The Air Journey 2017
Around the world westbound journey (continued)
by Thierry Pouille
In the last issue, I presented the challenges of the Agung Volcano in Bali. The next adventure I will describe came during our flight from Sri Lanka to the Maldives.
We had not been to Sri Lanka before (nor the Maldives). When you view these islands on a map, they look far away from other destinations. As it turns out, the distance from the south of Sri Lanka, Mattala, is only 550 miles from the island of Male in the Maldives (which by the way was a beautiful, exciting discovery and stay).
The Air Journey group was made up of six airplanes flying the same route, the same day, around the same time. I was right seat on a CJ3 with a fellow CJP member Peter Powell.
After an uneventful takeoff from Mattala airport in Sri Lanka, we were cleared to our destination via the filed flight plan with our cruising altitude of FL430. We talked to Indian ATC before we were switched over to the Maldives ATC. We listened to ATIS giving us light wind, Runway 18 and the ILS. We were then directed to do an arrival and intercept the ILS. At least that was the plan.
As we were in the descent and getting closer to the destination, we were told because of the unusual amount of traffic we would need to hold and our landing time was now 12:25 (about 20 minutes away from our present time).
So, we flew down to 5,000 feet, reduced speed and set up the plane for a 15 to 20-minute hold. We then took in one of the most scenic views I have ever witnessed. Before us was a myriad of blue with a stunning island popping up from the ocean surrounded by the barrier reef and coral.
After about 30 minutes, we were finally clear for the ILS approach and began our descent following the localizer and the glide. To our surprise, as we reviewed the checklist, we suddenly heard the tower come on the radio screaming at a Singapore Airliner to abort its takeoff. There was no explanation given. We looked at one another and continued the approach.
As we were the first airplane on approach, ATC came back to us and instructed us to hold at 3,000 feet. As said before, we were already in the descent established on the glideslope.
“So, to reiterate, is that for November 420 Charlie Hotel?
“Sir, we are passing 1,800.”
“OK, clearance to climb back up to 3,000.”
“OK, what heading?”
“Take a 90 degree left heading 090.”
OK here we go, 90 degrees turn and we go out to 3,000 feet.
Soon, we were cleared back up again to 5,000 feet with a heading straight north. Again, no explanation from the tower, no traffic on the frequency, no one landing, no one taking off, and we had two other airplanes from Air Journey still behind us in hold.
After flying to the north nearly out of the Maldives airspace, we were told to come back to re-intercept the ILS and land. Total time between first communication with approach and landing was about 1 hour 15 minutes. We were fortunate fuel was not an issue. But if it had been, there were at least three runways not far from Male that would have accommodated the CJ3.
What happened? Why was there no communication?
We finally heard that one of the local tethered weather balloons became loose and was drifting across the runway from one side to the other. The ground crew tried to capture the loose balloon, which took them over 45 minutes to accomplish.
You just never know what you might face in the piloting world. But on the positive, we enjoyed certainly one of the most scenic holds. I’ve also included a photo of our holding pattern using Spidertracks.
Maldives is one of the most stunning sights in the world. Our setup for four nights was the amazing, one-and-only Reethi Rah. The name is more than appropriate for this unique hotel. The Maldives is a must-go destination and the possibility of flying your own Citation there is amazing.
Stay tuned for more Air Journey stories coming up.