Business Aviation in Africa 101: Flight Permits, Ground Handling, Visas, and Security
This is part one of a two-article series on business aircraft operations to Africa.
For business aircraft operators, Africa can be a permit-intensive operating environment, with specific documentation requirements and longer-than-average permit lead times. It’s important to begin working with your 3rd-party provider, and local ground handlers, well in advance of any planned operation to this part of the world. Here’s what you need to know:
1. What are key ground handling considerations in Africa?
At some locations, ground handling services are minimal or may not be available at all. Priority is given to scheduled commercial airlines, and it’s often best to reposition a ground handling agent to smaller secondary airport locations. While this involves extra costs, it ensures services are arranged as requested. Extending credit can be an issue in Africa, so it’s recommended to pre-confirm all services and credit arrangements.Otherwise, ground handlers may want cash. Be aware that Ground Support Equipment (GSE) may be minimal, depending on location. For that reason, you should always plan ahead and, at some locations, have a tow bar onboard and confirm the GSE available at the destination. Additionally, many airports in Africa have restricted operating and customs, immigration and quarantine hours, and these limitations must be considered in the planning process.
2. What African flight permit issues should be considered?
Permits are required for practically every country in Africa and for many over-water routings. For landing permits, there are lead times to consider, as well as route information and Flight Information Regions (FIRs). You may also need to provide business contacts, as well as crew/passenger information. Remember that there may be multiple countries within the same FIR boundary. You’ll need permits for each country, even though the FIR may be of another country. Depending on routing, you may require multiple permits for each leg. Some countries, such as Gabon, mandate overflight permits as far as 250 NM offshore. If appropriate permits are not obtained, you could be turned around or face re-routes and delays that may lead to other issues. Most African landing and overflight permits can be obtained within a few days and, depending on the country, are usually valid for 48+ hours. Be mindful that short-notice permit revisions can be difficult to obtain. Issues with revisions may affect operations and impact crew duty time. Landing permit confirmations should always be added to remarks section 18 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) flight plan to ensure that appropriate air traffic controls (ATCs) are notified.
3. Are business contacts required for landing permits?
Many Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) in Africa require a business contact to confirm the business being conducted, as well as associated crew/passenger information. When business contacts are required, it’s important to provide as much information as possible, including full company name, phone/e-mail contacts and address.
4. What are some good tech stops in Africa?
Although tech stop options are limited throughout much of central Africa, there are good and reliable tech stops to consider in many parts of the continent. Luanda (FNLU) and Lagos (DNMM) are reliable tech stops, both Cairo (HECA) and Luxor (HELX) are routinely used for fuel uplifts, and Djibouti (HDAM) offers quick and reliable aviation fuel uplifts.
For more choices on African tech stops, see 5 Great Tech Stops in Africa for Business Aviation – and Why.
5. What about visas?
Depending on the nationality, crew/passengers may require visas. Visas, in most cases, cannot be arranged on arrival, and if you land without a visa, you’ll be subject to deportation. As visa requirements change from time to time, it’s always best to confirm those requirements with your ground handler or 3rd-party provider prior to operation. It’s recommended to have at least six months’ remaining validity on all crew/passenger passports.
6. Any security tips?
Political unrest is common at certain locations throughout the African continent, and this may impact both on- and off-airport security. Depending on the airport, you may or may not be permitted to have a security guard airside to monitor your aircraft. When this option is possible, private aircraft guards may be armed or unarmed, and, in other cases, the airport may not permit this. For this reason, it’s best to check the availability in advance. If local security threats are high, it’s recommended that operators arrange secure prepaid (car with driver) transport for passengers/crew, together with pre-trip security briefings and, in higher-threat situations, on-site executive security. Security measures need to be considered in advance, as lead time is involved in making such arrangements. Local taxis and public transportation should be avoided in Africa for security reasons. Your 3rd-party provider can provide you with a security threat assessment and suggest the appropriate risk-mitigation measures prior to your trip.
Anticipate limited ground handling services and credit availability when operating to many secondary destinations in Africa. Always confirm visa requirements in advance and take the time to research, and plan for, any security risks that may be anticipated at planned destinations.
If you have any questions about this article, contact Christine Vamvakas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later we’ll discuss aviation fuel and hotel services while in Africa.