As African business aviation continues evolving, and standards continue improving, Krimson Aviation is committed to supporting operators flying to, from, and within Africa. With the continent made up of some 54 countries, and even more cultures, languages and customs, there is much to consider as Dawit Lemma, CEO outlines below.
As little as a decade or so ago, the idea of operating business jets in Africa was greeted with skepticism. Africa was seen as the outpost for business aviation and a place to dump aging airframes. However the situation has transformed significantly over the last ten years. The hard work of the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA), strengthening national economies, and increased interest from international commerce, has created an ideal environment in which business aviation is thriving. Ironically the pandemic has also played its part with governments, airlines and operators recognising for the first time the benefits the sector brings as an essential transport pillar. This momentum has created new appreciation, along with a dynamic operational landscape.
Africa is an extremely diverse continent; each nation has developed its own business aviation operating procedures which in turn creates operational inconsistency. Changing regulations, limitations of infrastructure and shifts in the competitive landscape add further ambiguity for operators. Ground support is spread thinly and invariably is focused on the larger moneymaking commercial handling opportunities. The African FBO network is limited, those that exist are comparable with international offerings, although they remain few and far between.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to operating into Africa. However with the right approach, forward planning and a healthy dose of expectation management, operating into Africa can be seamless. The key challenges are centred around bureaucracy and access to reliable information. Permit processing epitomizes the landscape. Permits may take a couple of hours to process in one country, or a couple of days in another. Fee structures are variable with a single fee covering a comprehensive fee in one nation, while another may require a multi-level permit fee for daytime, nighttime or even airport lighting fees. The best advice to avoid facing permit issues is to be prepared. Make sure your aircraft and operator documents are up to date, and most importantly know the regulations for the nations where you will need permits.
Business aviation has grown rapidly on the continent, as has commercial aviation, both of which are now vying for the same services at many airports. Airport slots, catering provision, fueling, parking, and maintenance services, are all battling services from the same suppliers. Several airports lack the appropriate runway for business jets so slots are restricted, and the majority of private flights are still processed through passenger terminals which are often busy, and less discrete. Access to maintenance support across the continent is also insufficient to match the growth in need, and AOG situations can quickly escalate as parts are kept in customs, and technical expertise is scarce.
To avoid turbulent times and fulfill planned missions we recommend having more than just one plan. Be prepared to make modifications and mid-route changes to overcome any issues regarding airports and be aware of alternate entry or exit points as initial gateways can often be shut inexplicably. Staying on top of scheduled maintenance can also mitigate maintenance downtime. Above all – manage your expectations. Flight operations will operate differently in Africa than they do in Europe, North America and other regions. Being aware and prepared to deal with the dynamic environment will streamline the experience and reduce your workload.
Get to know the CAA representatives of frequent destinations, network with suppliers and partners, and most importantly create strong relationships with local representation. Partners that understand the ins and out of private aviation on the continent, as well as the nuances of languages and cultural gestures, are invaluable. Seek reliable local advice from a ground handler or trip support company that has had experience at arrival and departure airports and understands business aviation. A little local knowledge can go a long way in Africa.
At Krimson we have made a point of doing the ordinary, extraordinarily and this has supported year on year growth for the last five years. We look forward to developing further international ties through the Maltese Business Aviation Association and will be pleased to share our local knowledge to improve and enhance fellow members’ international operations.