As we approached the runway in Nangpor the owner of the Caravan offered me the landing. Now normally on a flight like this the two pilots take turns flying. But on this trip the it was the owner and his father-in-law who’d been taking turns in the left seat while I instructed them both on flying the Caravan and did most/all of the navigating and radio calls. Neither of them had much flying experience and the owner had only 250 total! That’s a crazy low amount of time for someone to be flying a large single engine turboprop and it showed. Because neither one of them could land the plane worth a damn. So on this landing the owner wanted to see just how good his professional ferry pilot could do it. “Watch this” I said. I was going to show these guys how to grease a plane onto the runway. So of course I flaired a little high and dropped the last 2 feet like a turd off a tall moose. Great.
We were hoping for a quick turn in Nangpor. Just fill up on fuel, file a flight plan and blast off for Bangladesh. That’s what we were hoping for, not what we got. We were parked an a very remote part of the ramp and were immediately greeted by an airport employee who assured us that the fuel truck would be there shortly and that due to the fact that we weren’t going to be clearing customs we would have to stay with the plane while he filed the flight plane for us. Perfect. We’d get back in the air with plenty of time to complete the flight in daytime which would make battling the thunderstorms much easier. Plus the sooner we go to the hotel the soone we’d be drinking beer. But instead of a fuel truck the first thing to show up was a brief but powerful thunderstorm. It was far too hot to wait it out in the plane so the three of us took shelter under the wing and tried to stay dry as the minutes ticked by.
The sun finally showed up but still no fuel truck, and no amount of complaining to the tower or our unhelpful helper produced results. As the hours passed by another problem popped up. The call of nature. The owner had eaten something in Pakistan that really didn’t agree with him and if you look closely at the photo above you don’t see any restrooms do you? Yeah, neither did we. So…….yeah.
But eventually the airport management must have gotten sick of us because after only 3-4 hours on the ground we were back in the air, heading into an ominous dark sky that promised to make for an exciting night.
Oh, and remember that weather briefing that I told you about? The one that gave me a good look at the forecasts for our entire route and allowed me to decide on the best course of action? You didn’t read about it because it didn’t happen! Because giving pilots access to the weather office is apparently against the rules. If they did that what would pilots want next? restroom access? Madness! Now you might be asking yourself why in the world would Kerry takeoff on a 700 mile flight across India, into a huge area of known powerful thunderstorms, with no weather briefing, at night? Answer, because that’s what a good ferry pilot does. He looks for ways to complete the mission not ways to fail. Also, Nangpor wouldn’t let us stay because we didn’t have visas and they wanted us gone. Now I’m not a complete idiot (key word, complete) I wasn’t just blasting into a line of storms blind, I had radar! OK, not really radar, (which would have been totally bitchin) but a strike finder which is almost as good. Because radar “sees” everything that reflect radar beams, like rain. Actually mostly rain. All returns on a radar screen aren’t necessarily thunderstorms. Sometimes they’re just an area of moderate to heavy rain. But a storm scope only sees lightning strikes. If you see a cluster of lightning strikes on a strike finder screen that’s a storm. So I’d have a little guidance. Hey it was better than nothing.
As the sun got ready to set the first big thunder heads made their appearance on the horizon. Tighten your seatbelts boys, It’s going to be a rough one!