After departure from Karachi, we climbed to 11,000 and followed the departure procedure for our Northerly route. We carried a little extra fuel for this trip, just in case we encounter head winds, which we did. We landed at Chaklala airport 4+ hours later. While Haris was busy shooting the ILS approach, I took pictures and took the scenery in. The margalla hills loomed large in the background and gave a kind of a surreal look to our arrival. Haris squeaked the landing in, he seems to be getting a hang of landing the Bo. We requested parking at the Rawalpindi Flying club area and as Haris shut down the engines we saw the Students of TCF welcoming us. Along with them were my younger sister, Poonam, her husband Javaid and three of my school time friends : Akbar Sher Babar, Ather Ansari and Tanweer Ansari. It was a most heart warming sight. We got off the plane and met everyone and there was a brief photo session that everyone enjoyed. One thing I have started to realize with the children of TCF is that they relate and warm up to Haris very quickly. I saw them chatting away, while I was worried about the logistics of our arrival etc….you know the fatherly things :).
After a few fueling fiascos in our prior stops, we decided that we will always refuel the plane on arrival and not on departure. It saves a lot of time and misery. We requested a refuel and being at a flying club we were in good hands. We met Captain Haris, a flight instructor with the Rawalpindi flying club who made our arrival, stay and departure a pure joy. Between Haris (S-my son) and Haris (C-CFI), I knew I was in good hands ! Haris (C) also introduced us to all the other students and flight instructors at the flying club. In talking with these youngsters, Haris (S) made the comment that it was a whole heck of a lot easier to fly in the US than it is in Pakistan. There are also more opportunities in the US than in Pakistan. Hats off to the aviators of Pakistan who are braving serious odds and flying for the pure joy of flying !
We have read some negative comments to the blog and in some newspapers about the trip Haris and I have undertaken. Mostly, people form opinions without having all the facts or even bothering to verify things before posting negative comments. In the western vernacular these types are called Negative Nellies. It seems to be a case of being negative for the sake of being negative. So, here is the rationale for WHY the heck we wanted to do it and I will start by posing a few questions: 1) Why did Edmund Hillary Climb Mt Everest. 2) Why did Christopher Columbus discover America. 3) Why did Marco Polo travel to China. 4) Why did Ibn-e-Batuta travel all over the globe 5) Why did Zaheer ud din Babar conquer and take back his kingdom from his Uncle at the ripe young age of 13 ? 6) Why are we doing it if you (proverbial) don’t personally like us doing it…..should I go on ?
Granted that this is a risky venture….so is driving to work every day, some drunk driver or swerving truck could take you out. Should you stop driving ? No, you mitigate and try to become a more cautious and vigilant driver, but you may still get hit by someone who is not as cautious as you are. But that is not a reason for you to stop living. Also, here is something I and my wife very strongly believe in : If its not your time, its not your time, but when it is – no matter how many iron curtains you hide behind the grim reaper will get you. But if you go supporting a noble cause, you have made a point and achieved your goal.
Haris and I could have easily and quietly gone around the world and satisfied ourselves, but we decided that we wanted to do it for a purpose and a cause ! Having come to America after getting my basic education from Pakistan and getting advanced degrees from the US, I fully realize the true potential of education. I have stressed that to my three children as well and they know that there is no substitute for education. As a result, Haris and I decided to support the charity that we were introduced to by my dear friend Azher Khan of Indianapolis, Indiana, and we were supporting for the past 7 years, the Citizens’ Foundation (TCF). The rationale behind the support for TCF was to celebrate the success of creating 1000 standardized, purpose built schools in Pakistan and to promote this success to take this program further. When we travel the various cities in Pakistan, we see schools open in private residences in deplorable conditions. But if you take the time to visit a TCF school, you will be struck by the standards they maintain. To maintain those standards, the administrators of the schools are working tirelessly and the results are most gratifying and speak for themselves. The children in the TCF schools come from very humble and under privileged backgrounds but they want to excel in school. From being supporters, Haris and I have become believers in the mission of the TCF. But to publicize these successes, according to Marketing 101, people need to know and recognize what TCF has accomplished and what is possible even in the kind of conditions that exist in Pakistan today. There is also this small matter relating to the fact that if TCF schools had not picked up these kids, they would have never seen a school in their life time. Therefore, to promote TCF, we took on the banner of TCF and took off with it….
Here are some other irrelevant facts to consider about this flight – in case you have not read the previous blogs : 1. Haris is an Instrument Rated Pilot in the US. 2. His PPL and Instrument check rides took 11 hours as the FAA examiner wanted to be absolutely sure. 3. Haris and I took the aircraft ditching and survival courses from US Survival Systems, the same outfit that trains the US military. 4. We carry an EPIRB, 406 MHz ELT and one PLB each (if you don’t know what those are, please refrain from commenting on this item). 5. Read the previous blog entries to realize how we got the plane ready and what all was overhauled. 6. We have one of the best dispatchers in the industry helping us make all the decisions (Eddie Gould and Ahmed Hassan). 7. We have Star Navigation of Canada monitoring our flight in real time and they monitor our speed, altitude and Lat/Long to pin point our exact location at all times. We have real time two way texting also available thru Star Navigation 8. We carry Delorme’s InReach that puts a ping on the world map every 10 minutes and is available on the web along with real time two way texting. 9. We have a 4 person ocean going raft equipped with a desalination kit and emergency supplies. 10. We have 3 weeks of rations in our survival bag. 11. We carry a satellite phone and solar charging panels for our electronics. 12. We have about 19 hours of endurance (fuel wise – my bladder limit is much lower). 13. For all water crossings we wear the full immersion suits.
Now, a casual observer, who had read the blogs would have been able to ascertain these “facts” without me having to go into details on this blog entry. Here is my request : Until we land back in Indiana, please hold your negativity in check and after that we can have a discussion – I know it won’t be as much fun at that point, but what the heck ….. This flight is NOT about records, it is about a MISSION ! By the way, Haris will be the youngest Pilot in Command (PIC) to accomplish a trip around the world in a single engine plane. Jack Weigand was the previous record holder of youngest solo pilot flying around the world and he has helped us a heck of a lot in our preparation. Matt Guthmiller is flying solo at the age of 19 vying for that record now.
Enough of this frivolity, back to our time in Islamabad….. as we arrived in Islamabad my older sister, Nasreen Baji and her husband Abid bhai also arrived from Karachi, and upon all of these arrivals my cousins and relatives came over to see us. Meanwhile, my younger sister had called and invited my friends from the various phases in my life for iftaar and dinner the next day….from primary/high school, PAF College Sargodha entry/coursemates, post PAF College friends, Engineering University friends and those after that time. We had a lot of fun meeting old friends, some of whom I had not seen for many many years…… Everyone took pictures, that are now posted every where on the web. While I was busy with “old” people, Haris took off with his cousins to see Islamabad….
Our original plan was to fly to Chittagong from Lahore, but the Monsoons seem to be stalled in the Bay of Bengal and over Bangladesh. We have already lost 3 days and did not want to sit around and wait for that weather system to start moving. We got in touch with our dispatchers to see if we could re-route and go back to Karachi and go on to Columbo and from there go to Kuala Lumpur and onto Bali instead of Bangladesh and Thailand. But this kind of re-routing is not a trivial matter for both the crew and the dispatchers. Now the over fly permits, landing rights and fuel availability have to be verified before we can launch. This may cause another delay, but such is the nature of circumnavigation….at times, you just have to go with the flow and enjoy whatever is at hand….. but we must re-do our flight planning worksheets to do time/fuel and W&B (M&B for Europeans) calculations. Haris and I have a protocol that was developed for us by an airline trainer, who also happens to be Haris’s instrument instructor, Tom Jeffries. Under this protocol, we fly and flight plan like a two pilot crew. Everything is done, visually verified and confirmed by the second in command (that would be me). This includes fuel management, heading changes, frequency changes, flight plan changes….in short, anything and everything is performed by the PIC and verified using the check list by the SIC. We also do two independent pre-flights before departure with the hope that what one misses, the second would catch. All of this activity keeps me a little preoccupied otherwise I would be bored to tears just sitting in the right seat with nothing to do !
On a more mundane level, my younger sister also took care of our laundry needs as Haris and i packed a little light for this trip so we could maximize on fuel….we are now ready to resume our travels……