Why Oh Why Al Ain, UAE….

Posted: July 2, 2014 in Adventure

The only reason I had insisted on stoping in Al Ain was that some dear friends were based there and they thought it would be a good place to stop and rest.  The problem is they are not Eddie Gould and Ahmed Hassan – who can spot trouble before it shows up.  They asked me why I wanted to go there and I explained with a lot of confidence that I had friends in high places in Al Ain and life would be good.  Note to Eddie – don’t mistake my confidence about things like this for any knowledge of what lies ahead for us – in other words, I don’t know what I am talking about.  One of my old cohorts from PAF College days, Javed Iqbal, was at the airport to receive us even past mid night.  He took us home, we met his wonderful family, had dinner, talked for a while and then went to bed.  By the way, his daughter makes the best tea in Al Ain.  The next morning Javed graciously drove us 1.5 hours to Dubai where we planned to stay with my niece and her family.  My niece Neetu and her husband Faisal have nerves of steel; as evidenced by the pandemonium and chaos created by their three children, but they were both cool as cucumbers and once in a while they would raise a warning flag of dire consequences, which the kids had gotten used to ignoring all the time.  Haris was having a very good time with the three musketeers and I was amazed at how quiet their home was once the kids were asleep……

Haris and I had “run out” of iPhone 5/iPad Air cables, so we had to get some spares just in case.  Haris’s theory is that I buy cheap knockoffs that last five days and that is why we “run out” of cables-he may be right, but you don’t want to admit to being wrong on too many things with your kids – bad for one-up-man-ship.  We also wanted to stock up on water, so we requested a trip to the local market to pick up those items.  Dubai is an amazing place where one can find anything from any part of the world – all in one place; a perfect mix of east and west.  But all of that glitz and glamour has this strangely synthetic look that you don’t get in Cairo or Rome, where everything has history and a story to tell.  In the evening we were invited to an iftaar/dinner by the UAE chapter of TCF; an organization that is the main reason for why we are flying around the world.  The ladies and gentlemen of TCF-UAE were awesome hosts and we had a great couple of hours of talk and discussion about the past, present and future of TCF world wide.  After all, Haris and I are fully vested in TCF and want to see it succeed.  Since we were running out of time, one of our old friends Hassan and Bashaer Nasralla who were our neighbors in Indiana and now live in Dubai; their  sons was Haris’s friends came to see us.  Unfortunately, their sons Hashim and Ahmed had to go to Iraq a day before our arrival and we missed them……

The next morning, Mr Ishaq Noor of TCF-UAE, whom I am grateful to for his kindness, had offered to have us dropped off at the Al Ain airport, we took him up on the offer and woke up around 2:30 AM to get to Al Ain for a 6:00 AM departure as weather forecast at Karachi called for very stiff winds (speed of 25 knots gusting to 30 knots) and a cloud cover.  Since the winds were forecast for being right in alignment with the runway, Haris and I discussed and we were not worried, but the low ceilings meant that Haris would have to execute an ILS approach.  Upon getting to the Al Ain airport we took care of paying our handling charges, exit stamps put on the passports and then went to the plane.  There was a Jet-A fuel truck parked right next to the plane and I pointedly explained to the fueler that my plane was strictly Avgas or 100 LL.  Then began a four hour odyssey of lies, excuses, inept behavior and total incompetence.  The temperature was rising and it rises a whole lot faster when you are on an apron/tarmac parked on concrete.  Several people came to talk to us and always told us that the fuel would be there in the next 20 minutes.  Finally, after four hours they showed up with 2 barrels of 100 LL – avgas.  Haris was amazed at the incompetence of the fuel company, which I explained to him, was doing this for a profit – at our expense.  He commented several times that in the US, a few people would have been fired for this 4 hour delay in getting fuel and I agreed, but I also told him that these are the lessons one learns on a trip of this size and magnitude.  As the fuel had arrived, I closely supervised fueling and after fueling the two tanks on one side, the fuel pump broke !  A senior mechanic was called, who showed up without any tools.  He sent his side-kick back to the shop three times and that side-kick would only bring one tool at a time.  Finally, he figured out that the pump had vapor locked and bleeding/priming it solved the problem.  Haris had already diagnosed the problem the moment the pump had broken….he is s smart kid, must take after his Dad !  We then fueled up the turtle pack, our tank inside the cabin, with all the fuel that was left over in the barrels.  In the meantime, the Al Ain tower had extended our departure slot four time and I was afraid they would cancel our clearance and we would have to file our flight plan again and request a fly over permit over Oman, which in itself is a royal pain.  Luckily, the controllers granted us permission to start and depart at the allotted slot time.  By this time, Haris and I had had enough of Al Ain and UAE, we could have avoided all of this if we had listened to Eddie Gould who was low key in suggesting alternates seeing we were so gung ho about the enthusiasm of my friends at Al Ain….. Eddie, we will listen to you way more closely from here on out.  We don’t have pictures of this ordeal as we did not want to get shot taking pictures of anything at the airport……

We departed Al Ain as a dust storm was starking to kick up.  The winds at Al Ain had picked up also and were 17 knots gusting to 25 knots, but they were right down the runway, Haris took care of it…..and we departed for Karachi over the persian gulf……

  1. faiyaz Syed says:

    Well, welcome to the reality of Arabistan.

  2. Parvez Naushahi says:

    Dear Baber, Salamaat. I am sure you must have had great feeling when entering to Pak airspace. Is it your first time to fly in Pak?. Weather must be pleasant, compared to your experience in the middle east peak summer heat. You may have got VIP treatment coz of highest level contacts in the “Pilots” community. What an achievement by single family. Rao Sulaiman(RTA) must be feeling proud in some exalted place of Jannat.

    Karachi is my birth place and spent all golden years of childhood till getting admission in Taxila. I remember good times when it was “Gate Way to Asia” coz from Cairo the planes will have to go all the way to Karachi, there was very little available in between. In those good days people will see off the passengers right up to the parked plane area.

    May Allah (SWT) bless you all time.

  3. Andy Hardy says:

    Enjoyed reading your post… On our trip (London to Sydney in a Cherokee) last year we stopped in Dubai and we’re well looked after by ExecuJet there. Thankful that we had Eddue & Ahmed looking after us the whole way! We also stopped at Karachi. Good luck with the rest of your journey guys!

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