The Adventure of a Lifetime Begins...
17 April 2002 - JP and I met for breakfast at 7:00 a.m., then checked out of the hotel. After a short van ride, we were at the general aviation facility at the airport. The plan was to quickly change the oil on the airplane, then be on our way. We went through security and paid the fees then headed out to the airplane. The cowling came off easily; but that was the last easy thing about the job. In hindsight, we should have run the engine for a few minutes to warm up the oil. As it turned out, JP and I alternated sitting under the engine for over an hour, holding anything we could find to catch the oil. It was hot sitting on the asphalt and the fuller the containers got, the messier the job became. We were within easy view of the airline terminal and I wondered what passengers waiting for their flight thought of this "little" airplane with the cowling off and two "idiots" sitting under the propeller.
When the oil was drained we put on a new filter then dumped 7+ quarts of AeroShell's finest into the crankcase. We were pretty filthy by the time we were done. We went back into the building and cleaned the oil off our hands as best we could. I don't know about the men's room; but the women's room didn't have any soap capable of cleaning my hands.
ATC had kept our clearance available; I guess they could see what we were up to from the tower. The plan was JP would fly the first leg, Dubai to Bahrain, so that I could get an idea how things worked. We fired up N221HP, got our clearance and headed for runway 30R. ATC gave us a departure that got us on course quickly.
We climbed to 6,000 feet headed west. Except for the all-pervasive haze over the Persian Gulf, it was a beautiful day to fly. Once we were airborne the cabin cooled down to comfortable. The direct route to Bahrain was a straight line that had us over the Gulf the entire trip. At our altitude and with the haze, there wasn't much to see except for the occasional offshore drilling platform or tanker.
The most interesting aspect for me was the GPS. I had never seen a GPS installation in a light aircraft. It accurately depicted navigational aids, airways and waypoints in a moving map display that constantly updated itself. Since we were never out of range of radar, ATC communication and navigation aids on our two hour flight it wasn't important. But it would absolutely prove its worth the following day over the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert.Our first sight of land was the northern tip of Qatar, not far from Bahrain. ATC gave us a heading to fly for a short period of time for what we assumed was faster traffic behind us, then they turned us back to intercept the instrument approach for runway 30 at Bahrain. JP landed the airplane and as we cleared the runway, a "Follow Me" vehicle appeared, which we followed to an area north of the main terminal. We parked and secured the airplane. A van arrived to take us to the terminal where we would clear Passport Control and Customs.
The van driver walked us through with no hassle, not even a stamp in my passport. After JP told him about our plan to be on our way early the next morning, the van driver suggested we stay at the hotel on the airport. Hotels in the city are expensive, costing about US$200 per night. The airport hotel was about US$70 and we'd have no difficulty getting an early start.
When I say at the airport, I mean between Gate 11 and Gate 12. It was a tiny, windowless, but functional room. When I was at the airline I would have loved to have had it so good. On more occasions than I can count, we'd arrive at the layover airport, then wait 15-30 minutes for a van to take us on a 10 minute ride to a hotel where we'd have less than 5 hours to sleep before getting up to take a van ride back to the airport. The Bahrain setup would have been perfect in those instances. The downside is that we saw nothing of Bahrain but the airport.
One issue that would plague me throughout the trip was lack of internet access. I had signed up with CompuServe prior to leaving the US because they have access numbers all over the world. No matter what I tried, I was unable to log into CompuServe. JP used them successfully so he took a look at my settings and found them to be correct when compared to his. My intent had been to post daily progress reports to a Web site, now I'd be unable to do so. Despite my frustration with CompuServe, I spent my afternoon working on Web pages. I fell asleep around 4:00 p.m. I awoke at 7:00 p.m. and went down to the fast food restaurant in the terminal, where I had a hamburger, fries and a coke - where am I? Afterwards I went back to my room and worked on the Web site until about 11:00 p.m., when I again fell asleep.