Saturday, June 27, 2015

Flying the Arabian Sea and India (by Jack)

We completed the longest single flight of the trip on June 27 from Muscat, Oman to Colombo, Sri Lanka at 1,860 statute miles (1,620 nautical miles).  Most of this flight was over the Arabian Sea (part of the Indian Ocean).

Route from Muscat, Oman to Colombo, Sri Lanka
Josh and I arrived at the Muscat airport at 5:00am local time (letting the ladies sleep in an extra hour) and had to re-position the plane from a remote parking spot to the “civil” ramp where we could get fuel.  Our very efficient “handler” (a company that takes care of all the paperwork and coordination at the airport) arranged for an airport vehicle the take us out to the plane which was parked among some much bigger private jets.  As we approached she pointed to our plane and told the driver to go to the “little mosquito.” Oh well, it is all relative, right?

By the time we repositioned, got fueled, and the ladies arrived and boarded it was about 6:35a local time when we departed and it was already 41C…106F very early in the morning!  Oman is a hot place.

The departure was uneventful and after a bit of negotiation the air traffic controllers accommodated our request to cruise at 28,000 feet (a non-standard altitude for flying east) which was the optimal altitude for fuel economy which we watched carefully on this maximum range flight.

Once again, the enroute weather was generally good and air was smooth.  As forecast, there was a narrow band of showers along the southwest coast of India which we made a small deviation to avoid.

One surprising thing to me was the density of the air traffic over the Arabian Sea.  Unlike Canada to the Azores where we were essentially the only plane on that general route, there were dozens and dozens of airliners flying back-and-forth between the Middle East and India/Sri Lanka. The image below shows six airliners with about 60 miles of us at one point essentially over the middle of the Arabian Sea...the numbers indicate how many hundreds of feet they were above us...

Traffic over the Arabian Sea
At the relatively small Colombo, Sri Lanka airport (one runway), there was even an Airbus A380 (the largest commercial airliner made) on the ramp.  Our handler in Colombo explained that many people from India and Sri Lanka travel aback-and-forth to the Middle East for work, thus, the heavy airline traffic.

Upon landing at Colombo we were met by a bevy of people including a representative of our US-based handling company that had flown in (commercially) from India just to supervise our arrival and departure.  Evidently they did not have much confidence in the local aircraft handling companies.  We re-fueled, cleared customs quickly, and were on our way to the hotel in short order.

We are in Sri Lanka for five nights which is longer than any other stop on the trip.  We will spend part of that time in the main city of Colombo and part of the time in the central mountain region.

We depart early July 2 for another long non-stop flight to Singapore.