Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Flying The Middle East
The rules seem to be changeable in the Middle East
The Duke cleared UAE airspace in short order, and I immediately dialed up the next control agency.
By the time I had reached Bahrain, the jig was finally up. The Bahrain center controller told me UAE control had called and requested I return to Abu Dhabi. Like so many of the technical people in the Middle East, the controller was an American, complete with a Texas accent. It turned out he was a retired FAA center controller from Houston. I stalled for time and turned toward Riyadh. I argued my case that I was long since out of UAE airspace, and therefore not subject to their direction. I told the Texan I wanted to fly my original flight plan to Luxor, Egypt.
The controller was sympathetic, but he wasn't sure if he could help. He did a little more coordinating with UAE as I crossed into Saudi airspace, then finally came back and recleared me to Riyadh and on to Luxor. He said UAE was still adamant that I should return to Abu Dhabi but apparently acknowledged that I was no longer in their control. My Bahrain controller gave me a phone number to call in Abu Dhabi upon landing in Luxor.
Before he handed me off, I asked if he liked working and living in Bahrain. He said it wasn't too bad, but commented he only planned to put up with it for another year or two to accumulate a nest egg. His final comment was an incredulous, "Do you have any idea how much these people pay?"
I copied the number obediently but wasn't too concerned. I had filed a flight plan that had been approved, apparently by mistake, then I had gone through ground and tower for departure, just as normal. I hadn't done anything wrong other than ignore the proviso that I wasn't supposed to leave UAE.
I pointed the Duke out across the endless desert of the Rub' al Khali, the dreaded Endless Quarter of Saudi Arabia. A few hours later, I landed in Luxor, checked into the hotel and made the call back to Abu Dhabi.
Sure enough, exactly as I might have predicted, they had no idea who I was or what I was calling about.
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