We arrived at the Colombo airport around 7:15 AM on the day of our departure. It took us a little bit of effort to figure out where to go. The security guards were inspecting tickets before allowing people to enter the departure area. We did not have a ticket or a boarding pass and Haris was concerned. I told him that this is where our pilot uniforms come in. We walked up to the guards very confidently, handed them our passports and informed them that we had a charter flight (the concept of a private flight is nonexistent in the rest of the world – so Americans take note). They sent a guard with us to the Sri Lankan Airline Passenger Services counter to make sure it was all OK before leaving us there. The Sri Lankan Airlines, our handlers, had no clue as to who we were and why we were there. With a lot of help from me, they located our paper work and informed us that we must pay our landing and parking fees before we can even think of departing Sri Lanka. Off we went to the Airport Deputy Managers office, who prepared an invoice for $14 for two days of our stay. He also admonished us to leave with in the next hour or we would have to shut down our engine and come back and pay another $4 for another day’s parking charges. Next stop was to file our flight plan. I asked the handlers what my destination was on the flight plan and was shocked to find out that our destination was in Africa, about 180 degrees opposite to where we were planning to go. I whipped out my iPad and pulled up my flight plan and dictated it to the Flight Ops people. Upon successful filing of the flight plan, I was asked to now hand write a paper flight plan for their records ! Don’t these guys save what’s on their computers ? Anyway, we got that done, next we had to pay handling fees to Sri Lankan Airlines. We then proceeded to customs, then immigration and finally out on the tarmac to get to our airplane. The only good thing was that everyone wanted to avoid having us to pay an extra $4 so they did their best to hurry thru every bureaucratic signature…..Once at the plane, I asked Haris to put on our full immersion suits and he protested but complied. Indian Ocean is nothing to be trifled with and we had to be on our full survival mode to fly over it.
During our pre-flight weather briefing, I noticed thunderstorms and lightning over much of Kuala Lumpur. In studying the direction of those storms, we surmised that these storms would move out by the time we got there. But just to be on the safe side, I requested that Eddie Gould, our program manager in Egypt to send us meteorological information (METARS) in the last three hours of the flight so we could decide where to go if we had to divert. Eddie’s text messages with the METARS did alleviate some stress, but the visual of the skies helped us tremendously in making our decision. We found the cloud system with a dissipating convective activity, which was good news…. it made our decision to press on a whole lot easier.
Once again, upon arrival at the Subang Airport (WMSA), we were cleared for an ILS 15 approach. This time Haris decided to set up the autopilot to fly the approach. I pointed out to Haris when the runway was in sight that there was no decent place to put down in case of an emergency, so it may be prudent to hand fly the approach, stay high and dive at the last minute to a landing. He agreed and once again had a great landing….Kuala Lumpur…we are here. Once we landed, we informed the controllers that we were supposed to go to the EAA Malaysia’s hangar; the controller sent us to a wrong hangar – twice. I told Haris to park on a spot on the ramp and lets figure this out on foot before trying to find the place. Captain Mani, our host, was supposed to be waiting for us – he saw us going around in circles and called the controllers on the phone and told them where to send us. So, we started up again and this time we found Capt Mani, who took charge right away, got us parked and after the pleasantries we left in his car to get Immigration and Customs done. That was a breeze, so we headed to the hotel that had been booked for us by EAA Malaysia, The Grand Dorset hotel. It is a very nice hotel with all the amenities one could ask for.
Here is where I made a huge mistake ! I took Haris to eat Indian food….
We then called one of my wife’s niece’s and her husband Dr Muqaddam Khan, who took us sight seeing around Kuala Lumpur, to the Patronas towers and other places and we got back to our hotel around 1:00 AM. The next morning Haris got sick again….we had to refuel the plane and EAA Malaysia had set up press coverage for Haris and there was pilot-talk (hangar-talk) with the local pilots. We also got a chance to ogle at awesome helicopters….man, they were nice as heck ! Capt Mani gave us a grand tour and then we met Ms Rani, who practically runs the EAA chapter in Malaysia. One of my fellow beechcraft pilots, Robert Ziegler called and he agreed to meet us at the airport. Robert came over with his beautiful wife and an awesome three year old son. We chatted away about his flying experience in the south east Asia and other countries. I learned a bunch. Robert then invited us to Lunch, but Haris did not feel up to it and he came back to the hotel. I had a tremendous lunch with Robert, his wife, his son, his young daughter, Ms Rani and Capt Mani…..Robert is on his way to India for his next gig in a week or so and we talked about his chances of satisfying his aviation habit while he is in India….