In my last writeup, I mentioned that I would be traveling to Australia, Oz as they call it, to evaluate and pick up an executive jet Aircraft. This blog is about the trip, the Airplane and my experience with it. I reached Australia on 19th April, sitting up front in a Gulf Air Airbus A340 business class. It is nice to be pampered like this once in a while!
First day was spent looking up the Airplane, the records and generally talking to the engineers and mechanics about tech issues. My new friend, a seasoned mid forties International ferry pilot came in from the US. He has flown the Airplane quite a bit, on delivery flights Worldwide and on test flights for the manufacturer. His name is Kevin St. Germain, an India veteran in the sense that he has been training pilots in India for various companies for a while now. He used to fly for Buddha Air (yup, there was such an Airline) in Nepal for a year doing Everest flights for foreigners, some time back. He met a Nepalese Airhostess, Divya, while working for Buddha Air and subsequently married her. He has two sons in the US where he and his family lives. He was stuck with me in Singapore a few days back, unfortunately, on his 9th wedding anniversary. Yours truly has missed many such anniversaries because of being in a different part of the World at such times, unintentional of course! I got along with Kevin like a house on fire, having common friends in aviation in all parts of the World.
Coming back to the Airplane, it is a Premier 1 executive jet manufactured by Raytheon Beechcraft. This particular Airplane was located at Bankstown Airport near Sydney, Oz. We did a test flight for nearly an hour the same afternoon. We flew her at 41,000 feet at around 450 knots (nautical miles per hour) or roughly 0.78 times the speed of sound. She handled very well, I thought (by the way, for general information, it is normal for pilots to refer to an Airplane as a "she"). We landed back at bankstown and after a little de-brief, yours truly jumped into a cab and took off to my sisters place in the Northern beaches area of warriewood.
My sister Nirup and her husband Prabakaran live in Oz for some 13 years now and they own an Indian restaurant in Narrabeen, North Sydney called "Spice Bazaar". They are doing very well and I can attest to having eaten the best Naans and curries in the Southern hemisphere. You may think I am biased because she is my Sis, well I'd say, maybe you are right mate! ( For Aussies everyone is a mate, pronounced "mayt"). My Sis and I, accompanied by her 13 year old Son Adheip took a ferry boat ride from Manly to Sydney's Circular Quay (pronounced "key") and walked around to all the attractions such as the famous opera house, Centre Point Tower, Queen Vic Building, Sydney center park that has the original anchor of the first ship that came in and colonized Oz for the Empire. While returning back to the ferry wharf, we ran into an Aboriginal group who were playing the Didgeridoo (a long wooden pipe that has holes made by termites eating through them). There were didgeridoo renditions on CD for purchase and ofcourse, I bought one. Come home to Mysore (when I am there!) to hear what it sounds like. My wife wanted me to pick one up but the size and incovenience of packing it and carrying it around all over the World did not appeal to me. maybe on my next trip, I'll pick one up!
On 22nd April, Kevin and I got together early at Bankstown Airport and went through our route for the flight to Singapore. One cause for worry was a cyclone that had gained in strength, off the Northern coast of Oz called cyclone Monica. We took off on a nice day, clear skies and cool temperatures and the Airplane quickly climbed upto our designated Altititude for that sector, 41,000 feet. Just to inform the readers, this Airplane has a range of 1,300 nautical miles (multiply nautical miles by 1.852 to get kilometers) and therefore the distance between Sydney and Singapore would need three landings for re-fuelling. First stop was a mining town south central Oz called Mount Isa. We raced a Qantas Boeing 737-400 to the Airport. After landing, we had almost the entire crew from the Boeing come out to see our little fast jet. The Premier 1 has a great look, sleek swept back wings and a full glass cockpit. This is not always available on most of the Airliners except the latest Airbus and Boeing Airplanes. The 737-400 certainly does not have as much as we did. The Boeing pilot came to our cockpit to see what was missing in his cockpit. His expression was, and I quote "we are missing most everything in our cockpit, compared to yours"! We took off again for Darwin, Northern Territories with the knowledge that Cyclone Monica was not going to be a threat and that the system was slowly moving away. We landed at Darwin and the air felt heavy, having a South Pacific tropical feel. Darwin area is "crocodile Dundee" territory. Salt water crocodiles inhabit this area and are known to be among the largest of it's species. You don't want to mess around with them, I guarantee it. This is no place for sunbathing and a dip in the sea unless you want to be a snack for a hungry croc! This is the last frontier town of Oz for us and this is where we did our departure clearance at Immigration and Customs.
The next leg was over the water, flying over the Indonesian Islands, landing in Bali. The Balinese handling agents were real friendly folk and they worked like professionals. They had our names well in advance and they presented Kevin and me with a large wood carving, Balinese style, with our names inscribed on it. That was very nice of them. We learnt that the Balinese afford great hospitality and service, especially to ferry flights such as ours with the hope that we come back at a later date and don't choose Jakarta instead! The flight from Bali to Singapore was done with less fun, flying through thunderstorms, finally landing at Seletar Airport (not Changi, the main one) completing our journey. The fast jet is in the hangar now, awaiting new colors and making the already plush interior, plusher (if there is such a word). Kevin has gone back and I still have some things to do before I push off to inspect three turboprop Aircraft in the US this weekend. I hope those reading this blog were mentally able to go through my journey and enjoy it as much as I did.