Bright and early saw us off the runway as the sun was coming up. There were a few thunderstorms in the area but we really didn’t know where they were because the teenage girl in the Met office didn’t have access to radar. She did have a TV with the latest Greek soap opera on it though. Jack hand flew the takeoff and climb to altitude and did a passable job of it seeing that he hadn’t flown IFR in the clouds for many years. Once on top we were greeted to a beautiful morning for flying with the clouds hanging low over the islands and the mountain tops sticking through and once clear of the weather we had a ringside seat for a tour of the Greek islands. Not a bad way to spend the morning. We weren’t allowed to spend the night in Santorini but we were allowed to stop for a quick fuel stop. Once again we were teased by a beautiful island paradise that we could only get a tiny taste of. Santorini is now on my list of places I need to go back to. During flight planning our route was changed by Brussels and the man filling the flight plan asked us if we objected to flying over Israeli airspace. We didn’t see why not and accepted the new routing to Aquaba Jordan. Back into the air with Stuart flying it looked like we were in for a nice sunny low key day of flying over the Mediterranean. Shortly after takeoff the tower called and told us that the man who’d filed the flight plan had misread our call sign and had filed us as 45B instead of 4SB. She told us that she could try and change it for us but it might take a while, could we stand being 45B for the next 4 hrs?. Sure, no problem. Or maybe big problem.
“45B, Athens Control, Tel Aviv has denied your flight through their airspace. Do you have another routing preference?”
Great. We’d been flying for two and a half hours and were in the middle of the Mediterranean headed for Israeli airspace when the rug got pulled out from under us. I asked for our original routing and was denied. I asked for a second option and was again denied. It looked like we would have to fly south to Cairo. The problem with that was that we didn’t have that much fuel to spare and flying that way would be cutting it close. No other option though so south we went.
“45B, Cairo control, what’s your overflight permission number?”
Great, Not only weren’t we planning on over flying Egypt but I had no idea that you needed one. As a matter of fact I was pretty sure you didn’t. But none of that mattered to the guy on the other end of the radio so he put us in a holding pattern while Stuart got on his sat phone and called our handlers to find out just what the hell to do. Did I mention that we really didn’t have the gas for this bullshit? Oh, and the language barrier didn’t help either. At one point they asked what our diplomatic mission number was and after getting a big ????? from us they asked us to confirm our call sing. Ah, that might be the problem. Due to the mistake made in our call sign the Israelis had probably looked us up prior to letting us into their airspace and when it came up wrong that’s when they denied us access. I gave the Cairo controller the correct call sign and hoped for the best.
After about half an hour of turning circles over the pyramids they suddenly gave us a new heading and routing to Jordan, must have just gotten sick of us. I was cool that they took us right over Cairo international airport and I got a great picture of some old jet in the middle of their terminal.
Finally made it up the Red sea and landed in Aquaba Jordan where we spent the evening on the hotel’s pool deck drinking beer and watching the cars wreck themselves on he street below. Seriously, there was some kind of oil slick on a curve right below where we were sitting and there were 4 accidents in about and hour and a half. This actually ended up being bad for us because it was so entertaining, and the beer was so cheap, that we stayed too long, which led to another late dinner, which put us in bed at about 12:30 am local with a wake up of 5:00. Ugh. It gets hard to catch up on sleep flying east and losing 2-3 hours to time zones each day. The beer doesn’t help either.