City at a Glance: Johannesburg

City: Johannesburg

Country: Republic of South Africa (RSA)

Status: Largest city

Country visa requirement: Not required for U.S., Canadian, Mexican, or most European countries for up to 90 days.

Landing permit requirement: Yes; RSA civil aviation authority issues clearance number. Short notice weekend flights accepted with filed flight plan.

Sponsor letter required: No

Aircraft documents required: Airworthiness certificate, aircraft registration, insurance certificate with country coverage.

Any other requirements for visiting aircraft: Yellow fever vaccination required at least ten days before entrance for aircraft arriving from yellow fever-infected countries, including technical stops. Also, prior to landing, aircraft arriving from infected areas must be disinfected and empty spray cans presented to health authorities.

Carbon trading requirement: No

ATC procedures: ICAO Pans Ops

Any unique procedures: No

Altimetry: QNH

Metric or feet: Feet


WGS 84-compliant: Yes

Local navigator required: No

Airport #1

Name & ICAO identifier: Lanseria (FALA)

Coordinates: 25° 56' 19” S 27° 55' 24” E

POE: Yes

Elevation: 4,517 ft.

Runways: 6L/24R, 9,951 ft. x 98 ft., asphalt; 6R/24L, 6,716 ft. x 75 ft., asphalt.

Slots: No, however, prior notice required for movements between midnight and 0500 local.

Noise restrictions: No

Curfew: No

FBOs: ExecuJet South Africa

Clear CIQ at: Passenger terminal. After clearance (10-15 min. average), aircraft authorized to taxi to FBO for parking.

Parking: VIP parking at FBO; also available on main apron.

Hanagarage: Available if scheduled in advance.

Fuel: Jet A1

Credit: Yes

Maintenance: ExecuJet (note that maintenance for most business jets is available at several locations within the RSA).

Lav service: Yes

Catering: Yes

Fees: Landing, parking and handling, all comparable to Europe or North American pricing.

Security: Airport monitored 24-hr. private security unnecessary.

Ground Transportation: All types; Johannesburg's public transit is well developed. Recommend vetted limousines and cars.

Distance and driving time to downtown: 20 min. in good traffic; 30-45 min. during rush hours

Airport #2

Name & ICAO identifier: Oliver R. Tambo International (FAJS)

Coordinates: 26° 08” 21' S 28° 14” 46' E

POE: Yes

Elevation: 5,558 ft.

Runways: 3L/21R, 14,495 ft. x 200 ft., asphalt, PCN: 056FAWU; 3R/21L, 11,155 ft. x 197 ft., asphalt, PCN:050FAWU.

Slots: Yes, 24 hr.

Noise restrictions: No

Curfew: No

FBOs: No

Clear CIQ at: Main passenger terminal. Tambo is the busiest airport in Africa, with non-dedicated CIQ for general aviation. Clearance time can vary from one to one and a half hours.

Parking: Limited parking due to heavy commercial traffic. Overnight parking only in remote locations. Aircraft must be moved within 72 hours.

Hanagarage: Very limited.

Fuel: Jet A1

Credit: Yes

Maintenance: Airline-type equipment

Lav service: Yes

Catering: Yes, airlines

Fees: Landing, parking, and handling

Security: Major commercial airport with 24-hr. monitoring; controlled access.

Ground Transportation: All types. Recommend vetted cars and limos.

Distance and driving time to downtown: 90-min. or longer, depending on surface traffic

Since the abolishment of apartheid in 1994 and the reformation of the Republic of South Africa's government, the continent's most southernmost nation has been open for business, both regionally and internationally, and trade has been deemed “vital.”

Accordingly, South Africa and its largest and most dynamic city — Johannesburg — have emerged as popular destinations for international business aviation. The post-apartheid financial climate has also stimulated indigenous business aviation in the country, involving both company-operated and chartered aircraft. (As of 2010, some 2,500 turbine-powered aircraft — both general aviation and airline equipment — were registered in country.)

A coup for the government was award of the 2010 World Cup matches by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), which brought millions of soccer fans to South Africa during mild Southern Hemisphere winter weather. Hosting the huge event (at several venues in addition to Johannesburg) signified a rejoining of the international community by the republic and a validation that it had come of age. A byproduct of the games was to expose the country, its democracy, infrastructure and scenic beauty (not to mention the vuvuzela plastic horn so popular with local soccer fans) to the larger world.

Johannesburg, the southern continent's financial center, is the linchpin of the South African economy, generating 16% of its GDP. Although the historic country, colonized first by the Dutch and later the British, was founded on diamond and gold mining, other industries have emerged over the years to drive the economy as reserves of the precious minerals decline. Among them are steel and cement manufacturing; mining for other minerals like coal; electronics and IT; banking and insurance; real estate; tourism; and transportation, including a vibrant aviation establishment. Accordingly, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is Africa's largest and most active.

The city is also a province and divided into districts and outlying entities. Thus, depending on how the metro area is described, Johannesburg's population can vary from 4.4 million (the city proper) to as high as 10.3 million when all neighborhoods and districts are included. It is situated on a plateau, the Highvelt, in the northeastern part of the country at an elevation of 5,751 ft. The city boasts a well-developed mass transit, freeway and railway system, the last two linking it with the country's other population centers. Since the end of apartheid, Johannesburg's motto has been “United in Development.”

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 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.

Shuttle-Qualified Runway

Tambo International sits more than a thousand feet higher at 5,558 ft. elevation and thus is equipped with long runways to accommodate summertime density altitude considerations for fuel-laden Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s. Runway 3L/29R, measuring 14,495 ft., is one of the longest in Africa and once was a designated emergency landing strip for the space shuttle. Its parallel sibling, 3R/29L, is 11,155 ft. long.

Transient business aircraft operators will find Tambo more restricted, as parking there is limited to 72 hr. in one spot, after which the operator is required to move the aircraft to a remote area. “Tambo is not corporate aviation-friendly,” Bartholomew said, adding that “they park you out in the boondocks and sometimes forget about you.”

Furthermore, the field does not host an FBO, and passengers are transported to the main terminal for customs clearance. Unlike Lanseria, Tambo does not provide a dedicated waiting lounge for business aviation, but a fast-track clearance service prearranged by handlers is available. Fuel is sold by the concessionaire for the airport. “Surface traffic is really congested coming out of Tambo, as well, and it can often take a while to get downtown,” Bartholomew said.

As the South African capital of Pretoria is situated only 50 km/31 sm to the northeast, operators intending to visit there generally use Jo-burg's airports. Again, Lanseria is the preferred field since it is the closest to the capital.

At both airports, “security is monitored 24/7,” Bartholomew said, “and managers at both airports have told us that private guards for the aircraft are unnecessary.” In his experience working flights into Jo-burg and other South African destinations, Bartholomew said he has yet to receive a complaint about unnecessarily high fees or price gouging. As with fuel, pricing for other commodities and services, such as hotels and meals, tends to mirror developed countries in Europe and North America. Operators should expect airport and navigation use fees, the latter due to South Africa's privatized ATC system.

As already noted, operating within South Africa is as straightforward as doing so in North America or Western Europe, and once the aircraft clears customs at a port of entry, the operator is free to roam throughout the country. Note, however, that visiting operators must depart the country out of a POE and, again, clear customs. Should a mechanical or avionics problem occur, high-quality maintenance for nearly all business jet types is available at major population centers.

As hunting in South Africa is popular sport, operators carrying firearms into the country are advised that their guns must be cleared with customs at the POE. The operator's handling agent will transfer the firearms separately from passengers to the terminal and vice versa on departure.

The traditionally high levels of in-country poverty have contributed to a commensurate crime rate. The Johannesburg city government has made the reduction of street crime a priority in a major effort to redevelop and revitalize the city center, which began a deterioration in the early 1990s. Also, in the federal government's preparations for the World Cup, security and law-enforcement consultants from other countries were invited to develop strategies to mitigate especially street crime. While some success was achieved, there are still areas of Johannesburg that probably should be avoided by visitors. So, Bartholomew advised, “Be cautious on the street; stay within the areas recommended by your hotel. Exercise normal precautions when downtown.”

Often, cabs hired off the street can be risky, so use only transportation that has been vetted by your hotel or handler, and explore the city in groups when you go out at night.

Another precaution involves HIV/AIDS, which has devastated Africa in general and South Africa in particular, where 5.7 million people are believed to be infected with the immunodeficiency disease. The World Health Organization estimated that in just 2007 alone, 350,000 deaths occurred as a result of AIDS, ranking South Africa number one in the world in terms of AIDS-related mortality. Food- and water-borne infectious diseases, such as hepatitis A, typhoid fever and bacterial diarrhea, are a serious concern, too, as is sexually transmitted syphilis.

Reportedly, the safest district to stay in — and the one where many of the financial institutions and businesses formerly headquartered downtown have now migrated — is Sandton, a 20-min. drive from Lanseria. It hosts many luxury hotels, a convention center, extensive retail and office areas, restaurants and is a favorite with tourists as well. BCA