingency plans in place for short notice early departures. If something happens with the stability of the local government, or a natural disaster occurs, you want to be able to get out. Having sufficient fuel onboard to take you to the next practical stop can be an important checklist item."

While credit issues can be a concern in this region, you should not need to carry much cash if working with a well-connected international service provider (ISP) with strong local agent alliances. If cash or fuel prepayment is required at more challenging locations, it's usually possible to have someone reposition in to handle this.

Note that yellow fever and other particular immunizations may be required in certain countries, based on where you have traveled to over the past week or so. "Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria all have yellow fever immunization requirements on the books," says Jeppesen Business Consultant Nancy Pierce. "Tanzania, for example, wants to see yellow fever cards on arrival if crew and/or passengers have recently been in Kenya for more than 24 hours. They may not let you in otherwise."

Security

For any stop in the African continent, as with many other parts of the world, understanding risks and security exposure is important. Pre-trip security briefs are recommended for many areas, and aircraft guards are advised at certain locations. While security at major southern and western African airports of entry is usually adequate, you're often more vulnerable when traveling between the airport and hotel. Securing local transport, or at least well-vetted transport, is always recommended.

Even in politically stable countries, such as Morocco or Ghana, common street crime is always something to watch out for. But, if you're heading to a destination with a more chaotic atmosphere, additional security measures are often warranted.

"You may need a backup plan to get out within very short notice as widespread protests or street chaos can occur in a moment's notice," says Kang. "You may be safe in your hotel, under lockdown and guarded by mercenaries, but routes to the airport may be compromised and you may be stuck for days. In order to mitigate these foreseeable risks, some operators consider having overflight permits continually active as well as local escape routes as added insurance. Having a satellite phone is also recommended. Local cell networks are generally good but may overload if a major security situation breaks out."

Heading to the continent

Choose tech stops carefully when operating to southern and western Africa, plan well in advance for permits, services and security contingencies, and be flexible. Over recent years, GA support infrastructure, ATC, ground services and communications have much improved the operator experience, but you may still encounter occasional power outages as well as inconsistent internet connectivity, credit machines not working, fuel shortages and pop-up security challenges. While these issues are more prevalent at smaller destinations, they can also affect major airports of entry.

ISPs advise preparing for any potential issue or contingency well in advance. Ensure that you land with all the mandated immunizations, be able to provide local business sponsor information – when required – and have short notice early departure options as a checklist item. And if you're tech stopping on the way home from a hunting trip with guns and animal carcasses onboard, confirm well in advance that this will not create issues during what should be a routine fuel uplift.

Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.


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