I did some hour-building in South Africa in February. My advice is that it's a great place to fly but only do it if you are going to do 75 or more hours. Otherwise the economics don't add up. Remember, you're paying for flights out there and accommodation, and don't forget that SA is such a beautiful and diverse place that you'll have t
o do the touristy stuff.
You will have to get your JAR PPL validated. You can do this at any FTO in SA as far as I know. I chose Lanseria Flight Centre because of its proximity to the SA CAA in Johannesburg. I was told that the internal postal service delays could add three weeks on to the validation process, so I wanted to be nearby. Lanseria Airport is just outside Johannesburg and is quite a busy Business Jet and Charter Airline hub, so it's a pretty good place to experience a full ATC airport.
I just looked at my Statement from Laseria Flight Centre and they charged me £415 to validate my Licence. That figure includes the SA CAA PPL Air Law exam, which you sit online. You definitely ought to get Part 61 of the SA Air Navigation Regulations in advance. It's not really something you can study the night before. Half the questions are absurdly detailed and relate to licensing rather than flying. Do you care about the competency requirements for SA Student Pilots when you're a JAR PPL holder? I think I paid an additional, but modest, fee direct to the CAA when I drove there to get the document issued. Incidentally, despite my initial problems, they were very organised on the day.
The Validation included a briefing, a familiarisation flight around the local area, a general handling flight and a cross-country Nav flight. It's an absurdly detailed validation process when you consider SA is an ICAO nation desperate to join the JAA, the people doing it are probably only wanting to hire a plane for some sight-seeing, yet it's pretty much the same as doing an SA PPL test. Surely an abbreviated PPL Air Law test (focusing on the differences between JAR and local SA operations and procedures and not licensing) plus a check ride would be sufficient?! To rub it in, after doing all this rubbish, it only lasts for a year.
Oh and I also spent £200 on a week's accommodation and food in a B&B near Lanseria. I also had to pay for a week's car hire (only about £100) and a replacement internal flight to Cape Town because the delays caused by the FTO's disorganisation (aircraft and instructor availability) meant my general handling and nav flights were conducted seperately and the whole process took 7 days rather than the 3 they promised when I booked it.
I don't know if Algoa are more experienced in doing JAR PPL licence conversions, but Lanseria seemed a bit unsure of requriements. To be fair to them, the SA CAA had just changed the rules. Apparently. I did come out of it feeling I had been taken for a ride.
I then flew to Cape Town and stayed with my Dad for a month. I joined Cape Town Flying Club and flew their C172s around the Western Cape. It's a truly wonderful place to aviate. I know SA very well, having spent many years there, so I know that Algoa and the South-east are also worth seeing, but for me Cape Town is too special to miss.
Basically, a C172 was costing about £65 per hour when I did my hour-building. It's probably a bit more expensive due to oil price hikes. When you add-on the cost of accommodation and flights, you are only looking at making a saving on flying in the UK if you do a lot of hours. But then again, I spent amonth flying in and out of Cape Town International's busy airspace, amongst the 747s, and with that fantastic view the whole time!!!!