Muscat to Bahrain 27 Dec 2010

After a lovely Christmas and wonderful hospitality with old friends in Muscat described earlier, it was time to move on. The senior Koscos were leaving their daughter Hollis on 28 Dec and it seemed right to give them at least a little time to themselves. And there was a weather system coming their way with some high winds expected. The Red Rockette was not tied down. I don’t like to leave her anywhere and not have her tied down but the situation just did not lend to a place to tie her down or store her inside a hangar.

A quick note about Oman. This place has been a well kept secret. It’s arid of course, much like parts of Nevada. But with many, many miles of coastline, relief is close at hand. The people…friendly, generous, smiling for the most part, gracious…not what I really expected to find in a Middle Eastern country. Numerous ex-pats working here and a fabulous Christmas party hosted by one delightful couple from the US. I was fortunate enough to be invited to several dinners with local staff of the Muscat Asian Beach Games that Hollis had made friends with over her long visit to Oman. Wonderful folks who delighted in sharing the local knowledge of food and tea, an important drink in this part of the world.

The geology…rough and rugged arid mountains with many layers of history exposed as one rides along the new and modern highways. I was reminded of my several rides down to Palmdale from Reno with Captain Mark Goodrich. We both were constantly impressed by the natural beauty of that ride.

Muscat, the city…clean, very modern or being remodeled to be so, jillions of flowers planted along the highways…all well watered and healthy. The Sultan is very conscious of the visual impression to his people and the visitors. He spends a great deal on the infrastructure of the country, especially Muscat. A new multi-lane highway now spans most of the country, eliminating some of the rough rides the Koscos remember so well from their days of working here in the past.

Up early on Monday, 27 Dec, and a quick stop for a little protein on the way to the airport. Maybe a few carbs thrown in for “extra chin maintenance”. I did not have a handler at this stop but none was needed. The met briefing office was easy to find thanks to Col. Kosco, then to Flight Ops for the flight plan filing. All easy and relatively close to each other in the Int’l terminal. Then out to the bird and the now dreaded refueling procedure. This time there was a new wrinkle. The fuel bowser did arrive in good time but when the hose was unreeled I found the nozzle was the size of a DC-6 wing fueling port! Good grief…this thing would not even fit into the opening of the Staggerwing filler port. A manly nozzle it was. Ideas were zipping in and out of the old cranium and finally got out my “Mr. Funnel” fuel strainer device. Pushed another piece of plastic hose onto the funnel stem that could take the bending required to get fuel into the tanks. Finally began the fueling process to find that this was going to take some time. The strainer and the extension hose could only handle a low flow rate. Both the fueler chap and I had to take turns doing the nozzle part of the job to shake out our muscles. Took nearly an hour after finally getting the process started. Right then I was ready to go to a nice beachfront hotel, of which there are many in beautiful Muscat, and have a nice 3 hour lunch. But there was flying to be done.

Very efficient handling by the tower and a straight out departure to the west along the beach. Great views of the many villages along the coast line. Now some of the weather that was headed Muscat way was on the horizon.  I was on an IFR (instrument flight rules) clearance so the numerous deviations required around the building cumulus clouds was negotiated with ATC (Air Traffic Control) to avoid most of the LPC’s (Little Puffy Clouds). But some of these LPC’s were growing into BPC’s (Big Puffy Clouds) and not always avoidable. We (the Red Rockette and I) did fly through some turbulent clouds. In one passage I found it necessary to close the fresh air vents which had been open since the aircraft was restored so well in New Zealand by the Croydon Aircraft Company. Not only was it chilly, but tiny little snowballs (pellets) were entering the cockpit. Very refreshing. Watching the temperature carefully for any signs of icing, I found none at all had developed. Used carb heat several time however. We were soon back in clear air as these buildups were still relatively young and localized, certainly not developed into storms. But they probably grew up later in the day into real storms. I did not really expect this in the Middle East at this time of year but then I’ve never been here as an aviator before, having only visited Dubai as a tourist many years ago. I had, indeed, read up on the general weather patterns for different times of the year and knew that I did not want to deal with some of the conditions that arise here, such as dust storms.

The ATC folks re-routed me further out into the Gulf than I had planned but that’s aviation.  The rest of the flight to Bahrain was in clear air and relatively smooth. Lots of tippy tapping new information and routings into the Garmin 430 GPS on this leg.  Thankfully the visibility was good. Flying single pilot IFR with no auto pilot keeps one busy…but I love it. I chose not to have an autopilot installed. This way I’m kept busy all the time and have no chance of getting bored or distracted.  Gotta pay attention.  I love the 9 cylinder symphony of the dependable old Pratt & Whitney R985 as well.

Excellent handling by approach control at Bahrain Int’l and I was soon on a very long runway. The visibility was somewhat hazy and the winds quite high, up to 25 knots of gusts. Thankfully almost directly down the runway. One wing still tried to lift after touchdown but nothing serious. We were met by a Follow-Me truck and led into a parking area that was also very windy.  Several airport officials were there to meet me due to folks in Muscat who had advised them of an “interesting” aircraft visitor. They, like the Omanis, were very friendly and understood the ramifications of the windy conditions. Again, no tie down facilities at hand. One official raced off and soon returned with an offer of some hangar space generously presented by the local DHL staff. Restarted and taxied the old girl over to their facility to put her away in a safe place. Great hospitality by the DHL folks!

After entry formalities I was picked up by a friend of one of the Omani chaps I had met through Hollis Kosco in Muscat. This local lady is a “mover and shaker” type natural PR person here in Bahrain. She is also hosting another chap from Oman as well. The 3 of us have spent several days of eating well…VERY well. I’m really going to have to diet once I get home! As my local host says…we live in a city surrounded by desert…we have little to do other than EAT! I like it. All types of cuisine here and I’m doing my best to try them all.

I’m working on the flight plan to Amman, Jordan. I’ve extended my stay here since I have new friends here but none in Amman. I’ve decided to spend New Years here, then head to Jordan on 3 Jan.

And so it goes.
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