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Why, Oh Why Al Ain?

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We decided to extend our stay by one day in Cairo to be able to go to the Pyramids. The next morning we departed for Aswan, which was our departure airport for customs and we needed to buy enough Avgas (aviation gasoline) to cross the Arabian Desert on our way to Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates, where we have some dear friends that we were staying with.

The temperature was very high and I was afraid we may not be able to leave the ground. We took off and headed north, instead of going east as it was "no reason, just policy". Upon reaching 11,000 feet we were allowed to turn towards the Red Sea and to our crossing of the Arabian Desert. Along the way, we saw some spectacular sites of mountains cropping out of the sand, huge lava bed rock and old craters, and some areas that were lush green and looked strangely out of place in the middle of the Arabian Desert. After the first three hours, we ran out of water and had to chew gum for the rest of the way to keep our minds preoccupied when all we wanted to do was have a sip of water! It took us nine long hours to reach Al Ain and it was close to midnight when we got there but it was well worth it.

The next evening we were invited to an iftaar/dinner by the UAE chapter of The Citizens Foundation (TCF); an organization that is the main reason for why we are flying around the world. TCF is leading Pakistan's silent education revolution to help educate Pakistan's poorest children both in urban slums and remote, rural villages. The charity builds purpose-made primary and secondary schools in the nation's most in-need communities with the proviso that every attempt is made in each of the 1,000 schools to have an equal number of boys to girls in the classrooms.

The ladies and gentlemen of TCF-UAE were awesome hosts and we had a great couple of hours discussing the past, present and future of TCF worldwide. After all, my dad and I are fully vested in TCF and want to see it succeed.

The next morning, we were due to depart from Al Ain at 6:00 AM as weather forecast at Karachi was very stiff winds (speed of 25 knots gusting to 30 knots) and there was a lot of cloud cover. Since the winds were forecast for being right in alignment with the runway, we discussed the flight and decided that we were not worried, but the low ceilings meant that I would have to execute an ILS approach.

When we arrived at the airport there was a jet fuel truck parked right next to the plane and I pointedly explained to the fueler that our plane was strictly avgas or 100 LL. Then began a four hour odyssey of lies, excuses, inept behaviour 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 kept telling us that the fuel would arrive in the next 20 minutes. Finally, after four hours they showed up with 2 barrels of 100 LL - Avgas. As the fuel had arrived, we 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 vapour locked and bleeding/priming it solved the problem. 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 times and I was afraid they would cancel our clearance altogether. Luckily, the controllers granted us permission to start and depart at the allotted slot time.

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