Departure from Al Ain was a little less than inspiring, but Haris quickly got into the groove of things to aviate-navigate and communicate. The waters of the Persian Gulf were calm as we climbed to 11,000 feet; we are now restricted to stay below 12,000 feet as we no longer have any oxygen left and I did not want to further complicate our life in Al Ain by asking for anything more than just the gasoline…. As we rounded out the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian sea seemed more tumultuous and the wave action was producing a lot of foam that I initially mistook for boats but Haris, being young and with better eye sight, corrected me and informed me that the winds had kicked up causing wave action and foam formation.
The Omani air traffic controllers handed us off to the Pakistani controllers who requested that we advise them of our ETA and also let them know when we were 50 miles out. The anticipation had now started to build quite a bit for me as I was anxious to see the Pakistani coastline. I had left Pakistan in 1984 and have visited it often, but this time it was different. We were arriving on our own and it meant a whole lot to me. I felt a surge of emotion as I pointed out the outline of the coastline to Haris. I don’t think Haris realized my true state of mind at that point and I did not want to encumber him with it either as he had to shoot an approach in to the Jinnah Airport at Karachi. I wanted to look at everything that was passing beneath us to remember it for years to come….what a sight….. it felt like coming home !
The controllers then started vectoring us around and gave us a lower altitude to allow for a landing. At 50 miles out, we had already informed the Karachi approach control of our ETA. By the time Haris was established on the ILS approach, we could see the runway and he contacted the tower and made an uneventful landing. A follow me car was waiting for us that took us to where all of our friends, family and TCF school children were waiting. What a welcome, it was truly amazing and the children of TCF who were there made it all worth it. A special thank you also goes out to IBAAS organizers Dr Wali Mughni and Prof Shamshad who had put this all together and made it possible for us. Our handling agents in Karachi Executive Air International’s Saad Zaki and Urooj have been fantastic and efficient. The students of IBAAS and TCF accorded Haris and I a welcome that I can not forget…..
According to plan, the next day we attended an iftaar with the Sargodhians’ Old Boys Association, Karachi Chapter. We had a very good time talking with the seniors and juniors from our time at the great and esteemed institution that PAF College was. We also raised funds for TCF during this event….
While all of this was going on, we were informed that our clearance to land at PAF Base Sargodha and been changed and we would be landing at an alternate field because the PAF can not provide night time security to the plane. This is the most incredible, bordering on ridiculous, thing I have ever heard. The PAF can not provide night time security INSIDE a base that is so secure that even birds can not over fly it. The main charm for going to Sargodha for me was to fly into the PAF Base and visit our esteemed school and being that it was a once in a life time opportunity, this was a total waste ! Am I frustrated and upset about it ? Yes, I truly am ! I had been telling Haris for six months how great the arrival and visit at Sargodha was going to be….. if there is one disappointment that will stand out more than anything else on this trip, it will be the trip to Sargodha ! And no, I will never get over it ! Sajid Habib bhai, the Principal of PAF College tried to convince me to look past this fiasco, but I can and will not !
The next morning we departed for Islamabad with a heavy heart……