AIRCRAFT – Which plane should I use on my Self-Fly Safari?
The fleet of General Aviation aircraft available for rent in South Africa are older models with high air frame time. Their engines are all within TBO limits. All are well maintained by the owners – who also fly them – and receive 50-hour, 100-hour and Annual inspections. All AD’s and SB’s are mandatory under South African CAA rules.
Planes are certified “airworthy” before leaving base. They all have two radios and long-range fuel tanks (79 gallons, 75 usable in 182's) for conservatively-estimated 5.5 hours endurance. With proper leaning they’ll go longer. All have “steam gauges” (analog instrumentation). Privately-owned glass-cockpit aircraft exist in South Africa but have not yet been available for rent. Cirrus SR-20's and 22's are popular (there are more than 70 in the country) but are not let out privately. Single-engine Piper aircraft (Cherokee and Cherokee 6’s) are scarce on the rental market in South Africa. Low-wing aircraft are less suitable for aerial photography of scenes on the ground.
What plane is best for you?
To fly a South African-registered plane you need to have PIC time in the type of aircraft you will fly before arriving in South Africa. That’s the South African CAA rule. If you only have time in a C-182 you would not be allowed to fly a C-172 or any other type of plane - except a 182. Even one hour in the specific type (or an instructor’s sign-off in it) will make you legal. But, as well as being legal, you want to be current and comfortable flying it. If you haven’t flown it recently then log four or five hours in it before you come to Johannesburg.
|C-182: the standard bearer for bush flying|
parties of 2 or 3.
Our experience is that a Cessna 182 is the best machine for a Self-Fly Safari. We own one and manage a second. When we need more – for group safaris – we go to other 182 owners. All the 182's – ours and outsourced ones – are older (P models, 1973 &1975).
|C-206 with cargo pod is |
best for parties of 3 or 4.
A C-206 with a cargo pod is the ideal safari aircraft for parties of three or four. We have access to two such planes – both owner-flown and well maintained. The insurance companies insist on a minimum 50 hours in type and 500 hours total time to qualify to fly these C-206’s. With luggage in the cargo pod passenger seating is comfortable if not spacious.
|C-210: Often used when escorting groups and|
for piloted Self-Fly Safaris.
A C-210 can also be used for a Self-Fly Safari with three or four people. We prefer the 206 in these situations for the simple reason that there are at least three fewer things to go wrong in a 206 (landing gear).The same experience requirements (50 hours type/500 hours total time) apply to qualify for insurance.
C-172: pilot and one passenger only.
A C-172 may be adequate for a Self-Fly Safari itinerary but comes with several shortcomings. Available 172’s in South Africa are mainly used as student trainers. Compared with a C-182 the 172’s are slower, carry less fuel, are more cramped, have a lower load capability, often have just one radio and, cosmetically, look like well-used trainers.
|Pilatus PC-12: smooth, fast, luxurious ride.|
Larger aircraft: With a party of six or more for a safari, a larger aircraft is necessary. In these scenarios a chartered Cessna Caravan or a Pilatus PC-12 may be just the right solution. This is also one option if you have lost your medical or given up day-to-day flying.
|Cessna 208 Caravan: |
plane of choice for parties of 6 - 10.
A South African validated license is not required as the charter companies supply their own professional pilots. You’ll have the aircraft at your disposal and more flying options as the planes are faster, and carry the bigger load. You may be able to sit “right seat” and assist the pilot. Although there are no instrument let-down procedures at most bush air strips, the pilots are able to fly in IFR conditions and may be able to fly when VFR-only flights are delayed.
Whichever plane you fly the experience of flying the African bush is what it’s all about. Speed isn’t necessary. The legs aren’t that long. You’re here to fly. Remember “Out of Africa”. You have honed the skills of a pilot and you’re heading into new territory, new horizons, and a new adventure. ATC has different accents but the plane sounds familiar and reassuring. The plains below are dry and sometimes burned but pocked with watering holes and dotted with elephant, buffalo and other thirsty animals. The GPS guides you to your destination and you land on a dirt strip. You shut down and tie down. The rangers carry your bags and take you to the lodge and the adventure continues at camp.
Next time: Navigation – Finding your way on a Self-Fly Safari