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Complex mission specialist adds Comoros to Africa offering
African air ops can be disjointed and difficult to pin down, so GAS is making a name for itself by putting its people at different locations on the ground. Its latest base is in the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean.
Hussein Qubah with a happy customer after another successful mission.

General Aviation Services has opened an office in Moroni in the Comoros Islands, a volcanic archipelago off Africa’s east coast in the Mozambique Channel and comprising of four small islands. This is an expansion of the operation it runs in Kigali, Rwanda and to its direct supervision service across the whole of Tanzania from its base in Mwanza.

GAS works directly with CAAs and CAA authorised agents in the 54 countries that form the continent of Africa to arrange landing and overfly permits, regional ground handling co-ordination and supervision and fuel solutions. It sent a team to visit the latest location to work out how best to provide a service. When office hours are short, as in the case of the Comoros where doors open at 0800 and close just five hours later, it can be difficult to procure permits out of office hours or in an emergency. And the main language is Swahili, but the decision makers speak French. “They are very laid back,” says founding director Mohammed Tewfik. “All our offices are open 24/7, so we had our network development director go there. Now we have a permanent staff of three people.”

There can be many other complex challenges to be faced when operating within Africa. “Sudan is now completely shut,” he continues. “The war has caused the closure of its air space and that means a big detour for any aircraft that wanted to overfly.” And if an operator wants to fly north to south or east to west across the continent, it becomes necessary to navigate through the air space of any number of different countries. “If you miss one permit you have a problem. Each country has its own particular requirements but we can help navigate these challenges,” adds director of operations Hussein Qubah.

Besides short hours and language issues, another difficulty is that most ground handling companies are used to handling airlines, not so much private jets. “So when it comes to business aviation, they don’t know what is expected,” adds Qubah. “So we are here to ensure things run smoothly. As was the case when we assisted the CAF, the Confederation of African Football, which needed flight support and hotel permits, catering and lots more. Our local knowledge meant we could service those flights. We had people on the ground where they were needed.”

Since 2020, GAS has arranged more than 8,000 permits for over 600 missions for customers such as trip support companies and operators of charter, management, air ambulance and cargo flights.

“We have put every solution we have achieved into our standard operating procedures, so when we get a new member of staff they can easily learn how to meet our standards,” says Tewfik. It’s a dynamic and difficult market, and it is very difficult to predict what may happen next, but GAS does plan to expand its network to other locations where clients want it to be. “We moved into Tanzania because our clients wanted our support there,” he says. “Our clients assign us the most complex missions, because they know we offer a boutique working environment with people on the ground where they are needed. They know they are not dealing with a random duty officer.”

In 2016 Tewfik started GAS UK to expand and develop the services already provided within Africa, and to have a base closer to key customers outside of the continent.