DR Congo

Standard Administrative and Operating Procedures (SAOP) Part 1 - Democratic Republic of the Congo, 01 January 2021




Aviation plays an important role in humanitarian operations around the world, especially in countries where overland transport is difficult or impossible due to insecurity, damaged or inadequate infrastructure, and challenging climatic conditions. Aviation allows the transport of humanitarian aid workers and humanitarian cargo to communities in some of the world’s most inaccessible places.

During the fifth session of the United Nations High Level Committee on Management (HLCM) held in New York from 12-13 June 2003, the World Food Programme (WFP) accepted the request of the Committee to take the responsibility for administering air transport services for UN agencies and NGOs involved in humanitarian and “other” activities not directly or specifically for peacekeeping. Thus, effective January 2004, WFP became the managing body of newly established United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS).

The operation of aircraft of any kind is a costly and potentially dangerous undertaking, and it is essential that it is conducted in a safe and cost-effective manner. UNHAS bases its rules and procedures, staff qualification criteria and aircraft chartering procedures on the United Nations Aviation Standards for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Air Operations (UNAVSTADS). The UNAVSTADS have been developed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)/Department of Field Support (DFS) and the World Food Programme (WFP) with the assistance of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Operating in accordance with these standards does not diminish UNHAS ability to flexibly respond in challenging and changing contexts, like conflict or disaster. The operational requirements and priorities invariably change over time and the operational response must adapt accordingly. Resultantly, air operations are inherently flexible and can be quickly adapted to meet these new situations and requirements. The operational structure and these procedures must also remain flexible and responsive to new and/or changing needs. To this end, these procedures will remain under constant review and subject to amendment as required.

UNHAS receives permanent support from the WFP Aviation Service in the areas of staff recruitment, funds management, aircraft contracting and fleet management, internal quality assurance evaluations, safety related guidance and aviation training.



The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second largest country in Africa by area with a population of over 80 million and it is located in central sub-Saharan Africa, bordered to the northwest by the Republic of the Congo, to the north by the Central African Republic, to the northeast by South Sudan, to the east by Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and by Tanzania (across Lake Tanganyika), to the south and southeast by Zambia, to the southwest by Angola, and to the west by the South Atlantic Ocean and the Cabinda Province exclave of Angola.

The humanitarian situation in DRC remains precarious and extremely fluid. This is principally a result of continuing conflicts between communities, non-state armed groups and Congolese security forces, and due to prevailing socio-economic challenges that affect the most vulnerable Congolese. An estimated 19.6 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance and protection in 2021: this figure represents 8 per cent of the total worldwide humanitarian caseload. Those affected by this complex and widespread crisis remain exposed to pervasive human rights violations, especially sexual and gender-based violence, chronic malnutrition, and epidemics, notably cholera, measles, and the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Insecurity has had a devastating impact on people’s capacity to access food. The situation is further complicated by political uncertainty and economic downturn. This deterioration, observed mainly in the Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Tanganyika and Kasai provinces, is taking place against the backdrop of one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian crises (unocha.org). The security of the country remains fragile and the affected population needs a strengthened presence of the humanitarian community and this requires safe and cost-effective logistics solutions to reach the beneficiaries in the most remote locations.

Since 2008, the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service provides aid workers, donors and diplomatic missions with safe, flexible, efficient and cost-effective air transportation to approximately 40 locations across a country the same size as western Europe, based in a flexible schedule and keeping built-in capacity to rapidly deploy means where required to support emergency response needs.

UNHAS DRC operates in a very complex aviation environment, particularly in air navigation and aerodrome management areas. In addition, the operational and safety risk levels of some air operators pose an extra challenge to humanitarian actors travelling to the field.

Alongside UNHAS, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission (ECHO-managed by WFP/UNHAS) provide air transport services for Humanitarian Community.

Climate is hot and humid in equatorial river basin; cooler and drier in southern highlands; cooler-cold and wetter in eastern highlands and the Ruwenzori Range. At north of Equator the wet season is from April to October and the dry season from December to February; south of Equator - wet season from November to March, dry season from April to October. DRC is also known for its adverse weather conditions because of its geographical location, experiencing high precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world.

The country spans two time zones:

  • UTC + 1:00: The western half of the country, including Kinshasa.

  • UTC + 2:00: The eastern half of the country, including Kananga, Lubumbashi, Goma, and Kalemie.


The current operational fleet is conformed by ten aircraft as follows:

  • 1 EMB-145 (50 seater)

  • 2 DHC8-100 “combi” configuration (37 seater each)

  • 1 Beechcraft – 1900D (19 seater)

  • 2 MI-8 (21 seater each)

  • 1 Do-228 (19 seater)

  • 3 C-208 B (12 seater each)

These aircraft are strategically based in Kinshasa, Goma, Bunia, Kalemie, Mbandaka and Kananga to respond effectively to regular demand and emergencies/evacuations.

The DHC-8 based in Kinshasa covers the routes to Equateur, Nord & Sud-Ubangi provinces in DRC and the RoC. Bangui in CAR is utilized as base for refuelling and overnight if required due to operational reasons.

The EMB-145 based in Kinshasa makes the liaison East-West DRC, between Goma & Kinshasa covering as well the Kasais’ provinces twice a week and Mbandaka once a week.

Goma is the main operational UNHAS hub. It hosts one DHC-8, one BE-1900D and one helicopter MI-8. These aircraft ensure liaison and connection with/between the North and the South field locations in East DRC, mostly in the same day.

One helicopter Mi-8 is deployed in Mbandaka since July 1st, 2020, and has been supporting the EVD response operations by increasing access to affected health zones, transporting response teams and critical supplies. While the end of the Equateur EVD was officially declared on 18th November 2020, post-Ebola recovery responses continue in all affected regions.

The C-208 B based in Kananga covers field destinations in the three Kasaï. Another C-208 B based in Bunia serves Ituri, Bas and Haut-Uele provinces.

A third C-208 B is based in Kalemie and along with one Do-228, both cover field destinations in South Kivu, Tanganyika, Haut-Lomami and Haut-Katanga, connecting with Bukavu and Goma as well (Do-228).

Since June 1st 2020, WFP/UNHAS took over the management of ECHO flights in DRC and one additional C-208B was deployed to Kalemie, performing flights in Tanganyka and Haut-Katanga provinces. Another helicopter Mi-8 funded by ECHO is based in Goma and flies to scheduled destinations keeping open the possibility to support on immediate basis ad-hoc destinations and security/medical evacuation in East DRC. A separate document has been issued stating the particular standard administrative and operating procedures for ECHO fights.

Goma also hosts UNHAS Operational Centre and UNHAS Customer Care Centre in direct and permanent contact with the humanitarian operations in the field.

Apart from the regular operations, UNHAS DRC also supports UNHCR activities in North-West DRC with one dedicated DHC-8 aircraft, ECHO Flight project and Ebola response as detailed before.


This SAOP has been produced by UNHAS Chief Air Transport Officer (CATO) using WFP Aviation approved template. UNHAS CATO is responsible for the contents and update of the SAOP.

Electronic copies of this document will be shared with the relevant UNHAS staff, with the operators’ project managers, with WFP Country Director (CD) in DRC and with WFP Aviation.

Electronic copy of the sections of the SAOP that are relevant for the customers, will be shared with the User Organizations registered with UNHAS.

The contents of the SAOP is mandatory and applicable to all UNHAS staff, contracted operators and UNHAS passengers.