Dad left early, and I slept on, eventually rising at about 0845 and taking care of a little planning. Gavin and his father were soon up and about, and we set out for a leisurely day of tourist activity. Our first stop was the ruins of Ephesus, initially an ancient Greek city built in the 10th century BC. The nearby Temple of Artemis was one of the seven wonders of the world. The city declined in importance as the river silted up its port, and was partially destroyed by an earthquake in AD 614. The ruins are now under excavation, with large areas open to the public including well preserved houses. It is thought, though, that only a fraction of the total city has yet been uncovered.
From here, we continued to a rather unexpected attraction; a comprehensive museum of railway steam engines, in the open air near Selcuk. These engines all operated on the Turkish railway system at one point and come from many countries, primarily the UK, USA, and Germany. The museum was almost deserted, and the engines all open for exploration so we spent a good hour or so wandering among them and clambering over them, marveling at how strenuous they must have been to operate. I only hope that as a train “captain” I’d have had somebody to do the coal shoveling for me!
We rounded the day out with a Turkish shave, a mostly relaxing experience (apart from when they set my ears on fire) that Pat insisted we must try, and then a few hours by the pool reading and working on flight planning. The evening was taken up with dinner in town, and some shopping for drinks and snacks for the next day’s flying. We also bought an enormous quantity of pastries to distribute to all the mechanics at the airport, to thank them for their help the previous day!
We had a long way to fly this day. Selcuk-Efes is not an international airport, so we first had to clear customs at Dalaman before continuing on to Egypt. We were at the airport some time before the 8am opening time, to prepare the aircraft and take care of formalities such as the flight plan. It was here that Gozen’s next failure revealed itself; they had for some reason sent me a quote saying total charges would be 30 euros, despite the fact that the airport (they showed me the email) had told Gozen it would be 175. We paid the real fees, and resolved that Gozen would not be getting their “coordination” fees for this stop!
Tower kept us waiting for a bit as our flight plan was coordinated and then we were off, climbing out fast given our light weight, and turning on course to follow the VFR air routes down along the coast towards Dalaman. Conditions were perfect, with negligible turbulence and favourable winds. Approaching Dalaman we were asked to hold, making several circuits around mostly-empty looking beachfront resorts, before being cleared for a left base and landing.
This was the only place we dealt with Gozen in person, and the lady who met us was extremely friendly and helpful. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the admin people supporting her, who had provided her with invoices that bore no relation to the written quotes given in advance. After a number of back and forth phone calls, the crazy request for nearly 1,500 euros was whittled down to 850; much more in line with the quotes, but still a terrible rip-off. From Turkey onwards, aviators would mostly be viewed as a transitory resource to pump as much cash as possible from, with charges 10 – 20x higher than in Europe, and service generally poorer.
One thing that wasn’t bad at Dalaman, on an international scale, was fuel price and we took on 500 liters. Tower cleared us for engine start – and then after a while said there was a problem with the flight plan, and had us shut down again. We tried to contact the flight planning office but apparently nobody there answers the phone. We eventually called the local Gozen office and, to their credit, they called back 5 minutes later and told us we were good to go. Not sure what they did, but it was effective!
We departed from the south facing runway and climbed out slowly on our 660 nautical mile flight to Hurghada. Given our heavy weight, and the hot weather, engine temperatures had to be carefully managed by keeping rate of climb low, and airspeed high (to provide maximum cooling airflow over the engine). Before long Turkey handed us over to Cyprus, and they took us east a little way to avoid airspace restrictions before turning us south direct for Egypt.
It was a long crossing over the sea, although only a taster for some of the flights to come. The occasional ship broke the monotony, along with one or two oil platforms, and plenty of good music played through the Bluetooth interface on the audio panel! Gavin revealed that he had used to moonlight as a DJ under the pseudonym “Major 12 Inch”; apparently a reference to the diameter of a vinyl record. After just a few hours we were coasting in over the Nile delta, a lush green oasis in the dry and sandy expanse of the Sahara. We were amazed by the huge number of towns and villages, packed so tightly that they were almost merging into one another.
We followed our flight planned route down towards Cairo, and as we got closer approach control vectored us off of our plan and sent us on a wandering path through Cairo’s airspace. This was presumably to keep us clear of the airline approach and departure paths, but also gave us good views of the city and even a glimpse of the pyramids!
Soon we were past Cairo, and out into the desert for the last couple of hours to Hurghada. The landscape was anything but featureless; impressive mountain ranges gave way to the picturesque Red Sea coastline. Looking down from above, we could only imagine how harsh and confusing it would be to traverse at ground level.
We descended into Hurghada on a left downwind, and came in for a visual landing, after a little under 6 hours aloft. Ground temperatures exceeded 40 degrees C. A follow-me car led us to our parking and we were met by Mohammed from EgyptAir. He turned out to be very friendly and helpful! Arrangements through the Middle East had been made by my old friends Ahmed and Eddie from General Aviation Support Egypt (GASE), and all the stops would turn out to run pretty smoothly in this part of the world.
Unfortunately, GASE had no influence over the fuel supplier at Hurghada! AVGAS here is provided by the military; all previous flights at Hurghada had been fueled from drums, but we had the dubious honour of being the first to use their new fuel bowser. I say “new” – while new to them, I suspect it was older than me. After first confirming that it was really AVGAS, thanks to Ahmed and my friend Mike confirming the Arabic writing, (and later me getting a good sample of it as it was splashed everywhere), we set about trying to fuel. The nozzle was much too big to fit into the airplane tank port, and even on the lowest pressure setting the fuel shot out like a fire hose and made use of my funnel impossible.
Some enterprising soul from EgyptAir turned up with the huge plastic bottle that sits atop a water cooler, and we cut the top off to make a jumbo-size funnel. This partially worked, but we still ended up with more AVGAS going over the refueling crew and onto the ground than went into the aircraft. Finally, an empty AVGAS barrel was located (they no longer had any full ones; why would you, with such an amazing new fuel truck) and we filled that from the truck before manually pumping it into the aircraft using the hand pump and hose that I was luckily carrying. All told, it took 2.5 hours to uplift 270 liters of fuel. We were, of course, charged for all the fuel that was spilled on the ground and crew as well.
We took a taxi to the hotel, which was very nice although clearly in need to a refurbishment, and spent that evening relaxing with a buffet dinner and possibly one of the worst Pina Coladas I’ve ever tasted. Our waiter in the “Captain’s Bar” wore a pilot’s shirt with three gold stripes, and was amused to find that with my four gold bars I outranked him!
Click here to read the next part of the story.