Welcome to South Africa's largest city and financial center — not to mention the continent's best aviation infrastructure.
Modern Aviation Infrastructure
While many companies headquartered in “Jo-burg” — the city's most-used nickname, second-most being “Jozi” — operate business jets, chartering is a popular alternative, with some 25 in-country providers offering the service with turbine-powered aircraft, according to the Business Aviation Association of South Africa (BAASA). Much of this fleet is managed aircraft owned by the aforementioned companies.
The country's aviation infrastructure — especially ATC — is rated by visiting pilots as the finest on the continent. Radio quality is excellent, English is universally spoken by controllers, and radar coverage is available in all major cities. Air traffic management has been privatized and is provided by Air Traffic and Navigation Services Co. (ATNS).
Visas are not required for citizens of the U.S. or Canada or most European countries; however, there are countries for which they are required, and in these cases, visas must be obtained in advance. South Africa will not award them on arrival. Passenger and crew passports must have at least two unstamped pages.
On the other hand, according to Tim Bartholomew, manager, flight operations, at Rockwell Flight Information Solutions, landing permits are required for both non-commercial (i.e., FAR Part 91 or equivalent) and charter operators and, for the former, can generally be obtained in as little as 24 hr. Required information includes destination airport (which must be a POE), arrival date and time, and full names of crew and passengers, along with dates of birth, nationalities, and passport numbers and expiration dates.
“On weekends they will allow aircraft on short notice to come in without a landing permit — that is, they will accept a filed flight plan only,” Bartholomew said. “They tend to be very accommodating. I've never heard of an issue that anyone's had flying within South Africa.”
For commercial operators, a little more documentation is necessary: e.g., a copy of the air operations certificate (AOC), if carrying more than eight passengers. Other documents necessary for either category of operation include airworthiness certification, aircraft registration and a copy of the operator's insurance policy. As always when heading to another continent or country, it's recommended to check the policy to ascertain if the trip is covered or whether a rider should be purchased.
Visiting operators should be aware that yellow fever inoculations are required at least 10 days in advance for anyone entering South Africa from a country where the disease is known to exist, and in addition, the aircraft must be disinfected prior to landing and the empty spray cans presented to authorities. These policies also apply to tech stops. (A list of countries for which the yellow fever inoculation is required can be found on the Republic of South Africa Department of Health site at www.doh.gov.za. In the left margin of the home page, find the search function and enter “yellow fever.”)
Operating within South Africa is reported to be much like anywhere in the developed world, and once cleared at a port of entry, operators have the freedom to fly pretty much anywhere within the borders. Accordingly, the most challenging part of a visit to South Africa will be getting there, especially if making the transit from Europe and down the length of the continent. As with any trip abroad, a significant part of the effort lies in preflight preparation and planning.
Two preferred routings for business jets are recommended when traveling from North America to South Africa: down the east coast of South America to the South Atlantic, then across to South Africa; or across the North Atlantic to Europe, then south over West Africa to the destination. Ultimately, the route chosen will depend on aircraft range and the necessity for tech stops. For shorter-range aircraft departing the U.S. East Coast, the Azores are recommended as a convenient tech stop; from there operators can proceed on to West Africa, then south.
Operators are cautioned to ensure fuel is available at chosen tech stops and to check pricing, as gouging costs as high as $16/gal. can be encountered at places in West Africa. Also, for transits across most of Africa, it's a good idea to prepare a security assessment for the continent (or have one prepared by an aviation security company) so you know what to expect when you get there.
The Republic of South Africa is RVSM-compliant and ICAO Pans Ops procedures are the norm; deviations can be found in Jeppesen ATC notes. For altimetry, expect QNH below transition altitude and QNE above, always expressed in feet. Pilots tell BCA that due to South Africa's less-congested airspace, controllers often can authorize higher altitudes when necessary.
Johannesburg is served by four airports, of which Rand and Grand Central are general aviation fields not generally accessed by visiting business aircraft. The other two, major aerodromes located on opposite sides of the city used by airlines and business jet operators, are Lanseria International (FALA, Jo-burg's original airport) and Oliver R. Tambo Johannesburg International (FAJS). Slots are required at Tambo and should be arranged in advance by the operator's handler. Since the end of the World Cup in July 2010, however, the slot restriction has been lifted from Lanseria.
Lanseria, which hosts scheduled airline service domestically and to neighboring countries, is the preferred field for business aviation operations. Elevation is 4,517 ft., and there are two runways (06/24 L and R), the longest just under 10,000 ft. Parking is generally good, with one FBO on the field operated by ExecuJet South Africa Aviation Services. “It's a nice facility,” Bartholomew observed, “and they really take care of you — VIP treatment all the way.”
Terrain avoidance is paramount at Lanseria, as the airport is located among hills. No SIDs or STARs apply to the field, and operators can expect radar vectors on arrival and assignment of headings and altitudes for departures. Controllers tend to work aircraft high to avoid the terrain and conflicts with Tambo International traffic on the other side of the city.
Business aviation operators arriving internationally will be directed to park in front of the passenger terminal for customs clearance; a lounge is provided inside the terminal for passengers to use during the clearance process. With CIQ completed, aircraft will then be permitted to taxi to the FBO for permanent parking. The system is actually efficient, Bartholomew claimed, and clearance time averages between 10 and 15 min.
Portions of Lanseria's ramp are slightly sloped, so crews are cautioned to set parking brakes and chock the wheels. Operators are also warned that the airport's taxiways tend to be narrow, so larger aircraft may have to be over-steered on turns in order to keep all the wheels on the pavement. Finally, be advised that a security gate separating the FBO from the taxiways is not much wider than the wingspan of a typical long-range business jet.