May 15th - Oman
to Ahmedabad, India
hrs 41mins non-stop flying
wake up call at 6am was not welcomed as I certainly could have
done with a few more hours asleep but we had a long flight ahead.
From our planning it was expected to be about 9 hours flying and
that was with a ground speed of approx 110 knots. We were very
impressed with the Oman Sheraton Hotel, the service was excellent.
Arriving at Oman International Airport our Handling Agent Oman
Air organized weather and lodged our flight plan. The big weather
feature on the charts is the large cyclone moving north towards
India. The cyclone would not affect our flight to Ahamadabad but
it may do so for our next flight tomorrow to Patna (East India),
we will have to watch this carefully and may be forced to sit
it out on the ground while the cyclone dissipates.
heat was 40 degrees Celsius on the airport tarmac as we had
PH-SMD refueled with 500 litres of fuel by Air BP. Our Air BP
fuel card came in handy here as we are trying to save as much
cash as possible for India where payments must be made in dollars.
On start up all instruments looked ok so we proceeded to take
off on runway 08 towards the sea to the East. We climbed to 5,000
feet which was all we could get up to with the temperature still
showing 30 degrees at this altitude. Then turning onto our cleared
track across Arabian Sea to India.
expecting to loose VHF radio contact with Oman early on and as
we had HF radio (High Frequency long range radio) Oman advised
us to call Bombay Control on HF (10.018 MHz or 13.288 MHz) when
we lost contact. I reeled out our now 90 meter aerial through
the small hole we had made in the back right side window and connected
it to the Kenwood HF radio. Straight away we got in touch with
Bombay Control on 13.288 MHz and passed our position reports.
Out at sea there is no radar coverage so the only way Air Traffic
Control know where you are is by aircraft giving regular position
reports at certain points along your track. A position report
goes like this "Bombay Control PH-SMD.. NOBAT 09.48, 5,000 feet,
next EXOLU 11.13". At 200 miles to Bombay we were asked to contact
Bombay Centre on the VHF 132.70 MHz. I switched of the HF and
reeled in the aerial.
on board today was a few biscuits and a small cake with regular
sips of water - you don't have much of an appetite when flying
these long legs so we don't bother bringing much food onboard.
The visibility is very poor out at sea today, it is very hazy
with no forward view, we can see the sea below but today we haven't
seen one ship - looks like we are all alone out here. As we approach
Bombay coast, "white horses" appear in the water which indicates
the water is rough. At 5,000 feet it is a comfortable 25 degrees
outside, though in the cockpit it is a bit uncomfortable as we
are wearing bulky life jackets.
ditch bags are also tied to ourselves in case we have to ditch
in the sea. The ditch bags contain survival equipment such as
compass, medicine, GPS, rations, water and protective clothing
all in a waterproof bag. If we did have to ditch in the sea first
out of the aircraft would be myself (Alan), throwing the life
raft away from the aircraft. The life raft is tethered to the
aircraft so once it is in the water you pull on the tether line
and it self inflates. We then both evacuate the aircraft and make
our way into the raft cutting the tether line afterwards. Once
in the water our ELT (emergency beacons) will be activated which
search and rescue helicopters can home in on. Before we ditched
we would also have got a mayday out to Air Traffic Control. Though
having to ditch is very unlikely we are prepared.
in Ahamadabad Airport 6pm local time (1.30pm back in Ireland)
just before the sun set. The airport has a long 10,000 foot runway
but from the charts we could see very few buildings so it looked
like a small airport. Once on the ground it was a busy place with
a constant stream and airliners arriving and departing in a fast
turn around time - Ryanair fashion. We jumped out of the aircraft
to be met be three customs officials and a handling agent, The
fees for handling in India were over $1,000 so we declined handling
and decided to do everything ourselves. A surreal moment occurred
when we were standing by the aircraft with the customs officials
and a monkey strolled by, crossing the apron then onto a taxi
way where a 737 had to give way to monkey before he leisurely
strolled off to the other side of the airport.
customs officials explained they had to seal the aeroplane (an
A4 page was stuck onto each of the three doors to act as a seal)
until our departure tomorrow to ensure no goods were taken from
the aircraft other than our personal belongings for the night,
Then the paperwork started in the airport. First we had to clear
immigration, this took about 40 minutes but no problems here.
After this we walked to customs were we were given eight forms
to fill in. Paul filled in the forms while I watched wondering
would they ever end. Computers are not used, instead carbon paper
is used to make the copies. 2 ˝ hours later we left the airport
in a taxi to the hotel.
lucky to arrive at the hotel as the driving in India is far more
dangerous than flying - onroute to the hotel we swerved to avoid
a dead cow in the middle of the road and at another time ended
up on the center island of the roasd with the brakes screeching
to avoid hitting a motor bike. The roads were jammed with bicycles,
cars, mopeds, pedestrians, Tuk Tuk like vehicles (in between a
small car and a motor bike) and of course numerous animals going
about their business. On the sides of the road were people asleep,
cows munching away at litter and people buying and selling,
numbers of people amazed me as I thought Ahmedabad would be a
small town. We were pleasantly surprised to find our Holiday Inn
to be an excellent hotel with the best service we have had so
far. The staff were very helpful. It was 10.30pm when we checked
in so it was straight to dinner for an Indian meal and then to
bed as we were up again at 6am the following morning to Patna
(East India). Tomorrow we must watch the weather carefully for
the cyclone heading North - it may affect our route to Thailand.