But concern about the presence of rebels and troops armed with “man-portable air defense systems,” called “manpads,” is not without warrant. In 1994, the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed when the Dassault Falcon 50 in which they were riding was shot down near Kigali International Airport, struck apparently by a ground-launched missile.

A decade earlier, a Hawker 125-700 operated by the Botswana government was fired on over Angola by a MiG and the right-hand TFE731 engine was blown completely off the airframe by a heat-seeking missile. Despite the damage, the flight crew was able to make a successful landing.

“Brief on ICAO intercept procedures, just in case you wind up with a couple MiGs hanging off your wing,” advised Geoff Tyler, a base manager and Falcon 2000 captain for Executive Jet Aviation. Tyler had his own hellish experience in Angola in 1981 when he had to put the single-engine light plane he was delivering to South Africa down on a jungle road and was seized by rebel troops — as detailed in “Dangerous Destinations Part 1 (March 2012, page 44).

Between the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and early 2004, three aircraft operating into or out of Baghdad International Airport were struck by shoulder-launched IR-seeking missiles, a DHL Airbus civilian freighter and U.S. Air Force C-17 and C-5A airlifters. All three aircraft were able to make successful landings with no injuries to occupants; however, the DHL Airbus received extensive damage. The U.S. Army units responsible for airport security responded by extending the security buffer outward and engaging the insurgent missile teams, chasing one into downtown Baghdad. Among defensive measures instituted for aircraft at siege fields like Baghdad are military “high-key” maneuvers to keep the aircraft as much as possible always operating within the boundaries of the airport. Come in high, spiral down fast; max-performance climb going back out. BCA contributor and former U.S Air Force F-4/C-5A pilot Ross Detwiler details the maneuver as “High-Key 101.”

“If you are worried about manpads, make sure the crew is trained to do evasive maneuvers, maximum-performance takeoffs, and high-key approaches,” security consultant John Sullivan of Welsh-Sullivan Group in Dallas recommended.

So, before heading into harm's way, ask your training provider if they can provide that kind of instruction.

“At Kabul, I never had to do a high-key approach,” Manningham said, referring to his King Air experience there. “We went straight in. It's always wise to stay as high as possible for as long as possible if ATC will allow it. It was fairly straightforward when I was operating there five years ago.”

Kabul is located in a bowl surrounded by mountains, the av manager for the government contractor explained, “and you come in over the mountains and make a normal straight-in approach. To date, there hasn't been anyone shot down. RPGs can be a threat, but there are no heat-seekers in Afghanistan today — so far. If there were a missile threat, the high-key approach would be recommended and we would do it.” Safi Airways, with headquarters in Kabul and Dubai, now provides daily scheduled service between those two cities using an Airbus A320 and Boeing 767.

At Baghdad, Irbil and Basara in Iraq, there also is not a threat today, the contractor said, and airlines serve all three cities. “Now that the military is being pulled out, there is a concern about security of contractors' employees,” he went on. “The Iraqis are flexing their sovereignty. There has been some harassment of contractors — but not pilots — however, most of the threat is sectarian. There is some trouble at checkpoints and going through customs, and occasionally some graft.”

Gryphon Airlines operates in Iraq as a sort of “business airline,” or regional commuter service, the contractor said. It also flies to Kandahar and Bagram, Afghanistan, using the military facilities there.

In case your destination is Kandahar as well, be advised that ramp space is limited, and operators may be assigned a time limit on the ground before being required to move the aircraft. That move could be to another country altogether. If that does occur, you can rest there assured of one thing: Your passengers will be delighted to see you upon your return. BCA