The following checklist has been provided by an anonymous NGO pilot with considerable experience operating in Africa.
1. In the weeks leading up to a trip, bookmark and search out Web-delivered news events and even recent history related to your destination. Knowing the history and current events of the area can make you an intelligent visitor and help you avoid trouble, whether it be conversational faux pas or an awareness of risky locations and upcoming events.
2. Be aware of any U.S.-registered aircraft restrictions, typically in the form of a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR). These are a few from the recent past:
(a) Iraq: SFAR 77
(b) Afghanistan: SFAR 90
(c) Somalia: SFAR 107
(d) Sudan: SFAR 82
For a list of current restrictions and travel warnings for U.S.-registered aircraft, go to: http://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/publications/ifim/us_restrictions/#restri...
3. Visit the U.S. http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.htmlTravel Advisory website to read any applicable travel warnings for your destination:
4. For U.S. operators, the ability of the local U.S. Embassy to come to your aid in an emergency or crisis is aided by registering your travel plans and passengers with the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP): http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/registration/registration_4789.html
5. For accommodations, be knowledgeable of what locations are more secure or closer to the airport. For instance, in Kabul, operators would not want to house their corporate officers at the Intercontinental Hotel since it's been the subject of multiple rocket and ground attacks. The Serena is not much better as it has been attacked twice. Nevertheless, it has a pretty beefy security apparatus. You would not know any of that without a contact in Kabul. So insider knowledge is invaluable. A lesser-known hotel with security might be a better option.
6. After leaving the airport, anonymity is your friend. Don't be conspicuous with tailored suits, fancy cars and a huge entourage. As any good businessperson would know, be smart culturally. Work overtime to not offend and to blend in as much as is possible. If that includes dress, so be it.
7. Be aware that it is not the arrival and departure that will likely get you in trouble: it's where your party goes and how it behaves outside the airport. Don't drive the same routes each day you are there. Be proactive in learning how to be safe. If possible, never walk alone. Trust only those locals who come with recommendations or are gainfully employed by vested parties on your trip.
8. Countermeasures are not available or practical for most operators. But they are a consideration if an operator regularly visits a location where shoulder-mounted missiles are known to exist. The legality and operational restrictions of such aircraft modifications would have to be investigated.
9. Research any political events that might be forthcoming. When the earthquake happened in Bam, Iran, in 2003, we sent our King Air 200 in to support relief work there. Our crew flew some VIPs to Tehran on the very weekend of some major elections. The potential for riots was extreme. It was not a good time to be visiting. All went well, because the crew was aware and took precautions. The situation you want to avoid is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A failure to do your homework beforehand greatly increases that potential.
10. Your preflight for a trip to an insecure location has got to include a security brief. It could be your own research of news, etc. It can also include being on a list of security updates via a local contact or a formal security email list like a United Nations or NGO briefing service. A formal list requires a regular presence and an invitation. Nonetheless, it is the most comprehensive and timely way to receive security information. Our service in Kabul was our lifeline to being aware.
11. Some insecure areas are predisposed to lawlessness. Bureaucracy often includes the invention of fees and or fines for the unaware. Again, knowing the correct fees and their costs can prevent you from paying exorbitant bribes unknowingly. If possible, get those fees and costs in writing before arriving. Dare I say, expect it in Nigeria? You can count on it in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
12. Do your homework for visas, as well. Obtain all visas ahead of time if possible. Even if available at the airport, the chances of being delayed in the process of obtaining visas are great and only provide opportunities on the part of the issuing country for illicit demands.
13. Do you have a stamp in your passport that shows a visit to Israel or another country that could be an enemy of the destination country? Find out if your country being visited has any prohibitions and obtain a duplicate passport from the State Department for that purpose.
14. Finally, Americans have a bad rep. Let's blow the minds of the locals by not being pushy, arrogant and culturally insensitive! Be patient and generous. Make a friend. The dividends can be huge.
Our ops in Afghanistan and Sudan have cemented that in my mind as modus operandi for anyone who wants to succeed and even excel in an insecure foreign environment. Everybody wants a friend. Be one and you will have one when you need it.
Providing drinks and food for ground service personnel as an act of appreciation is a simple way to communicate care and gratitude. You never know when that act of kindness will be returned. Your life could depend on it. BCA