Finally back in the air and on our way over the Gulf Of Oman to Pakistan. It was Jack’s turn to fly and once again he insisted on hand flying the climb to altitude which I’m sure gave the air traffic controllers a good laugh because our track wasn’t what some would call a straight line. Normally I wouldn’t care that much if we wandered a mile or so off course but not only was this particular leg was a rather long one over water, wasting fuel over the ocean really bugs me, but our course took us to within a few miles of Iranian airspace and that’s not something you want blunder into. Apparently our drunken meanderings weren’t deemed dangerous enough to comment on because the radio stayed quiet all the way to Karachi. The approach into Karachi was extremely hazy due to the heavy pollution and record heat wave that had been causing the deaths of hundreds of people over the past two weeks. Once on the ground it was time to decide weather to continue flying or call it quits for the day.
Our considerations were this:
1. We’d only flown one leg that day and that’s a pretty weak day in anyone’s book.
2. My Indian visa’s expiration date was the next day. Did that mean it was still good if we landed tomorrow or was some customs agent going to have a fit and claim that it was expired? And if that was the case what was he going to do? Kick me out of the country? OK.
3. Our landing permit was only good for today and tomorrow. If for any reason we couldn’t make it to India the next day we would possibly have to wait in Pakistan for days while we got a new permit.
4. we also didn’t have an overnight permit for our first fuel stop in Nangpor India, meaning if we took off we’d have to fly two more legs that day and make it to at least Kolkata of Bangladesh. That would be 8 more hours of flying plus however long it took us to get fuel in Nangpor which could take hours.
5. Due to the delays in Fujairah and losing an hour to time zone change it was already late afternoon in Karachi and judging by the speed that the ground crew and customs officials were moving it would be at least two hours before we could takeoff.
Seeing that Stuart was the guy paying the bills it fell to him to make the decision whether to stay or go. I told him that I’d do whatever he wanted. We had 3 pilots and if he wanted to fly all night I could hack it. I wouldn’t love it but I could do it. Stuart got on the phone to the company helping us with landing permits and was told that we “might” be OK if we stayed put but it would be best if we stuck with the plan made it through India that night. Stuart wasn’t happy with the choice we were facing. Attempt two long and difficult late night flights over India, or stop for the night and risk a very expensive time consuming delay. Welcome to ferry flying. Oh, did I mention that there had been record monsoons pounding India for the last two weeks? Just a minor detail. The weather report we’d gotten from the ground handler wasn’t very helpful but did show a large area, most of northern India in fact, of possible/occasional imbedded thunderstorms with tops up to 45,000 feet. Stuart finally arrived at the correct decision and pulled the plug on the day. I was really glad he made the right call because I didn’t want to be the bad guy and tell him that flying the night would be kind of a stupid idea, I’d have still done it of course, can’t say no disease remember?
one last bit of color, as we were making a pit stop before heading to the hotel two gentlemen sitting on folding chairs next to the building offered us a cold drink from the orange plastic cooler sitting on the table next to them. I tried to politely refuse but they were so insistent that I relented and took the paper cup full of white liquid that was being thrust into my hands. “Drink! Drink!” Sure, easy for you to say. you weren’t going to be the one sitting in a small plane for the next four days with no toilet. But once again “can’t say no disease” got he better of me and I took swig……..of………???? Tangy,milk? Gross. Yes that’s’ exactly what it was, tangy milk. The men proudly told me that they came up with this nectar of the gods by mixing milk with 7Up. Yum. Not wanting to be the only one with a stomach problem the next day I shamed Stuart into taking a swig as well. Misery loves company don’t you know.