Cargo Flying in Africa

atpcliff

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 26, 2001
Posts
4,260
Total Time
6000
Hi!

Leaving for Nairobi in less than 24 hours, to fly DC-9-34Fs for a Belgian co. Another US guy I know is probably also coming out next month.

I have my own round trip ticket, so I can bail if it goes to he!!.

The op is supposed to be flying all over E. Africa, and some West. They were going to Dubai 2x/week, but I guess that was changed (know 2 guys in Dubai, so too bad!).

I am trying to figure out what to bring:
Cold weather stuff?
Footwear?
etc., etc.

Any suggestins/help/advice is GREATLY appreciated!

Oh, also: The aircraft are registered in Sao Taome, but they are changing to Kenyan registration. I will be working on the Kenyan Air Law Exam right away, as well as riding jumpseat to see what the operation is like.

Thanks!

cliff
KGRB
 

2lowflaps

Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2008
Posts
14
Total Time
7000
When you get there and settled could you let us know what it's like? This is something I'm interested in doing.
Thanks
 

atpcliff

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 26, 2001
Posts
4,260
Total Time
6000
Hi!

Yes, I will keep everyone updated.

If U want photos, I'm "Cliff Lapp" on facebook.

cliff
KGRB
 

embpic1

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2005
Posts
474
Total Time
>10000
I flew a trip to Africa a few years ago. My first impression was not a good one. Position call outs in the blind were getting old after a few hours. We lost comm with ATC (if you can call it that) about 100 miles from our destination. We ended up over the airport at FL350 and finally woke up the guy in the tower. He gave us a descent and wanted us to fly back out about 75 miles to do the arrival. We talked him out of that and descended in the hold for an ILS. When we taxied out I asked for our clearance and the guy just said cleared for takeoff. I asked him for a squawk code and he said he had none, just 'cleared for t/o'. We asked for the next controller freq and again he had no idea. It was something like 3AM and I was pretty sure he was quite drunk. We made it out of there finally.

Needless to say it didn't leave me with a good impression. I am not looking forward to my next visit.
 
Last edited:

jafo20

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 29, 2004
Posts
235
Total Time
some
Different countries in Africa have greatly different qualities in their ATC structure. Pretend you're flying your DC-9 in 1965, and you'll be alright. Be proactive about getting what you want and try to see foul-ups coming before they develop into crises. Be careful at FIR boundaries. A lot of facilities don't communicate with each other, so separation at certain boundaries is almost non existent.

With regard to gear, you'll want to bring a jacket for cold weather. People laugh, but, in dry areas, you feel really cold waiting for pax/freight as temps drop from 40C to 15C.

Bring immodium, aspirin and routine household meds. Bug repellant and sunblock is really handy. You'll find most consumer goods are available at nicer hotels, but they'll be really expensive.

Don't bring camping gear, machetes or any of that stuff.

Be careful about what taxis you use (only ones that are recommended from a good hotel's travel desk). Avoid public transit.

Most importantly have enough cash on hand to get yourself out of the country if your boss stops paying your salary. This is a really common story. Good luck, and try to have some fun.

The Middle East is nice.
 

jafo20

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 29, 2004
Posts
235
Total Time
some
A sense of humor is the most important thing you can have with you. Try not to get stressed in the sun and dust.
 

dakotaHC8

Well-known member
Joined
May 26, 2002
Posts
113
Total Time
13500
Rule of thumb: African ATC is meant to collect overflight and landing fees, not control air traffic.

Keep that in mind, and treat the entire continent as "uncontrolled", even when you are talking to ATC.

Do what you are told, but remember to do what you need to stay alive and out of trouble first and foremost.

English is kinda sketchy at times, so have a rough idea of what they are saying ahead of time, and that will help you understand them better (ie: name of upcoming reporting points ---> est time over "____") Back to the rule I said up top, when you enter a new country, they will want to know who you are ("station" = registration #), Souls, Endurance and estimated time over FIR's... The basic ICAO flight plan stuff.

Get real good at reading the Charts, especially the little notes all over the route, telling you whom you have to call, what not to do, what to do, and so on...

Make the "all stations" position reports. It will get repetitious, but this is just as important as making radio calls flying in/out of an uncontrolled airport. Many pilots use this to verify that ATC has not placed you head on with another aircraft or is climbing someone into you and so on... Again, the charts are your friend, so you can see where "upper Bravo 435" is...). Remember the rule of thumb at the beginning...

And most importantly, have some patience. As "this is Africa". Things are just done differently done there, and that is that. Might as well get used to that idea, and accept the inevitable.

Good luck, fly safe.
 
Last edited:

embpic1

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2005
Posts
474
Total Time
>10000
Rule of thumb: African ATC is meant to collect overflight and landing fees, not control air traffic.

Keep that in mind, and treat the entire continent as "uncontrolled", even when you are talking to ATC.

Do what you are told, but remember to do what you need to stay alive and out of trouble first and foremost.

English is kinda sketchy at times, so have a rough idea of what they are saying ahead of time, and that will help you understand them better (ie: name of upcoming reporting points ---> est time over "____") Back to the rule I said up top, when you enter a new country, they will want to know who you are ("station" = registration #), Souls, Endurance and estimated time over FIR's... The basic ICAO flight plan stuff.

Get real good at reading the Charts, especially the little notes all over the route, telling you whom you have to call, what not to do, what to do, and so on...

Make the "all stations" position reports. It will get repetitious, but this is just as important as making radio calls flying in/out of an uncontrolled airport. Many pilots use this to verify that ATC has not placed you head on with another aircraft or is climbing someone into you and so on... Again, the charts are your friend, so you can see where "upper Bravo 435" is...). Remember the rule of thumb at the beginning...

And most importantly, have some patience. As "this is Africa". Things are just done differently done there, and that is that. Might as well get used to that idea, and accept the inevitable.

Good luck, fly safe.
All very good points. Especially the point of reading the charts. Lots of info on there to keep you out of trouble.
 

jafo20

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 29, 2004
Posts
235
Total Time
some
Yeah, the little notes on the charts are pretty handy.

Talk to the local guys when you get a chance too. Lots of S. African and expat pilots can fill you in on the specifics of your local area.
 
Last edited:

tjsatter

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Posts
174
Total Time
none
Hey Cliff!

I am living/working in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which practically makes us neighbors! Stop in say Hi sometime; the fridge is well stocked with Belgian Beers.

Nix on the Cold Wx gear and ok to sleep thru winter ops and de-icing CBT sessions :)

I have flown the full length of Africa between Benghazi and Joe'Burg and Not talked to ANYbody.

tj
 
Last edited:

Sonny Crockett

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 9, 2005
Posts
584
Total Time
10K+
Good Luck Cliff and keep up updated!

Fly Safe Amigo!
 

b19

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 4, 2003
Posts
117
Total Time
oldfrt
Excellent points about African ATC, just one more point about 126.9 and making all station calls; I've always monitored it on both arrival's and departures even in supposed radar areas to make sure you are not being climbed or descended into traffic, also don't forget to make the calls prior to airways that intersect. And always expect to plan your own descents. Anyway be safe and have fun, and never expect anything to be on time and you won't be frustrated, it's Africa.
 

GCD

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 23, 2002
Posts
476
Total Time
>1500
Good luck, Cliff.

Keep us updated. I hope things turn around so we can have you on the Atlas list. The rec. is still there.
 

metrodriver

No jobs anymore in here??
Joined
Aug 25, 2002
Posts
492
Total Time
lot
Cliff, a light (rain)jacket will be ok for Nairobi. The place is 5000' in elevation. So it can cool of nicely, and when it rains, it pours. Sandals work fine during daytime, some closed shoes at night (many westerners wear hiking-boot style shoes, but that may just be safari-tourists or UN workers). Africa is dusty or muddy. White shoes/clothes don't stay white for long.
I carry sunscreen with mosquito repellent, it's waterproof so it doesn't sweat off as easy as the regular stuff. Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date, including yellow fever. Several countries require that. When leaving the plane for the hotel, always take a copy of the gen dec.
Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda have pretty good ATC, but 0300 over the congo is a different story.
You'll become familiar with the TIA (this is africa). Example: a 3 hour delay because the handlers office is downtown and he got stuck in traffic trying to get us a flightplan (a west african airport), "rampchecks" at another one and after complaints from the company some supervisor comes on board wondering how much there had been paid because nothing had been recorded. Offloading twenty-something pallets at same airport with 3 dollies. One guy to operate the loader, tug and forklift. Additional dollies are for rent for $50 a piece (per run).
Keep your cell phone well hidden. Those things are hot items in africa and they will try to snatch them out of your hands if the opportunity is there.

The area charts have the ICAO air-to-air call format, but the "text" book will tell you to make the call 5 minuts before a fix. This starts below 30N, txpdr at 2000, airway offset. With exeptions.
 
Last edited:

Big Beer Belly

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 5, 2004
Posts
756
Total Time
9000+
Great advice from the other posters. I'll reiterate to do WHATEVER you must in order to maintain uninterrupted respiration. When in IMC... ONLY descend via published airway and be sure your position is accurate. Make your calls in the blind, even if it's tedious. Occasionally there are aircraft flying around that intentionally do not broadcast their position... (you'll just have to take my word for it)... but are usually listening... they too, are not hoping for a collision.

If the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up... listen to them both in the air and on the ground. Discard any notion that your citizenship provides any "special" immunity to anything. Depending on where you fly into (or travel on personal time) your experience can be relatively pleasant and benign up to and including attempting to interrupt your continuous respiration <ng>. I recommend you err on the side of caution until you gain experience in theater.

Shocking as this may sound... :eek:... some of the locals (to include well-armed soldiers/militias) do not share the same alcohol/drug use restraint while on duty that you're accustomed to in developed countries. Always best to keep a calm demeanor and de-escalate any potential confrontation... back to my philosophy of listening to the little hairs and keep breathing thing!

Africa presents some unique challenges, no doubt about it, but can be fun and even rewarding. If nothing else, you'll have some great stories to tell the grandkids! Enjoy your time... but be smart and cautious.

BBB
 

b707guy

Analog Kid
Joined
Feb 5, 2007
Posts
520
Total Time
9k-ish
If you haven't already, get your shots up to date, yellow fever particularly. It's required for entry into some countries like the Congo.

Best of luck!

Also, drink only bottled water, and don't use ice in your drinks unless you know and are comfortable with the source.
 

One Dot Low

Well-known member
Joined
May 1, 2007
Posts
68
Total Time
8000
I lived and flew a widebody in Africa to a lesser known destinations for a few years, and as was said above, have a good sense of humor. Everything has it's own time, some might take days or never happen at all.

Get all your shots updated, drink bottle water or beer. No ice or salad (washed in tap water).

As far as flying, unless VMC, stick to the airways and fly the full approach. Many ATCs have no radar so position report is a must when entering TMAs (radial, alt, DME etc.). TCAS only works if the other guy has it on or even has one. In West Africa, most ATC comm to locals are in French. Use GPS as a back up and don't rely too much for non-precision approaches, Their (beacons) actual location and the GPS coordinates sometimes don't jive.

Stay up with the local, regional current events. Making sure that your alternate hasn't fallen into the rebel's control the night before is very very important.

Hide away some extra cash in case you need to get out of somewhere fast (yes, bribe money). Money talks. Make sure you have singles, great for tips here and there and no, they don't take coins, even the two euro ones. Greenbacks still rule down there.

Again, important, have a sense of humor. Laugh it off since there's nothing you can do about it, not in a hundred years. Many have tried and failed.

People are generally good but of different cultures and backgrounds so have an open mind. To them you are wealthy and perhaps "can help them out". Politely ignore, they will pester but get use to it. I've never seen any overt aggressiveness even in the contested areas.

As far as personal hygines go, if you must, never ever ride bareback (the highway connecting Kinshasa and Mombasa is known as "the AIDS Highway" for a reason. Bring mosquito repellent, number one killer in Africa is malaria. You won't die from it but it'll make you very very sick and will become a recurring sickness. The gift that keeps on giving.

Enjoy the experience and have a good time. Go climb the Kilimanjaro before all the ice melts. Go to Arusha and experience the Serengeti, unforgettable.

Keep your wits about you like anywhere else and have a great time.

Oh yeah, once the pay stops or if they promise that it will be there in two weeks and "please, we need you to do one more trip". The fun is over and stop flying until you're paid in full. The more you fly the deeper the hole you are digging for yourself. So, make sure you get paid!
 
Last edited:

Fedora

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 15, 2007
Posts
260
Total Time
15000+
Hey Cliff! Welcome to the "Dark Continent". Lot's of good advice has been given here. The IATA voice reports and a good listening watch on 126.9 are a must. Most outfits use a 1NM offset to the right until you get to a radar environment (even then, ATC may not have a clue where you are and will keep asking for DME to a fix.)
Lagos and the other Nigerian airports are a particular concern. If ATC won't answer, go to the tower when in range and get the weather and runway, and stay with them for the let down and approach. They also often want cash for landing fees, fuel, and departure fees (they won't file your flt plan until they get their money). If your company gives you cash for this, make sure that you close the cockpit door before accessing it and never reveal to any ground personnel where it is kept. Keep your head on a swivel during the ride to and from the hotel and make sure van doors are locked. Don't eat salads or fruits that may be washed with the local tap water. (oranges and bananas that have a skin to peel off are OK) We don't leave the hotels in Nigeria unless we are going back to the airport.
Nairobi and Joberg are better destinations with decent facilities, and sightseeing and safari's are good take in's there.
Tripoli can be a good fuel stop with a quick turn, but make sure you get a hold of someone before showing up in their airspace. (there's an airport about 300 miles south of there which will take your position report and pass it on to Tripoli - we used that a lot. (there was a Ruskie crew that arrived in Tripoli ahead of us saying that they couldn't get a hold of anyone before they got there, and the tower was trying to violate them) Be creative in your attempts to communicate, and don't freak out when you can't talk to anyone - it happens a lot - when you do get contact, pass as many waypoint eta's as you can and realize that they don't talk to each other on the ground so you will have to start fresh with each controller.
All that being said, I found that Africa on the whole is quite doable if you keep that good sense of humor and try to help out the other aircraft in the system when you can with a relay, etc.
Good Flying to you, I've had my fill since Gemini rolled belly up. Lot's of memorable times with some great guys.
Fedora
 

Big Beer Belly

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 5, 2004
Posts
756
Total Time
9000+
Forgot to mention... that soft, fluffy white stuff you grew up with is neither widely available nor used (except in hotels, etc...)... so it's key to keep the left and right hands straight:

left = replaces Charmin :eek:
right = eat with it :)

If you want to press-to-test, just offer a local anything with your left hand and watch the fireworks! :D

If that doesn't go over well ask them to check out the gum on the bottom of your shoe... :D

I've forgotten most of the religious/cultural insults... it was hard to keep them all straight anyway. Perhaps I've just understood why my continuous respiration was occasionally threatened? :laugh:

I'm all out of little smiley things to use...


BBB
 
Top