Understanding African Overflight and Landing Permits: Part 2 – Lead Times, Documentation, and Cautions

PT 4 M minute read
Understanding African Overflight and Landing Permits: Part 2 – Lead Times, Documentation, and Cautions

This is a post by author Stanley Joseph. Stanley is general manager for Kilimanjaro Aviation Logistics Centre (KALC), a subsidiary of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc. which is headquartered in Mwanza, Tanzania. Stanley is an expert on permits for the African region and can be contacted at stanleyjoseph@universalaviation.aero.

This business aviation blog continues from our article last week, entitled "Understanding African Overflight and Landing Permits: Part 1 – Top 6 Challenging Destinations."

When operating to Africa, best practice is to confirm lead times, documentation, and other requirements prior to any operation. A local business sponsor will be needed at many locations, prior to a permit being processed. It’s important to supply complete information on local business contacts to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The following is an overview of what you need to know about overflight and landing permits when operating to Africa:

1. Landing and overflight requirements

Most countries in Africa require both overflight and landing permits. Some, such as Sao Tome and Principe, require entry and exit permits for overflights and landings. In the case of Sao Tome and Principe, both permit confirmations must be placed in the International Civil Aviation Organization section of the flight plan. Note that there are countries in Africa that share Flight Information Regions (FIRs). For example, the Roberts FIR includes Liberia, Guinea Republic, and Sierra Leone airspace while Tanzania FIR includes Rwanda and Burundi airspace.

2. Be aware of particular permit requirements

Permit application processes vary by country. Many stipulate e-mail or fax communication for permit submission, but some still require permit requests via Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN) or SITA. All permit requests should be checked and confirmed by phone. Recommended minimum lead time for permits in Africa is one to three days. Short-notice requests may be possible depending on the CAA. For example, Tanzania is usually able to process short-notice overflight and landing permit requests. Due to different CAA requirements throughout Africa, it’s recommended that operators plan trips and request all necessary overflight and landing permits, as far in advance as possible.

3. Permits may be processed by different entities

In most cases permit requests are sent to the relevant CAA. For Morocco, however, a permit is initiated by sending your proposed flight plan to Air Traffic Control (ATC). CAA then contacts ATC to confirm that they’ve received the flight plan prior to processing a permit. In Ethiopia permit requests are sent to CAA who will forward it to the Ministry of Defense or, in cases of diplomatic flights, to Foreign Affairs. Likewise for Zambia and Cameroon, permit requests are initially sent to CAA and forwarded from there to the Ministry of Defense for review.

4. Permit processing hours

Most CAAs in Africa operate Mondays-Fridays, 0800-1700 local. Note that Egypt and Djibouti CAAs close a half day on Friday for religious purposes. Permit processing may or may not be possible during public holidays, and this varies by country. At some locations ATC briefing offices may handle short-notice permit requests, while CAA is closed for weekends and holidays. At other locations – including Ethiopia – CAA’s closed for holidays, and permit processing will not take place during these times. In most cases CAAs will pre-advise vendors to send in requests prior to upcoming holidays.

5. Documentation requirements

For most of Africa, you’ll need to provide certificates of airworthiness and registration with landing permit requests, as well as worldwide insurance and pilot license details. Always ensure that your worldwide insurance is valid and current for the region you’re flying to. If you land with an expired insurance certificate, you will not be permitted to depart the country until valid insurance coverage is provided to CAA. Additional documentation may be required, but this is not the norm. Some countries want to know the number of passengers and their nationalities for permit requests. For example Djibouti mandates that air operator certificates be provided – even for private non-revenue flights, which leads to additional time needed to have CAA approve the permit without it. A local business contact is often required by CAA prior to a landing permit being issued. For Cameroon and Ethiopia, CAA wants to have full address, name, and phone/e-mail contact information for your local business sponsor prior to providing status of your permit request.

6. Diplomatic flights may require additional steps

The most complex permits, from a documentation and process perspective, are for diplomatic flights. Operators of diplomatic flights are also required to provide a letter from their home countries’ Ministries of Foreign Affairs (State Departments).

7. Avoid cabotage and security issues

Cabotage may be a concern in certain African countries so it’s always best to check in advance with your 3rd-party provider and/or local ground handler. In order to avoid security problems, potential operating delays, and other issues, it’s best to avoid traveling to countries with ongoing or anticipated civil unrest.

8. Ensure that required services/credit are available

Many airports in Africa are not airports of entry and are for domestic use only. At these locations you may not be able to source adequate aircraft support services or fuel/services credit. Airport security may also be an issue. Many airports in Africa still require cash payment for services rendered. In most cases, however, your ground handler will be able to pay for these services in advance and extend credit to the operator. When planning operations to domestic airports in Africa, be advised that permit delays may occur, or the permits will not be issued in some cases.

9. Compliance issues

There are locations in Africa where compliance is still a concern with regards to processing methods. It’s especially important for U.S. and European Union operators to ensure that ground handlers follow all compliance regulations in order to avoid issues at home. It’s OK to pay legitimate fees for services and clearances, but unauthorized payments – bribes – have the potential to cause all sorts of trouble down the line. Talk with your permit provider to ensure compliance in all aspects of the permit process.


Each country in Africa has its own unique landing and overflight permit requirements. Allow for as much lead time as possible when requesting overflight and landing permits.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance in obtaining your permits for your next trip to Africa, contact me at stanleyjoseph@universalaviation.aero.

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