Our departure from Reykjavik, was quite routine and uneventful. The weather was great and we quickly climbed to our assigned altitude. I even got the HF radio to work but the radio interference whine was simply awful, so we would make our position report and then disconnect it. Well, that did not sit well with some British controllers and we got instructions to repeat our position report, but that only happened once – maybe that guy was having a bad day – no problem…
The Scottish countryside is lush green and a sight for sore eyes. After Greenland and Iceland, this was a welcome change in the scenery. Upon entering the British airspace we were vectored around quite a bit, but that did to add much extra time to our total flight time. Upon arrival Haris got to claim another ILS approach and as we landed we saw Naqi Sadiq and my niece and her family waiting for us on the ramp/tarmac. Naqi took a bunch of pictures of Haris and I trying to extricate ourselves from the Gumby suits.
We found out upon reaching London, that the arrival airport in Egypt will be closed on Monday and Wednesday, so we must arrive there on Thursday. Originally we were supposed to stop in Crete, Greece and their airports have interesting operating hours with significant siesta times when one must not think of arriving. So, Haris and I talked about this and decided that it may not be such a bad idea to visit Rome instead of going to Crete. Among other things, this would require us to only wear our Gumby suits for six hours instead of 12. We immediately informed our despatch team members Eddie Gould and Ahmed in Egypt. I can not say enough good things about how well our despatch team has handled everything for us….they are AWESOME !
Our stay in London with my niece and her family in Reading was great as usual. Her kids took Haris on a tour of London on the tube while she cooked some awesome meals for us. Haris bought some souvenirs for his friends back home. I had to change the oil in the plane and my school time friends Naqi helped a lot while taking pictures while I was trying to twist and turn various parts of my anatomy to try and get to some of the components that I needed to get to. After the oil change I started the engine to leak check it. All was normal and good.
The next morning we filed a flight plan for 12:30 Zulu or 13:30 London time. Once again, our awesome despatch team, GASE, had everything under control and they gave us quite detailed instructions on what to do and when to do. They also keep in touch with us via text messaging to relay information about our hotel and other arrangements while we are flying. Due to the complexity of their work, we have to keep them informed of every little move we make, where we stay, when we plan to leave, how much fuel we need and on and on.
Our departure from London was uneventful and as we entered the English Channel near Dover I started remembering the stories I had read and movies I had seen of the air war during the second world war. The fighters and bombers from both sides crossed the channel to attack each other and then after their mission, at times limp back with their planes all shot up…..
As we got into the French air space we saw a bunch of huge buildups (ominous cloud formations). A little bit of tutoring went on as I explained to Haris the various stages of the development of the cloud formations and how to avoid them. We requested a weather related deviation from the controllers which was immediately granted. We also had to climb up to 21,000 feet to get over the Alps and also some of the clouds. We were able to avoid a lot of the turbulent and troublesome clouds by climbing that high. One thing I forgot was that Haris had never used oxygen from a nasal cannula before. On top of that I have this neat gizmo that senses when you are about to inhale and it shoots a small puff of oxygen into your nose as you inhale. That is quite unnerving if you are not used to it and Haris was not used to it. We had some interesting moments and at times Haris got off the oxygen and I had to make him put it back on….I guess next time it won’t be that bad…. or I will see if I can pick up a mask from somewhere…..I left perfectly good and new masks at home before this flight.
In these long flights, fuel management is very important and we try to burn off the interior fuel tank first. But first we must burn one of the main wing tanks, then transfer the fuel from the cockpit tank into it. As we were flying we initiated the fuel transfer and Haris and I follow a protocol for that : Switch tanks (visual check and acknowledgement), turn on fuel valve for the tank to be filled, turn on fuel valve for one of the two fuel pumps we will use-if Haris has opened the two valves then I visually and manually verify that the correct valves are open and then Haris turns the fuel pump on. We both visually keep an eye on the fuel gauge to make sure we don’t blow some of the fuel out of the vents by over filling. On this particular occasion the fuel gauge needle did not move. I touched the fuel pump and found it quite hot. I asked Haris to shut down the fuel pump and started diagnosing the issue. We turned on the valves for the secondary fuel pump and that one ran fine. On checking the bladder tank, I realized that when I had filled it in London, I may have left some air in it that caused one of the pumps to get hot as the fuel also serves to cool down these pumps. I informed Haris of what I had found and leaned back and opened the lid of the fuel tank and removed any air from the tank. We tested the primary pump and all was fine. Phew….that was interesting.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and the Italian controllers were on the ball like the rest of the controllers we talked with.