African Aviation

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For the businessman wanting to get around Africa, the challenges are formidable. African airlines have by far the worst safety record in the world and are very poor at point to point route coverage. General Aviation, in the form of corporate flight departments or business jet charter, is therefore indispensible.

When Africa was colonised, the transport infrastructure was built almost solely to transport materials from the interior to the ports. This gave it a dendritic pattern – like the veins on a leaf. The problem with this pattern is that it makes point of point travel inAfricavery difficult. Then, with the end of colonialism, even this limited infrastructure began to decay. The lack of ground-based transport infrastructure, such as reliable trains or quality roads, and the distances involved, mean that business flying is not a luxury, but a necessity.

There are two options for the business traveller: the airlines or privately operated business jets and helicopters. The airlines still suffer from their legacy of dendritic transport patterns in that they typically fly routes based on the hub and spoke model. The fact that most African airlines are still national flag carriers means that most airlines operate out of just one hub, usually the capital city. The problem then is that often the hubs are not where you want to be and the spokes go in the wrong directions – and again there is the problem of being on the periphery and getting from one spoke to another. Thus, getting from one point in the interior to another, that may be only 100 km away, typically requires a massive, U-shaped journey to get to a coastal centre, move to the next and then travel back inland. Given the paucity of flights, this can take days.

DANGEROUS AFRICAN SKIES

Although airlines are by far the safest means to travel, the safety of an airline cannot be automatically assumed inAfrica. This is borne out by the often repeated statistics that Africa has 37% of the world’s aviation accidents, but only 4% of its flights. While there has been a decline in fatal air crashes in most of the world, Africa has seen an increase, rising from an average of 5,1 fatal crashes in 1993 to 9,2 last year. This makes Africa nearly 10 times more dangerous than North America, Europe and Asia and four times more dangerous thanLatin America.

Of major concern are the Democratic Republic of Congo,AngolaandSudan, which account for 45% of all accidents overAfrica. If you are planning airline travel, it is worth ensuring that your chosen airline is safe. To this end a global standard for airline operational safety management has been implemented. Known as the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), it falls under the International Air Transport Association (IATA). It is mandatory for all of IATA’s 265 airline members to undergo the audit, and so airlines that did not accept the audit were refused IATA membership. (See box for IOSA approved airlines).

As a further precaution against dangerous airlines and operators, a blacklist of carriers was drawn up by the European Union andUSaviation authorities. This list contains more than 100 airlines, and therefore only the larger African airlines have been listed in the accompanying box. The most dangerous of all flight operations inAfricaare the charter and freight companies who operate ancient Russian turboprop aircraft such as the Ilyushins and Antonovs. Almost every airfield still has the wreck of one or other of these aircraft as a stark reminder of the hazards of non-scheduled flight inAfrica.

NEW INVESTMENT IN SAFETY

But it is not all bad news. Africa has been less affected than the rest of the world by the economic meltdown. It is, therefore, the only region to see air travel increase in the latter stages of 2010. Even though the global downturn affected the aviation industry significantly, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) figures for 2010 show a 10% growth in international passenger traffic, alongside a 4% increase in the domestic market. Amidst all the doom and gloom, Africa has prospered in what continues to be a tough economic market.

IATA’s Director General and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani, reckons the developed markets are feeding off lesser developed ones. The Economist quotes Bisignani as saying, “The industry is shifting gears in the recovery cycle. Relative weakness in developed markets is being offset by the momentum of economic expansion in developing markets.”

The economic expansion Bisignani is referring to can be seen in several African airlines, which have recorded exceptional growth in the last ten years. Regional airlines such as Fly 540, Jetlink, RwandAir, and Air Uganda have all announced new routes in East Africa, enabling business travellers to explore regions of the Continent which may not have been easily accessible before. Sanjeez Gadhia, the Managing Director of Kenya-based freight operator Astral Aviation, believes that corporate activity is the major aspect behind such developments. “For example, we project good growth in the future on the Ugandan route, with equipment for the mines and business travellers being the main driver,” Gadhia says in The Economist.

Six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies are based in sub-SaharanAfrica. This is good news for the notoriously undercapitalised airlines and corporate flight departments inAfrica.  Given the projection of increased business activity, new destinations to find potential customers and the opportunity to liaise with existing clients,Africa’s developing markets will continue to expand. This growth will also be reflected in its aviation industry.

Corporate travel services company HRG says that a plethora of new airline routes into Africa has emerged since the Soccer World Cup de-stigmatised Africa and resulted in the continent gradually emerging as a desirable destination for business travel. With its overall economy set to grow 5.3% and sub-Saharan Africa GDP projected to grow 5.1% in 2011, HRG says it is no surprise that airlines such as United and Delta Airlines have recently launched or increased routes into the region. Similarly, Africa has seen an increasing presence of global hotel brands catering to the growing demand from business travellers across the region. On a continent that is rife with strife but nonetheless growing strongly, and which is overflowing with potential, corporate aviation is a necessity. The current spate of economic growth in the continent means that, in many cases, long overdue investment in aviation safety infrastructure is finally being made.

The risks can now be managed to First World airline standards. Most African corporate flight departments have flown safely for decades. For example, Gilbert Chagoury built an industrial empire across West Africa, with interests in manufacturing, construction, industrial, hotel, high tech and real estate development. “We bought our first corporate aircraft in 1979 to enhance mobility and ease efficiency of travel between Europe, the Middle East andAfrica,” he says. “Flying commercially withinNigeriawas next to impossible. From the day we bought a Hawker we discovered that corporate aircraft are a necessity, not a luxury. Company aircraft made it possible to expand our business much faster than would be possible otherwise.” Today, the Chagoury Group uses a $50m Falcon 7X to pursue business across the globe and has a second 7X on order.

There is a drive for technology-based safety. At a recent conference in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire, more than a dozen heads of Civil Aviation Authorities from across Africa underscored the need for modern Air Traffic Control equipment and well-trained operators. In Côte d’Ivoire, home of the Central Bank of West Africa, a dozen paved landing strips suitable for business aircraft exist, and four even have functioning air-traffic control towers. But only one, the International Felix Houphouet Boigny airport, inAbidjan, is used regularly by corporate aircraft.

PRIVATE BUSINESS TRAVEL

If you need to get to distant places not served by non-blacklisted IOSA airlines then corporate bizjets are the only answer. For destinations closer than 200 km, helicopters may be a more convenient solution, but they are much slower and far more expensive to operate than bizjets. Business people in African countries, and those who simply come to the continent to do business know that here, perhaps more than anywhere else on Earth, a private aircraft is the only tool that can guarantee that business gets completed in a timely and hassle-free manner. The roads are often treacherous and the antiquated rail system that once connected the hubs of ancient trade routes have fallen into disrepair throughout large sectors of the continent.

The strife that has plunged several countries into bouts of civil war makes surface travel worse than just impractical; in certain areas it is dangerous. And though most African nations have flag carriers and a few low-cost airlines, the schedules, customer service and maintenance (or lack thereof) pose real restrictions.

Despite the fact that Yamoussoukro has its own jet-certified runway, corporate terminal and staffed air traffic control tower, only one operable aircraft was chocked on its ramp for the duration of the aviation conference. The rest of the delegates were bused 2.5 hours on a rough road from Abidjan. When asked why, many of the delegates indicated that they were under the impression that the airport in Yamoussoukro was reserved for the President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo.

Some of the fear of using air strips in certain African states is valid. Security issues exist, and outsiders are more vulnerable. Recent thefts include parts being stolen directly from the operable aircraft chocked on the ramp at Nigerian airfields, rendering the aircraft un-airworthy.

Other issues involve the simple cost of doing business in certain states. For instance, the availability of basic commodities, such as fuel, impact trip costs significantly. At one point the going rate for fuel in Zimbabwe was three times the normal because of the political and economic climate. In addition, over-flight fees forSudantypically cost five times what it costs to overflyTanzania. But despite these obstacles, the nations that do have relatively stable governments on the African continent (and there are dozens) have pooled their energies together through several different air navigation treaties and through coalitions of Civil Aviation Authorities to create an open environment for business aviation to thrive.

And thrive it does.Namibia’s Windhoek Eros airport is one of the busiest general aviation airports on the southern African continent, with more than 50,000 aircraft movements a year.Wilsonairfield inNairobiclocks in with similar numbers. Spend some time in the tower at Wilson and you’ll see a heady mix of general aviation traffic, from the tiny trainers of the Kenya School of Flying to Cessna Caravans, Twin Otters, Citations, Hawkers and Learjets rolling on its runways. Controllers work with a repeater radar screen from nearby Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s control tower and coordinate IFR traffic with the centre via voice on an older, but functional system.

The overriding International Airspace System inAfricais designed with rules that mirror ICAO standards throughout. However, there are approval processes to go through to operate an aircraft across the continent. That task is easily shopped out to an international flight planning service such as Jeppesen, Air Routing International or International Flight Resources.

BIZJET CHARTER

Private business travel does not require your own bizjets. There are several dozen reputable high-end aircraft charter and leasing companies on the continent. South Africais home to many of these companies (though not by any means the exclusive domain of them), a few of which have been handling VIP aircraft for more than 40 years on the continent. That kind of local knowledge and experience can mean the difference between success and disaster on a business venture in this part of the world.

There are a number of reputable South African charter operators, such as National Airways Corporation (NAC), Ado Air (Nigerian owned) and Execujet. These are based at Johannesburg’s Lanseria Airport, which is the second-largest in the region after Johannesburg OR Tambo, and the busiest non-scheduled airport in Africa. These companies provide aircraft chartering, leasing and sales, contract operations, flight crew leasing and training, aircraft maintenance and modification and operations support.

ExecuJet was started in South Africa but has now grown into a truly global business which put it in a position to handle more than 90 percent of the corporate aviation flights into South Africa for the Soccer World Cup. The company’s flight operations division operates a fleet of bizjets, ranging from turboprop King Airs to the ultra-long range Bombardier Global Express. The company employs full-time pilots, flight attendants and operates under a South African Air Operators Certificate (AOC).

For companies considering the purchase of their own corporate aircraft ExecuJet also provides a turnkey operation for aircraft owners which includes all aspects of aircraft management such as flight planning, crew provision and maintenance. Execujet is the continent’s only factory-authorised Bombardier, Gulfstream and Hawker Beechcraft repair facility. In addition, the company is licensed to work on a variety of other business jet and turboprop aircraft types. It is also an official Honeywell service agent for a wide range of turbine engines, and operates the only authorised Pratt & Whitney test cell facility in Africa.

ExecuJet Aviation Services provides the full range of logistical support to aircraft operators across Africa. This support includes:  over-flight clearances, landing permits, aircraft handling, refuelling, valet, catering and hangarage. As Africa’s leading Fixed Base Operator, it assists with customs and immigration and travel and accommodation arrangements. The company also provides quality passenger and crew lounges and restroom facilities from its base at Lanseria airport and at Cape Town.

NAC has recently opened a large new facility inNigeria’sMurtalaMuhammedAirport. NAC is an ISO 9001:2008 accredited company, and has also been successfully audited by the flight departments of corporations such as Shell, BHP Billiton, Hart Aviation Services, United Nations & UN World Food Program, among others. Also serving West Africa, in 2010 TopBrass Aviation commenced services. This Lagos-based charter operator boasts a fleet of four modern Hawker HS-125s (a Hawker 850XP, 900XP, 1000, and 4000), all leased from the South African National Airways Corporation).

A feature of many of the Very-VIP (i.e. presidential) charter operations is that they often use refurbished, converted, or retired passenger airliners. These have the advantage of large cabins and, thanks to extra tanks, long range. With low acquisition costs this makes them suitable for the low utilisation that they have in the charter role. A DC-9 operated by Medair Charter’s EliteJet is a popular option used by the South African government, and a Boeing 727-200 in executive configuration is offered by Fortune Air. Other popular aircraft types are the Gulfstreams, particularly the GII and III variants as the acquisition of the later variants tends to be prohibitive for African budgets. In October 2009 Johannesburg-based Safair opened for business in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport. It currently has aircraft worth $30 million based atNairobi, and says it will increase the number available based on market demand.

In Egypt there are AMC Airlines and Air Memphis, while inAlgeriathere is Zimex Aviation.Kenya’s venerableWilsonAirportis home to Everett Aviation, Excel Aviation, Boskovic Air Charters, Capital Airlines and BlueBird Aviation. Tanzanian Civil Aviation documents show that more than 24 companies are approved to operate non-scheduled air services in the country.  InZambiathere is Proflight, whileGambiasports Ndeke.net. Even shambolicZimbabwehas a number of reputable operators. Avient Aviation charters three DC-10s and an MD-11, as well as an Ilyushin IL-76T. Many of the charter and leasing operations are also certified as Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities with extensive maintenance resources.

BUREAUCRACY

Many potential users are worried about the bureaucracy and graft involved in flying inAfrica. The solution is to use the professional flight clearances companies. In South Africa the only authorisation a foreign operator needs is an approved landing permit for a port of entry. For a typical charter flight it takes about 24 hours to get one. Not much is required for the application, says Universal Weather and Aviation: a permit listing the arrival point in the country, and crew and passenger details (full name, DOB, nationality, passport numbers and expiration dates). The information required is basic – just arrival date and time, and your point of entry.

For charter into Central and West Africa it is more complicated. The main document required if carrying more than eight passengers is the Foreign Operator’s Permit. You also need to have over-flight permits for all the countries you will fly over. These require at least 72 hours advance notice. One fact is certain: if your business requires you to be there, your most efficient, comfortable, and safest form ofVIPtransportation will be in a private corporate aircraft.

Boxout 1

African and Middle East Airlines with IOSA accreditation

Afriqiyah Airways

Air Algérie

AirArabia

Air Austral

Air Burkina S.A.

AirCairo

AirMadagascar

Air Malawi Ltd

Air Mauritius Ltd.

AirMemphis

AirNamibia(Pty) Ltd.

Air Seychelles Ltd.

AirZimbabwe

AMC Airlines

Atlas Blue

Comair Ltd.

DHL Aviation EEMEA, B.S.C.

EgyptAir

Ethiopian AirlinesEnterprise

InterairSouth Africa

Kenya Airways Limited

KishAir

LAM – Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique

Libyan Airlines

Lotus Air

Nouvelair

Precision Air Services Limited

S.A.Airlink (Pty) Limited

SAFAIR Operations (Pty) Ltd.

South African Airways

South African Express Airways (Pty) Ltd.

Sudan Airways Co.

TAAGAngolaAirlines

TACV Cabo Verde Airlines

Tristar Air

Tunisair

Virgin Nigeria Airways Limited

 

Box out 2

 

The rogue’s gallery of African airlines blacklisted by the EU

 

Angola

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofAngola, with the exception of seven aircraft operated by TAAG Angola Airlines. Included carriers:

Aerojet

Air 26 (DCD)

Air Gemini (GLL)

Air Gicango

Air Jet

Air Nave

Alada (RAD)

AngolaAir Services

Diexim Expresso

Gira Globo (GGL)

Heliang

Heli Malongo Airways

Mavewa

PHA

Rui & Conceicao

SAL

Servisair

SonAir

 

 

Benin

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofBenin, including:

AeroBenin

AfricaAirways

Alafia Jet

BeninGolf Air

BeninLittoral Airways (LTL)

COTAIR (COB)

Royal Air (BNR)

Trans AirBenin(TNB)

 

Comoros

Comores Air Services (KMD): All fleet with the exception of one aircraft with the registration mark D6-CAM.

 

Gabon

GabonAirlines (GBK): All fleet with the exception of one aircraft with the registration mark TR-LHP.

Nouvelle Air Affaires (NVS): All fleet with the exception of 2 aircraft with the registration marks TR-AAG and ZS-AFG.

 

Ghana

AirLift International AL (GH) Ltd (ALE): All fleet with the exception of one aircraft with the registration mark 9G-TOP.

 

Liberia

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofLiberia.

 

Mauritania

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofMauritania.

 

Rwanda

Silverback Cargo Freighters

Sierra Leone

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofSierra Leone, including:

Air Rum, Ltd (RUM)

Destiny Air Services, Ltd (DTY)

Heavylift Cargo

Orange Air Sierra Leone Ltd (ORJ)

Paramount Airlines, Ltd (PRR)

748 Air Services Ltd (SVT)

Teebah Airlines

 

São Tomé and Príncipe

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight of São Tomé and Príncipe, including:

AfricaConnection

British Gulf International Company Ltd (BGI)

Executive Jet Services (EJZ)

Global Aviation Operation

Goliaf Air (GLE)

Island Oil Exploration

STP Airways (STP)

TransAfrik International Ltd (TFK)

TransCarg

Transliz Aviation (TMS)

 

Sudan

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofSudan, including:

Alfa Airlines

Almajara Aviation

Almajal Aviation Service

Attico Airlines

Azza Transport Company

Badr Airlines

Green Flag Aviation

Fourty Eight Aviation

Marsland Company

SudanAirways

Sun Air Company

Sudanese States Aviation Company

 

Suriname

Blue Wing Airlines (BWI)

 

Swaziland

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofSwaziland, including:

SwazilandAirlink (SZL)

 

Zambia

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofZambia, including:

ZambeziAirlines (ZMA)

 

 

Comoros

Comores Air Services (KMD): All fleet with the exception of one aircraft with the registration D6-CAM.

Gabon

GabonAirlines (GBK): All fleet with the exception of one aircraft with the registration mark TR-LHP.

Nouvelle Air Affaires (NVS): All fleet with the exception of 2 aircraft with the registration marks TR-AAG and ZS-AFG.

 

Ghana

AirLift International AL (GH) Ltd (ALE): All fleet with the exception of one aircraft with the registration mark 9G-TOP.Rwanda

Silverback Cargo Freighters (VRB)

 

Sierra Leone

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofSierra Leone, including:

Air Rum, Ltd (RUM)

Destiny Air Services, Ltd (DTY)

Heavylift Cargo

Orange Air Sierra Leone Ltd (ORJ)

Paramount Airlines, Ltd (PRR)

748 Air Services Ltd (SVT)

Teebah Airlines

 

São Tomé and Príncipe

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight of São Tomé and Príncipe, including:

 

AfricaConnection

British Gulf International Company Ltd (BGI)

Executive Jet Services (EJZ)

Global Aviation Operation

Goliaf Air (GLE)

Island Oil Exploration

STP Airways (STP)

TransAfrik International Ltd (TFK)

TransCarg

Transliz Aviation (TMS)

 

Sudan

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofSudan, including:

Alfa Airlines

Almajara Aviation

Almajal Aviation Service

Attico Airlines

Azza Transport Company

Badr Airlines

Green Flag Aviation

Fourty Eight Aviation

Marsland Company

SudanAirways

Sun Air Company

Sudanese States Aviation Company

 

Suriname

Blue Wing Airlines (BWI)

 

Swaziland

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofSwaziland, including:

SwazilandAirlink (SZL)

 

Zambia

All air carriers certified by the authorities with responsibility for regulatory oversight ofZambia, including:

ZambeziAirlines (ZMA)