Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Flying The Middle East

The rules seem to be changeable in the Middle East

I checked into the Intercontinental Hotel and, by coincidence, had dinner with the Learjet crew who had arrived the same day as the accident. The Lear's passengers had long since finished their business and departed on the airlines, but the crew was stuck and, apparently, so was I. The Lear's two-man crew was already considering flying back to New York on the airlines to await permission for departure.

After two days of arguing with local aviation officials that I had nothing to do with the accident other than flying an American-registered aircraft, it appeared I also was doomed to mark time until someone in the government decided I could leave.

Accordingly, I decided to try something based on the age-old left-hand/right-hand premise. I was counting on the premise that not everyone would be on the same page. If you think the U.S. government is often disorganized, imagine how loosely things are run in the Middle East.

I knew the Duke was fully fueled and oiled for the 1,000 nm leg to Luxor, Egypt. My overflight and landing clearances were still good, so I filed an IFR flight plan by way of Doha, Qatar; Bahrain; and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, expecting to have it rejected at any moment. To my surprise, the plan was accepted as routine.

I checked out of the hotel, grabbed a cab to Abu Dhabi Airport and made my way to Emirates Air Service where the Duke was hangared. I arrived just before lunch when I knew the hangar would be relatively empty, and sure enough, only the manager, a friendly Canadian, was there. He reminded me that I couldn't leave, and I told him I was just planning to do some engine run-ups. The manager looked at my luggage, smiled knowingly and then conveniently went to lunch himself.

I loaded my bags into the airplane, went through the preflight checks, started engines, dialed up clearance delivery and held my breath. To my surprise, clearance came through with my IFR flight plan. So far, so good.

I read back the clearance and switched to ground control, again expecting to be told to hold my position, but again, I was cleared to the run-up area. Apparently, not everyone had received the message that American airplanes weren't allowed to depart UAE.

I hurried through the run-up and pretakeoff checks, then asked for takeoff clearance. There was a long pause, and I assumed I had been caught. But no, I was finally cleared for takeoff.


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