Heard that Swift Air in Malawi looking for 1900 pilots with 1000 hours of which 250 turbine and 250 multi. Their cheif pilot can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Malawi is a pretty easy country to live in - sort of a beginners guide to Africa so not a hardship country at all
Flying in Africa is a great way to build up your experience to make you more attractive to the airlines. It is also one hell of a life experience. However, it is not for everyone. For anyone who is interested in flying in this beautiful continent or anyone who is, like I was, just desperate to kick start their career, I hope you find this summary useful…
I can only speak of what I know. I flew in Botswana for one year, then Tanzania at a place called Mwanza, by Lake Victoria for five months and for the last 15 months out of Zanzibar. I also picked up a bit of information on flying in various other African countries but I would advise you don’t make the ‘go/ no go’ decision based on my information alone. Do your own up to date research – make a few phone calls first – because the situation can change very rapidly.
South Africa: It can be difficult for low hour pilots to get work here. I’m told from white South Africans that the system is favouring black nationals. However there are exceptions for people with contacts etc. I would not recommend you start your search here however. The vast amount of South Africans that I met searching for work in other African countries should add weight to that advice.
Namibia: Namibia is a beautiful and safe country to live and fly in. It is here that I started my search for work. The Cessna 210 is the main mode of transport – if you have less than 1000 hours then don’t expect to fly anything bigger. The two main places for low hour pilots are Windhoek (the capital) and Swakopmund. The latter is a very nice town to live in and I found the pilots here very welcoming and friendly. The flying is a little limited, mainly scenic tours up and down the coast line but most of the pilots seemed happy with life and it’s a toe in the door. The flying out of Windhoek is more varied, taking tourists on flying safaris that can last several days. The pilot gets to partake on the ground part of the safaris too, which I would view as a massive perk to the job. Each company is different but the legs are generally two hours and you can expect between 500 and 700 hours per year. However, when I was there, although I had companies interested, they all said that the Namibian government had sponsored national people through their commercial license, who were now beginning to qualify and thus these nationals must be employed before foreigners. Therefore if you go to Namibia, then check with the companies what the current situation is before you go. If you do get work here, it comes highly recommended for lifestyle, great flying and all round great country. I don’t know about how long it takes to progress to bigger aircraft. Most jobs are available between December and April but you could be lucky, outside this time bracket. I wouldn’t bother between July and October though. You need a minimum of a commercial license and 200 hours.
Botswana The flying for low hour pilots in Botswana is initially in Cessna 206 aircraft out of a town called Maun. Progression to the Islander or Caravan normally takes between one and two years. Maun is the gateway to the world famous Okavango Delta. Anyone who is a fan of the Geography Channel will know about it, a riverine paradise, full of channels and lagoons, and teeming with wildlife. The government, committed to low-impact tourism, divided it into concessions, which are enjoyed from 5 star luxury lodges, each of which is serviced by a bush strip. There are no roads into the Delta. Botswana is a beautiful and safe country, one of Africa’s finest. Maun itself is not so pleasing to the senses but the people make the place – with so many pilots, hunters and safari guides you’re never short of company. The C206 has a shorter take off and landing distance than the C210 but the runways are also shorter than in Namibia. It is real bush flying but the training is good – you’ll need to sit on the right or left seat a minimum of 50 hours before you can take command (I think the same is also true for Namibia). This can take several weeks. The work is varied and also includes the chance to overnight in the lodges and do free safaris in what is arguably the best safari country in the world. One place I stayed at costs the paying customer over 1000 USD per person per night. Blows the mind. Expect plenty of frustration before you go command ie it can take many weeks of sitting around wasting money before you get employed (if ever) and the CAA can be very lazy and slow – but not so corrupt – so the process of doing your Air Law exam and aircraft technical exam and getting your license converted can also take weeks. It is probably about one in two or three people who turn up that are successful in their quest for a job. You won’t get a job there unless you go there – quite simply – like everywhere in Africa. With many operators it is just as much about whether your face fits in as anything else. My advice is to be persistent enough to show that you are keen but don’t be a pain. Once you have introduced yourself to each company’s chief pilot or operations manager (which is effectively your initial interview, but very casual) and given them a copy of your CV don’t just sit by the swimming pool at the campsite and wait for a phone call. Nor should you hassle the pilots or hang around in their offices uninvited. Pop your head in to the company offices every few days to say hello and ask if they have any spare seats on any of their flights that you can go on. This will remind them you are keen and still around, it will also get you closer to getting your 50 hours of experience in the Delta, thus making you more employable, it will keep you in touch with what is going on and you’ll enjoy it; the flying there is probably the most enjoyable flying I’ll ever do. You’ll also get to know the pilots more, which is also important. In some companies they can have a lot of influence on who gets hired. Go drinking on Friday nights, from 6 o’ clock, at the pub by the airport (when I was there it was called ‘the Bull and Bush’ but this may have changed.) Find out what sporting activities the pilots do and ask if you can join in (rugby, football, cricket etc). The hiring time is the same as in Namibia and you can expect between 700 and 1000 hours per year. Financially on your wage (in the region of 1000 USD), one person can live comfortably and save some money but don’t expect to support more than two on a pilot’s wage. Almost all the pilots are expatriate, mainly Kiwi and South African. The standard of maintenance is good.
Zambia There are definitely jobs to be had in Zambia and good twin engine opportunities but I don’t know too much else except that it is a good country to live in. Proflight I hear are a good company to get in to.
Kenya The flying is great and the pay is excellent but getting started can take a very long time with lots of exams to take. You might be better off doing your Tanzanian license, then converting just by doing one air law exam. I know some pilots who complained that you can’t get a work permit without a residence permit and the reverse is also true… hence no way in. Seems a bit odd to me – there must be people who get past the problems but look in to it. With Kenya Airways expanding there’s plenty of jobs appearing amongst the smaller companies. A lot of companies there do humanitarian flying to neighbouring countries, some of it contract work. Other problems are that corruption is huge and you’d be lucky to get a job without a contact or a lot more than 200 hours. Wide variety of aircraft.
Tanzania There are four places for pilots to be based in Tanzania: Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza and Zanzibar. Arusha is similar to Maun, Mwanza is a dull and ugly but comparitively well paid, Dar es Salaam is nice if you live in the expatriate areas but more expensive and more commuting time to the airport. Zanzibar is great if you make the most of it – get a car, make an effort to enjoy the island on your days off, get a nice place to live, get involved in the expat community etc. Pay can be better or worse than Botswana depending on who you work for and what you fly. E.G. a pilot of a Cessna 206 can get between 500 USD a month and 2200 USD. In Zanzibar I was on 1500 USD flying the Seneca, then 1800 USD on the Cessna 402 which is not that competitive but I lived very well, with almost no commuting time and still saved half of my wage. Again, in Tanzania, the flying is great, mainly based on the tourist industry except in Mwanza which is mainly taking the mining executives to the various gold and diamond mines and some work for the hunting camps and one good company there does a lot of flying in to Uganda and the DRC. There are more opportunities for twin engine flying in Tanzania than in Botswana and Namibia but only once you’ve got 1000 hours plus in most cases. There are less opportunities for 200 hour pilots but you could get lucky with some companies and there’s arguably less competition from other job seekers. Most people get jobs if they are determined and patient. Recruitment is not really fixed to a few months of the year. It can happen any time. More than half of the pilots are expats. Some of the companies will give you free flights around the country if you are in your pilots uniform. Maintenance facilities are poor but at the end of the day if the pilot isn’t happy with the aircraft he won’t fly it. It’s just that it takes them several attempts to do simple jobs. It took me ten test flights before accepting my aircraft after a major check. Do your checks and don’t compromise on standards! Again, corruption is rife and there can be frustrations in getting the job and your licenses converted etc. The CAA aren’t easy to deal with – be polite and patient, no matter how angry they make you.
In summary, a search for work in Africa can be frustrating and success is not guaranteed but the successful candidates are normally the ones who are the most determined and for me any initial frustrations were quickly forgotten and well worth it. I went with the attitude that if it did not work out I would just try and enjoy the traveling anyway and treat it as a holiday. Maybe this is a good policy but it could take between one week and several months of trying before you get a job. Patience is key. Get your logbooks stamped before you go. The CAA’s like stamps – from training schools, previous jobs etc. Don’t go with less than 200 hours and an up to date medical and commercial license, which you will convert when you get to the country and certainly when you enter the country tick the box that says ‘tourist for 3 months’. Don’t tell immigration that you are looking for work. Contracts are normally for 2 years but if you give at least a month’s notice it is normally easy enough to leave before that time is up. The benefits of flying in Africa are hours in your log book, PIC time, great times, improved flying skills and amazing experiences. It can help your career and over the course of a 30 year career, 2 or 3 years in Africa will spice it up a bit and give you plenty of stories to talk about during those long sectors in a 747! Hope this all helps…
Sebastien, french EASA Part 66 B1/B2 Licensed Engineer- 12 years of exp B1/B2 on ATR 42/72 family B1/B2 on A320 family B1 on helicopter EC135 Several years in West and North Africa (expatriate) Currently in Morocco Looking for job in Africa, available end of july 2011
Hello everybody.....I am dornier 228 type rated pilot with a total of around 450 hours....i hold a DGCA and an FAA license.....i am lookin for a job as a trainee pilot Anywhere....i will sponser for my further training if required.....will appreciate any help...thanx......
The Snoopy of the skies and the most fun thing to fly ever. Well at least from the LHS where a quick exit can be made to check on the always errant rear baggage door micro switch. Never did like doing that on the ice with the left prop turning at the holding point on a dark northern winter night. At least though you could wear a proper coat in the cockpit. Yes sir, permission to speak, I'd like a job please flying one of those again in warmer climes.