The night before our departure from Islamabad, Haris and I selected our route to Lahore, which was pretty straight forward. Since electronic flight plans can not be filed in Pakistan, we must give our departure/destination airports and way points to our handling agents who would then file the flight plan. We were also admonished by Khursheed Anwar, my Sargodhian course mate and dear friend, to arrive ON-TIME in Lahore and not to keep everyone waiting. We did our level best to depart exactly at 9:00 AM, but were firstly given an engine start time of 9:10…. then we were told to standby for clearance for another 10 minutes. I told Haris that he would have to burn some extra gas to try to make up for lost time…..we finally received our departure clearance with the departure procedure and were told to line up and wait. Haris had already done the mag check and run up and we were ready. On our next leg, I think it is time to introduce Haris to LOP mag check…
Upon departure we initially climbed to 4500 feet and crossed the designated point and headed in the direction of Lahore. Haris elected to fly Lean of Peak (LOP) and lost about 6-8 Kts in cruise, which was fine by me. By now Khursheed must have had a captive audience in Lahore and they would probably wait another few minutes for our arrival. Haris declared that Walton airport was not in the Garmin GNS530W GPS. I flipped open Jeppesen FD on the iPad and sure enough, it was not on iPad either. I recommended to Haris to call the controllers and see if they could either give us a near by intersection, another nav aid or the latitude and longitude of the airport. When Haris asked for this information, it must have sounded like Greek to the controllers….they came back with : Controllers in Lahore will coordinate and vector you to the airport. Haris and I were both a little concerned and apprehensive and ever since we left our home drone, I have been harping on Haris that an instrument pilot always flies with precision, always maintains the center line while taxiing, landing and take-off, never busts the assigned altitudes (more on this later) and is always way ahead of the plane. Not knowing the exact location of the Walton airpot was rather unsettling. Our planning spreadsheet has the latitudes and longitudes of all airfields and alternates for our entire flight around the world. I looked back and saw the bag with that vital piece of information sitting all the way back past the bladder tank…..OK, note to self – transfer that info to the iPad upon landing for use in the future !
As we came near Lahore, the haze was quite thick and heavy but I wanted to take pictures. I saw Minar e Pakistan and Badshahi Mosque and took a picture of both in one frame with my iPhone. The controller informed us that Walton was 7 miles ahead and runway 32 was in use. As we came closer the controller told us to do a 360 on the approach end of runway 32 for a VVIP movement. We were then given a second 360 as the VVIP had not stopped having his (bowel) movement on the tarmac at Walton. We heard controllers asking if all cars had cleared the runway and Haris and I could only stew as temperatures and tempers were both rising. There seemed to be a lot of “movement” towards a turbine powered helicopter that undoubtedly had some VVIP. We were curious as heck to find out who it was that had kept us in suspended animation….. we were finally cleared for visual approach into runway 32 at Walton. I told Haris that he had better make a very good landing as a lot of ex-Pakistan Air Force pilots would be watching and critiquing his technique….other than that, no pressure. Haris did a wonderful job of landing and as we taxied back, we saw yet more “movement” towards the helicopter. We were told to slow down to allow the VVIP and their entourage to clear the taxiways before proceeding to the tarmac/ramp. Upon arrival we found out that the VVIP was some one from the Shareef clan….. the VIP culture at its best !
As Haris parked and shut down the plane, we saw about 10 different camera crews descending on the plane. I decided to get out of the way quickly to allow the TV people to talk to the Pilot in Command (PIC), but was told that I could not make such a quick exit and had to go back and emerge from the plane a little more slowly. I had to comply. By this time my sister in law and quite a few youngsters had gathered and were throwing rose petals on the plane, inside the plane and on both Haris and I.
As I exited the plane I was greeted by AVM (Retd) Sajid Habib, the current principal of PAF College Sargodha. He presented me with a plaque commemorating our arrival in Lahore and our effort at circumnavigating the globe. Right on his heels was Anas bhai, the life time Secretary of Sargodhian Old Boys Association and with him were several other Sargodhians, some my seniors and others were my course mates. The TCF school children presented Haris with bouquets and cards they had made. We also had a lot of family all around and then we got smothered by media who all wanted to talk with Haris to learn about the whole trip and why we were doing it. After that they all turned their attention on me and I had to answer the same questions they had already asked Haris and I kept repeating the same answers. The heat on the tarmac was quite unbearable for both Haris and I and we paid the price for it later. Once the photo sessions were over, we proceeded to a local TCF school to see how the TCF schools were run. From the moment we set eyes on the purpose built school building till the time we left, I was in awe of what TCF had achieved. We met the administrators, the principal and the teachers. They briefed us on the various aspects of the school and then took us into a pilot project that was being done at five of the TCF schools to see how effective it would be if it was rolled out all across the TCF schools. This initiative involved teaching the high school girls how to design and complete very complicated, intricate and beautiful embroidery pieces. Having recently attended five weddings last December, I was keenly aware of what it takes to get those embroidered clothes ready, but I was very impressed with the results. This is a real life skill that is being taught to these girls and they can instantly turn this into a livelihood upon graduating even if they decided not to go on with their studies. My only suggestion to the school administrators was to also include a Management 101 class for these girls that would teach them how to price their products and how to market them. The TCF school presented us with a crochet piece that we absolutely loved.
Upon leaving the TCF school we headed back to the Walton Airport as we had to change the oil in the plane. We have scheduled all of our oil changes around 35 hours of flying time and this was the second oil change. We had brought the oil and filters for the first two oil changes with us, while the third one would be in Darwin, Australia and the oil has already been staged and delivered there for us. We plan to do another oil change, the last of this trip, in Honolulu, Hawaii. By the time we got done with the oil change, Haris and I were once again drenched and wanted to get to a shower. Since we sweated so much all day, we promptly felt sick …..
In the evening we were invited to an Iftaar by the Sargodhians Old Boys Assoiation of Lahore. We got to meet some of our seniors that I met for the first time and several of my course mates also showed up. We swapped old stories and had a lot of fun….. once we got back we started to feel the impact of the time we had spent out in the sun talking to the media and then doing the oil change….. We decided to take it easy the next day and to catch up on some rest. I did recover up to a point, but Haris was not that lucky and took the full brunt of it. By night time we knew that our departure for Karachi the next morning was in jeopardy. One of the family doctors advised us to put Haris on intravenous medication and we complied. We could not proceed until both of us were firing on all cylinders….In the final analysis, I think Haris’s affinity for samosas caused this problem…he consumed them during iftaar in Islamabad….now I have asked Haris to clear with me before consuming any food….I can not afford my PIC to be sick…..