The Air Journey 2017
Around the world westbound journey (continued)
by Thierry Pouille
Let’s explore our leg from Male in the Maldives to Ahmedabad, India.
If you talk to other pilots who have flown around the world, you will likely hear that India specifically has its flying challenges due to its ATC, customs, culture, etc. A lot of their way of doing things is totally different from what we are used to throughout the rest of the world. The only commonalities appear to be the English language as well some of the aviation terminology.
Our route was 1,215 nautical miles following the airways, which even being over the ocean did not provide a straight line. In the CJ3 flying at flight level 450, we were hoping to fly direct whenever possible. Well that doesn’t happen in India. We had to use the old trick of claiming weather ahead of us to ask for deviation in order to allow us any kind of shortcut.
Speaking of which, the communication is very weak (I almost wondered if they’re still using 1950’s vintage radios!). It is not unusual in that part of the world for a private airplane to fly at levels above the airlines and be used as an airline repeater since they cannot reach ATC.
As the flight followed its path, we were soon cleared for the approach. The handling from one sector to the other was pretty smooth with one exception where we were asked to reconnect with the previous controller after contact had already been made. But we landed with no issues.
We then began taxiing into one of the largest parking areas that we’ve seen during our journey, however one very interesting fact – it was totally empty.
Via ground communication, we parked in a unique spot on the edge of the runway. We completed the shutdown sequence after requesting fuel and were met by numerous people from the handling company. That’s one thing we noticed quickly in India. In order to do one job, they should need at least 15 people.
As the other airplanes with us started to arrive, they were not parked next to us but clear on the other corner of the huge lot. Being the organizer of this journey, I made my way to other corner wearing my yellow vest to be easily spotted should there be any other traffic on the tarmac (there was none – it was only us with our six airplanes). I proceeded to be told there was no parking available on the long tarmac and that we had to push the airplanes by hand into a bus parking lot made of gravel.
After arguing and meeting with the director of the airport, no one would allow the turboprop to be parked on the tarmac. In regards to the jet, we parked in one of the many empty spots and told them we would not move the airplane.
Long argumentation, long fuel waits, long transfer time, but here we are – it’s India! While a beautiful, cultural country (per the photos), it can be a total disorganization on the ground.
To this day, the only explanation we can provide regarding the nonsense with parking is the fact that Ahmedabad is the hometown of the actual prime minister of India (he has his own tarmac and own hangar) and since he can show up unannounced, it was made clear that the whole tarmac area should remain clear.
On our day of departure, I was extremely surprised to see that a CJ2, India registered, was parked in the gravel area. There is no tug around – only manpower to move airplanes around.
In conclusion, for our next flying journey, we will avoid a layover in Ahmedabad but it is still an airport that can be used for a tech stop, refueling or clearing customs.
I look forward to sharing our next leg from the Journey Around the World.