June 24, 2020
Before the COVID-19 pandemic sent shockwaves through global markets, six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies called Africa home. There are still many business opportunities to be found in countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Angola, but navigating the continent’s weather and inconsistent aviation systems can be a steep challenge for newcomers.
In the NBAA GO Virtual International Operators Conference 2020 (IOC2020) session, “Regional Review – Africa,” veteran travelers to the region discussed common challenges and ways to mitigate them.
The next live IOC session, “International Regulatory Updates,” will be held at 11 a.m. (EDT) July 9.
Factor in Massive Storms
A major consideration for fuel and ETP planning is the volatile weather conditions found in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, which runs horizontally across the area south of Saharan Africa. Presenter Mark McIntyre, director of flight operations for Mente, LLC, advised operators flying through this region to expect daily thunderstorms capable of reaching 50,000 feet.
“Sometimes they’re widely spread but often they’re in long lines,” he noted. “Because of the height of these storms, you’re not able to fly over them – I’ve had experience of flying several hundred miles around the end of the line of thunderstorms.”
Keep Track of Overflight Permits
Due to the number of countries Africa-bound operators will likely fly over – and the potential need for weather-based deviations of hundreds of miles – presenters advised operators to begin the permit acquisition process early and consider buying permits (typically around $200) for adjacent FIRs.
“If you’re overflying and they don’t have record of your permit, they can give you a hard time,” said McIntyre. “We ask our international service provider to give us a one-sheet of all of our overflight and landing permits, including permit number, validity period and tail number.”
Nancy Pierce, technical sales/business consultant for International Trip Planning, also cautioned that the heavily traveled Dakar FIR in Western Africa covers many countries, each of which requires its own overflight permit.
Seek Out Experienced Travelers
Presenters noted that it can challenging to find up-to-date information on many African airports’ aircraft classification number and pavement classification number.
“Current airport data can be hard to come by,” said Brent Schmenk, aviation manager/international pilot at Cook Canyon Ranch Aviation. “Finding a place on the airport that can support the aircraft can be difficult.”
If operators are having trouble finding reliable information on an airport, McIntyre suggests working with service providers and local handlers to determine if a like aircraft model has operated there safely, and reaching out to them for details about their fuel weight and other relevant considerations.