Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Over the next several months we’ll discuss what a Self-Fly Safari is like. Among the topics: What are the lodges like? Is this a rugged camping experience? (No). What plane should I use? What happens if I have a problem with my plane? What happens if weather interferes with my safari? What is a day like at a safari lodge?

We want to show what you’re dealing with when flying in southern Africa.  Have a specific question? Let us know and we’ll answer it. Once you've flown in southern Africa your only regret will be that you didn't do it earlier!

We'll start with a look at destination airstrips...

Airstrips – What are the airstrips like in southern Africa?

Approach over a river
The landing strips vary from paved tarmac and concrete to earth and gravel. All are suitable for use with a C-182. Many are long enough to accommodate landings by Cessna Caravan, King Air, Pilatus PC12 and comparable aircraft.

Most bush airstrips are privately owned by the lodges they serve. Typically they are 3,300’ long (1000 meters) long and 50’ wide. The airstrips are well maintained by the lodges and used by private pilots and air charter companies that bring the majority of guests to the lodges.

An Okavango Delta airstrip
In Botswana’s Okavango Delta lodge airstrips are established with a grader or bulldozer. A locally abundant mineral called “calcrete” (calcium carbonate and sand), is mined and crushed to a powder and then spread over the surface of the graded strip. The material is moistened and then rolled smooth. When it dries the surface is hard and provides an excellent landing surface. The Botswana Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requires that the airstrips be cleared to a distance of 100 meters (330 feet) either side of the landing strip. 

Intu Africa (FYIA) , eastern Namibia
In Namibia, where the geology is different, lodge airstrips are often made up from  loose or packed gravel. Pilots are cautioned to do their run-ups on specially-provided cement run-up pads to mitigate damage to the propeller and tail plane.

A main airport with fuel, Customs & Immigration

Self-Fly Safari pilots will also make intermediate stops at larger, controlled airfields along the way to their bush destinations. Runways at these airports are paved and vary from 5,000’ to 16,000 feet in length. Facilities at these airports include an air traffic control tower, a briefing office, firefighting equipment, fuel, a snack bar and Immigration and Customs facilities for entering and exiting the country.Only a few of these airports have maintenance facilities. The fire brigade at a towered airport may be able to assist with inflating a tire, providing a jump start for a dead battery or other minor services.

The airspace surrounding towered airports are Class C airspace. Pilots approaching them are required to establish and maintain radio communications with tower when entering the airspace through landing and taxi to parking.
In Zambia's Kafue National park
Private bush airstrips in Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe vary in their surfaces within these parameters and are suitable for the same range of aircraft. This one is dirt and gravel. 

Next time: What kind of flying experience do I need for a Self-Fly Safari?

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