Saturday, May 24, 2008

MUSTANG FERRY ENDS

Continuing after where I left off more than a week back. I got bogged down with loads of work and could not blog earlier as promised. Story of my blogging so far. I am not confident that I will find time again for a week and will take this opportunity to complete this saga, no matter how long this blog piece becomes.

Not much landscape in Keflavik as you can see above

Leaving Greenland, we were over the North Atlantic again. Next stop: Iceland. I have been to Reykjavik the capital of Iceland and Kefalvik, a town famous for the blue lagoon that I wrote about in a previous post. This time, we decided to stop only for re-fueling and press on to Prestwick. Coming in from the North Atlantic, Keflavik Iceland looks quite barren. With the hills in the backdrop, the small town of Keflavik is not really picturesque, just a watering hole for ferry pilots like me. Having been there in the past and having found hotels expensive and food unavailable all the times of the day (and night), the best thing to do is to refuel and leave. As usual I used South Air, an FBO that offers free cookies and coffee, relaxing atmosphere, seamless flight planning and refueling. We were in an out of Iceland, keen to get into the United Kingdom, with good hotels and curry! Just like to add, for the benefit of those crossing with the Mustang, Gander radio was available right through Greenland and thereafter crossing over to Iceland. NATRAC restrictions does not allow this Aircraft to fly over 27,000 and even at this altitude, one is able to receive clear VHF from Gander and never had to relay.

(Keflavik runway and town nearby)

This part of the ferry from Keflavi Iceland to Prestwick Scotland was perhaps the easiest, in that the weather was good, visibility was good and crossing the pond seemed more like a walk in the park. It is the best weather I have encountered in this part of the World and wasn't raining anywhere. We got into Prestwick where the handling agent Ocean Sky, was waiting for us. They were cordial and made the arrangements to get us to a hotel. A mix up in their booking had us arrive at the hotel and not finding ourselves anywhere on the list of expected arrivals. It had been a long day and we were hungry and in desperate need of some sleep. The front desk was quite helpful and while we waited for them to set us up rooms, we adjourned to the pub/grub place also in the lobby area. The hotel was packed with people in the lobby area, a Scottish wedding or reception in progress.

(Leaving Greenland towards Keflavik)
These Scots were loud, gregarious and all over the place, hogging every inch of the lobby. The bride looked fabulous, did not know they have such petite sized waists for such tall women! Jim was of course dismissal of the whole thing saying that this would only last a few months after the wedding. Mind you, by then we were wolfing down a tuna sandwich (curry be damned, we were hungry) and literally pouring down our throat a large pint of some really dark, strong, Ale. Rather dismal observation of the bride by Jim, I thought, bewitched by the beautiful gown she was wearing and looking so gorgeous, when he again spoke saying that "the men looked funny in skirts"! I was about to drop my drink and head anywhere else but be associated with Jim at that time. "Don't say that", I hissed, "unless you want one of those really big guys bashing us up". You'd never call a Scottish Kilt a skirt, ever, not with each and every Scotsman being almost double my size and Jim ain't no giant either.

I have a grouse against hotels in the U.K. they have poor net connectivity, funny showers, cold rooms, no electric iron (they have a mickey mouse thingamajig contraption that supposedly presses shirts and trousers). Although it was late at night, I wanted to catch up with e-mail so that I can check on the clearances that my efficient and hard working assistant Marisol had applied for, back in SIngapore.

A note to the guys who want to ferry to Asia, you only need to file a flight plan everywhere in the US, Canada, across the pond and across Europe but you will need to start applying for flight permits many days ahead for all the rest of the countries through Asia. Every country from there on needs to have an application put in, days ahead, and permission granted for you to land in those countries. Therefore I was tracking clearances from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Pakistan overflight permit, Indian DGCA clearance, Bangladesh overflight permit, Myanmar overflight permit, Thailand Landing permit. If flying from Thailand to Singapore, one does not need a Malaysia overflight permit if the flight plan is filed 12 hours ahead of the flight. Singapore does not require you to apply for a permit, feels like we got back to first world civilization when you get here because of the simplicity.

Back to the story now. There was a cable in the room that advertised high speed internet. I plugged that in and it asked for a password. I called the front desk and he did not have a clue, after much discussion they had me try "guest" as user id and the room number as password. Guess what? It did not work! Went to bed frustrated. After stuffing ourselves with a hearty breakfast, we started on our way to Luxor. Encountering a bit of problem with an intermittent auto pilot, we headed for Le Bourget France and spent some time getting things fixed. We had flown over Paris and past the Eiffel Tower on such a clear, bright, summer day in France and I had stuffed my camera in the bag behind and could not take any pictures. Lost opportunity indeed.

Leaving France we flew over the swiss alps and found most of them green at this time of the year, not sure that's the way it is supposed to be. Entering Italy, we stopped at the picturesque town of Pescara on the sea. A seamless turnaround and we were on our way to the island of Crete in Greece. I started imagining the Minotaur and the legends associated with Crete that I had read about way back in primary and middle school. I told Jim of the Minotaur and he had no clue about what I was talking about. Landing in Crete (Iraklion) is a treat, passing over beautiful resorts and hills on one side, the runway and airport sticking out to sea literally. Our first taste of the third world begins here, the paperwork takes ling, the fueling takes long and we are looking to desperately regain lost time and press on to Luxor, Egypt. From here onwards it seems apparent that no one has heard of a Mustang, never heard of a Jet being that small and that light weight. Of course they don't have it on their chart of Aircraft and the handling lady has to work out the charges for the Aircraft based on the maximum take off weight of the Aircraft. What made this excruciating wait so much worse was that this lady was smoking like a chimney, inside and this was normal for them! I'd like to mention that through Europe, finding clearance to fly in RVSM airspace in the Mustang was easy and till India and beyond we managed FL370-FL380 easily. The Mustang performs best here and we averaged 380 Knots every time, passing 400 Knots over the Arabian peninsula.

(Hot air balloons rising above the Nile-early morning in Luxor)
Finally we headed out back to the Aircraft and flew on to Luxor. The handling was smooth, visa on arrival was smooth and we were herded off to Sofitel for some rest and relaxation. I had planned an entire day of rest and we had not planned on leaving Egypt till the next day. My handling agent offered to get a friend of his who is a tour guide, to join us and take a tour of the Valley of the Kings and the Hatshepsut Temple complex. Never the one to resist anything archaeological, we left at nearly noon, having slept most of the rest of the night and into the morning. Now, noon time and afternoon in Luxor is not the best time to visit anything because of the intense sun and heat but this is also the time when crowd levels are low. So we went, Jim in tow, earnest to learn a bit of Egyptian history.

(Luxor International Airport above)


(Approaching the valley of the Kings where great Pharoahs were interned)

Luxor is host to the largest number archaeological sites in Egypt with the Luxor complex, Karnak temple complex, Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut temple complex and so on. We went past the others and made Valley of the Kings and hatsheput Temple. One can get details from many websites out there that describe this part of Egypt so I won't dwell into history here. Jim was singled out for harassment by hawkers trying to sell their wares everywhere. I was commonly mistaken to be Egyptian! I was asked at least in three different places whether I was a local. At the Queen Hatsheput Temple complex, a uniformed Egyptian guard also asked if I was an Egyptian and I was sick of saying no by this time. Therefore I identified myself as being descended from the Pharoahs and that my real name was Anupmosis the great, tracing my lineage back to Thothmosis the great! I think the humor was lost on him and he looked at me quizzically while I walked away to take pictures that you see below.

(Entrance to King Tutankhamun -King Tut to some-tomb)



(entering Queen Hatshepsut Temple and Pharoah Anupmosis the great-me!)

Leaving Luxor the next morning, from the rather nice International Airport that they have built, we headed off for a fuel stop in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Less than two hours on the ground there and seamless handling through Jet Aviation and we were off to Muscat, Oman for a rest stop before going on to India. A note about Muscat, I have been here a few times before but I saw many pleasant changed there, staring from improvements in the airport terminal to the taxis, roads, infrastructure, landscaping, al reflecting the economic growth this region is experiencing.

(More Hatshepsut temple pix and painting of jackal face god Anubis)

A good night rest before the crossing over India because I knew that this was going to be the challenging and sometimes most frustrating part of any ferry. Ahmedabad wasnot bad, just too hot and the wait near the Aircraft in the heat was for a little more than an hour. Flying across India, we ran into the biggest honking "mother of all" CB cloud over Jamshedpur. It was so large, so threatening, full of turbulence and lightning, it almost looked evil. Airlines were diverting left, right and center around this massive storm. Making it to Kolkata was a relief, having gallivanted all over the countryside to avoid the storm, a remnant of the cyclone that had just devastated Myanmar. I'll not dwell on Kolkata as I have been nasty enough on my comments page of my previous blog about my experience here.

(Us and Minee at Royal Sky before departure to Seletar SIngapore)
Not one to stay behind, we pressed on to fly over Myanmar and on to Thailand, landing around mid night. We did not expect a grand reception but Minee and her team at Royal Sky Bangkok's Don Mueng Airpot gave us one, offering a cold local drink, wet towels and a welcoming committee of more than a dozen people. Quickly they put the baby in the hangar and whisked us through the empty terminal to our hotel downtown. I had meetings in Bangkok the next day and we took the day off to pamper ourselves with some good local massage. Business over that day and a restful night later, we took off towards home-Singapore at last, half way around the World. Landing at Seletar, the Baby's home base, I kissed her nose in thanks, like I do on all ferries. Our friends and office mates were on hand to whisk us away home but not before we put the baby in her own hangar and had a spot of Indian food at a restaurant in Little India. Our ferry had ended and with it, another set of memories that is etched in my brain. Should I forget any event in future, all I need to do is read my own blog and relive it. That's why I write in the first place. Thanks for bearing with me on this long piece. Cheers.

Next blog will be about the baby at home.

28 comments:

Praveena said...

Dear Capt Anup
From most of ur blog posts it appears that you are a nature lover and a keen enthusiast, describing the places u went. I am an Environmental Engineer from NTU and have been studying the ecological footprints of various industries
Having studied Singapore a bit I believe that there is a need for consultancy firms which can advice companies upon adoption of energy efficient practices and greener technologies.
I was wondering if you would be willing to share your experiences and ideas about the aviation sector as you have been into it for about 2 decades.
As we understand it , aviation business has a direct impact on the environment due to very high fuel consumption.
I am interested in understanding and implementing more efficient and greener practices in companies like SEAJET.
If you could please pass on your contact details at praveenasridhar@gmail.com, we would be able to take this further.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Dear Praveena, thanks for your comment. I must say that aviation has been given a bad name just because it is a high profile industry. Cars and busses around the World and even normal human activity leaves a much larger carbon footprint than anything in aviation. Even the most serious studies puts the aviation industry at less than 3% of global carbon emissions. I wanted to blog about this for long but did not think it would interest anyone. The EU is about to penalize Airlines to adjust towards carbon trading in order to offset the emission. This will force airlines into bankruptcy when they are already reeling from huge fuel bills. In my opinion, aviation is the easiest, quickest and the only viable way to travel anywhere in the World and to give it a bad name is unjust.

I am fond of the environment and do my bit, perhaps going a bit far in what I do but listen, one has to target many other things on the planet than going after aviation. It is fashionable for some to go after aviation because it is so high profile and get's talked about but you must realize that the fastest and the most efficient way of getting over large distances or to places where there is no terrestrial infrastructure is by air travel. Your assumption that aviation takes in "high fuel consumption" is not correct, you must substantiate such an argument with figures comparing with other industries.

As for SEAJET, we operate the newest Aircraft with the most fuel efficient engines based on latest development in engine technology and leaves the lowest carbon footprint. Very Light Jets and even companies that manufacture airplanes these days adopt the most ecologically efficient ways of manufacture.

I am interested in talking to people on this subject but I will draw the line at making aviation a target for the woes of the World. There's really bigger fish to fry but perhaps less profile. One must go after countries that refuse to even sign the Kyoto protocol which is too late anyway. One must go after countries like India and China who will defy the World in environmental pollution and justify the same saying that they have the right to "develop" at any cost.

athul said...

so u r known as anupmosis the great . i wonder why egyptians where curious to know whether u were one of them .... may b they were surprised to see a fellow egyptian intrested in mummies and stuff , usually its the non egyptian guys more intrested in it i guess .



ur friend jim is intresting , the way he said about that bride and scotish kilt . u must have had a lot to laugh with him ,

greece reminds me of the movie " my big fat greek wedding "

Praveena said...

I see that u have taken the post to be directed at Aviation industry being Non ecofriendly. The whole point of posting that was to know your perspective on the issue and not to accuse Aviation industry, but to know from ur experiences what it takes to leave less footprints on the earth.

Having got an experience of 20 years behind you, what I was seeking was a mentoring . Not a debate on how bad is the industry. It will be hypocrititcal for anyone in this age to accuse aviation industry of being not ecofriendly. That too when people can not avoid using it. My whole point of posting was to have a perspective from an experienced person.
Another point to clarify is , I am not pointing SEAJET of any non ecofriendly practice. If SEAJET is following such good practices it could stand as an example for other firms and I was just seeking those lessons.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Athul, thanks, Anupmosis was a joke that was lost on the person who asked if I was Egyptian. My guide told me I looked like an Egyptian and I was surprised at that!

Praveena, I am sorry if the reply was argumentative from my side. It is just that I wanted to remove some misinformation about the aviation industry as a whole. Hypocracy exists indeed because there are pressure groups of "environmentalists" who do go around bashing up the Aviation industry, they are the ones that have given everyone the idea that the industry must be targeted. EU is taking them seriously and forcing down regulations on the aviation industry. In your question, you asked about my perspective on aviation and the environment and I gave a debate kind of answer. That is my perspective. I had to remove myths such as what you wrote: "Aviation business has a direct impact on the environment due to very high fuel consumption".
If you have particular questions about aviation and the environment that I can help you with, you'd have to specify them. I am available to help, when time permits of course. Since you asked a generic question, I had to "debate" generally on this topic, not a means to offend you but to bring an argument to light based on your questions. I'll send you and e-mail.

RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN said...

Interesting post , and lovely pictures of Egypt's treasures.

ahumanbean said...

test comment

ahumanbean said...

( posting a comment from livejournal is such a pain!)

I came across your blog from GVk's Mysore site...really enjoyed reading it.

Although I've never, ever piloted a plane (!), I have a secret dream - to scare myself silly in a Ruassian fighter jet...cheap thrills :)

I like your details on clouds, types of airports and the comments made by Jim...hmmmm

Makes me feel like I'm flying the plane and travelling vicariously...nice post!

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Raji Madam, I'm glad you liked the pictures of Egypt. Years ago when I did Cairo with a tour of the Sphynx and the Kufu pyramids of Giza, there was no means of blogging. My early trips are all on pictures taken using film roll cameras.

Ahumanbean, thanks for your comment, welcome to my blog. Happy that you like what I write!

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Wonderful pictures of Egypt. YOu went to iceland too? What did you people do for food? I've heard they serve really strange foods. The part about Egypt was fascinating!

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Thanks Lakshmi. This time in Iceland, we just ate cookies at the handling agent's office and left for the U.K. Last time when I stayed back for two nights, we sampled some of their local "delicacies" and believe me, although most of it was fish or fish based, the taste is nothing like you have ever had on the planet. For me it was a combination of weird, strange and upalatable. We ate whatever we could. We discovered a Pizza place in Keflavik and that saved me and the rest from going hungry for two days! Icelandic food can probably only be appreciated by Nordic people.

Nikhil Joshi said...

Wow, I think its time for me to think about going into the FBO business in India. Although, of course, most of the trouble is red-tape which none of the FBO's can do anything about, better Fixed Based services for pilots is not a bad idea in India, yeah?

Aviation and the environment. Good gosh! when will the world ever try thinking with their brains on that subject?? From what I've read, daily human waste causes more harm than airplanes flying in the air. Come on, so are humans going to stop taking dumps now, because "it has a direct impact on the environment due to high Taco-Bell and McDonalds consumption?"

Nikhil Joshi said...

Oh, and my previous post was not to offend Praveena either. I think that topic becomes argumentative from any aviator's point of view because the aviation industry is sick of being subtle and nice about it. But your point is now well taken, praveena :)

minee said...

Hi Capt. Anup, Thank you for posted my photo on your blog.

I heard from Marisol that you would fly to Phuket isn't it?

By the way, Jim is so funny!!! hahahaha...please forward my regards to him for me too.

Bye..

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Nikhil, no such thing as an FBO in India because the airport security is so tight and resources limited, they don't have the means (or the plans) to accommodate an FBO anywhere. Regarding Praveena's comment, it is easy for us to take offense because we have been dealing with people with half baked ideas of saving the environment. I misread Praveena's comment too, like other aviators. We've become very touchy these days for sure!

Minee, thank you for being such a wonderful host in bangkok as our handling agent. Jim can be very funny at times! The Scots would not have seen it as a joke, though. The flight to Phuket got canceled, right now we are doing Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur tomorrow. Khun Manus mentioned that we should be in Bangkok on 2nd. If that is confirmed, we will see you again In Bangkok next week!

Indrani said...

These were great. I would love to see the earlier snaps of Egypt too, can I watch out for them in your photo blog? :)

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Indrani, my earlier trips to Egypt has been captured on photographic film and these are not with me in Singapore. They are locked up in my room in Mysore. On my next visit, I will unearth them, scan them and post on my blog. Hows that?
In the meantime, I took loads of pictures on this ferry too, of egypt in particular and did not publish them in this blog. However, I have just now posted a fresh batch of photos of Egypt connected with this trip. All of those are of the Valley of the Kings, Queen Hatsehput's temple for Amun Ra (Sun god) and some of the Luxor temple and so on. Feast your eyes! You will find these pictures posted on: http://anupmurthy.blogspot.com/

Nikhil Joshi said...

Oh well, then I guess its a good time to introduce FBO's. But of course, I have NO political pull required whatsoever. haha. Hyd airport is built on 5400 acres of land! Surely an FBO can fit in there somewhere. Its not that difficult to make changes to start FBO operations in India, excpet, the govt. should be ready for the changes.
Anyway, so who handles ferry flights such as yours?

William Wren said...

pictures of egypt bring back wonderful memories

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Nikhil, handling agents in many parts of the World including India do not have FBO's of their own. They just do the paperwork and arrange for clearances. In the case of India, it is not really the lack of land but stiff opposition from airport security that has dampened some investors ideas of starting an FBO. At major airports like Delhi and Mumbai, forget it because in the name of security and "sensitive" nature of the airport, security agencies will never allow an FBO to be set up.

William, thanks for your comment. I guess you had a good time in Egypt.

Mona said...

wow, amazing photos captain anup, makes my little life in ny seem awfully boring. thanks for stopping by my blog the other day. i always love having new visitors. i've always wanted to go to egypt and iceland. a girl can dream...cheers! -m

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Mona, thanks for stopping by as well. Your life is far from boring in NY, you seem to be living it up! I enjoy reading about all the restaurants, the cuisine, ambience and everything you describe about the places that you go to. As for Iceland, it is very pretty indeed. Egypt is a treasure house. Dream on...one day you will make it to all the places that you want to go.

Nikhil Joshi said...

Yes, I didn't think about the extra-conservative political mindset when it comes to security, which I guess is valid to a certain extent. But again, I don't think it is impossible for India to do a little bit more extra on the security side so that conveniences like FBOs can come up. DIAL's website advertises for interested parties to submit an "Expression of Interest" for setting up an FBO. Light at the end of the tunnel, Capt.?

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

DIAL id one of the tough ones! If they can do it, maybe it is the light at the end of the tunnel. Let's see how fast we emerge out on the other side!

Madhukar - VU2MUD said...

Hi Capt.
Back on the Blog. This time from the home base. Blogspot is "BLOCK SPOT" at the office. Hope to keep in touch more frequently in future.

Capt. Anup Murthy said...

Hi Madhu, thanks, have not heard from you in a while. Sorry for posting your comment later, was away in BKK on an important trip (as they all are anyway!). Cheers.

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