Unsurprisingly, there are significant challenges when planning this kind of flight. The first is the choice of aircraft; the limited availability of AVGAS cuts out 99% of the piston general aviation fleet. We ended up leasing a Cessna 182 that had been converted to an aero-diesel engine produced by SMA – this runs on jet fuel, which is available almost anywhere. It comes with the added advantage of better fuel economy leading directly to increased range.
The number of different countries to be visited also presented a challenge. In total, ~25 different African countries would be visited over a three month period; each of these countries has different entry requirements for aircraft and crew. Mike Gray, of White Rose Aviation, was employed to organise overflight and landing clearances along the entire route.
As well as permits, visas for myself and Sophia had to be organised. Some countries make visas available on entry, but others had to be acquired in advance. Thankfully Sophia and her family were able to take the time in London to visit a number of embassies and organise these. Despite advice that we would not be able to get visas without having commercial airline tickets, we found that this was not the case and the required visas could be procured.
The route was primarily chosen with Sophia’s medical contacts in mind. As a result, at the majority of stops we already knew people on the ground who would be able to help out with accommodation, transport, and safety advice for the locations we were visiting.
Other varied tasks included procurement of charts. We acquired IFR en-route charts, and approach plates, for the entirety of Africa from Jeppesen; these came in three thick 2″ binders. It was amazing to think that we had full details for every airport on an entire continent in our hands! VFR charts for Africa were mostly not available; the majority of navigation was through IFR charts, VFR data on my Aera 500, and the skyvector.com website.
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