I flew in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya. This isn’t perhaps a terribly vast experience, but if you contemplate flying there, you might find the following observations useful.
- It is vast, it is beautiful and it is remote. Africa total area represents 20% of Earth landmass but only 16% of Earth population and you could fit there US three times over. You have to plan flights accordingly with respect to fuel and survival equipment.
- General aviation is incredibly bureaucratic and you need permits for each country, sometimes for individual airports. You should plan to secure those permits well ahead of time, preferably using local resources.
- It is very useful to have somebody in a “back office” tracking your progress and being able to help with permits, flight plans, aircraft parts while located in a place with good internet and good access to parts, mechanics and information.
- Plan for minimum of two hours for each stop at each airport. You may get lucky, but this is a reasonable estimate to file flight plans, pay landing fees and any other required fees, pass security checks or, if required, immigration and customs.
- You will get frustrated and perhaps angry at the absurdity and slowness of the processing at different airports, at having to haul you luggage thru x-ray machines, at having to file paper flight plans, at the interminable waits. Plan for that and don’t let it spoil the adventure.
- Don’t sweat about ATC, airspaces, prohibited, military or restricted areas. If you manage to talk to ATC, great, but if not, that’s fine too. Different airspaces exist on paper, but with the exception of few really large international commercial airports, nobody will pay any attention if you fly through them.
- Always call ahead to the next airport to verify they have fuel and how much. If there is fuel, top it off and top off you jerrycans if you have them. You never know when you will need it.
- Bring cash in US dollars, I take $300/airport. Credit cards machines are often “broken” and you will need to pay for fuel and for the fees in cash.
Make sure you have survival equipment, PLB, satellite messenger or phone. While cell phone coverage at airports is usually quite good, you can’t count on that.
- Print sufficient number of copies of general declaration with your basic data, so you only need to fill departure and destination. At many airports they don’t have blank copies, but they still require that you give them gendecs.
- Know how to fill ICAO flight, including your equipment codes, how to put permit numbers, search and rescue requirements and estimates to FIR boundaries in remarks.
- Keep the duct tape and basic tools handy.
Above all, be ready to adapt your plans as the circumstances change, keep your cool and you will have the most incredible flying adventure of the whole life. I was lucky to fly there twice, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.