I woke up at 3:30 am, packed quickly and called for a taxi to the airport. After three days at my fortress like hotel, I was ready to continue flying southeast towards my next stop, Mattala, Sri Lanka. My handler met me at the airport entrance and rushed me through customs and security, which was surprisingly easy since I was designated as the "Captain/Aircraft crew”.
I purchased drinks and snacks before leaving the departure area of the airport and was shuttled to the plane in the pre-dawn light. I flicked on my headlamp for an inspection of the aircraft and discovered the entire plane was covered with a light brown layer of dust/oil. Since I had only a few clean microfiber cloths left, I decided to clean only the windshield and proceeded with the inspection. Later this residue would be washed clean by the rains over India.
Soon the fueling crew arrived with two barrels of Avgas strapped to the back of a trailer. Halfway through fueling the plane from 200 liter barrels, their noisy and dilapidated manual fuel transfer pump broke down. Just my luck. I waited for another 45 minutes while they disassembled and repaired what appeared to be their only AVGAS pump while my departure time slipped. What could be done? There was no benefit to be gained by getting upset.
Once again, I was sandwiched between jumbo jets weighing upwards of 500,000 pounds during taxi to the active runway. I could have easily taxied “May” under the 777 aircraft but kept my distance. I was wary of the powerful General Electric GE90’s, which could have flipped my plane if they gunned the engines. The smell of jet exhaust started to fill the cockpit.
The take-off from Karachi was sluggish since the aircraft was over gross with fuel for the 10 hour flight to Sri Lanka.
I started to feel very ill about 2 hours into the flight well after I crossed over the border to India. I was flying at 9000 ft in the monsoon rain clouds and realized that I could not continue flying for another 8 hours. Considering all the options, I finally declared a medical emergency and requested a vector to Ahmedabad airport. VAAH has a published precision approach and AVGAS, a rare commodity in India.
Not surprisingly, the previous chatty radio traffic fell silent after I declared the medical emergency. ATC provided descents and vectors until I intercepted the final approach to Ahmedabad all while I was retching into a plastic bag. While descending through the layers of clouds to the ground, intense bands of rain pummeled the canopy along with associated turbulence. This was the most difficult approach I have ever flown and showcases the risk of single-pilot instrument flying.
Upon landing at Ahmedabad, I was directed to park right in front of the main terminal of the airport, in full view of all passengers. Once again, I was met by about two dozen people on the tarmac. Military and airport security, a doctor, handlers, and numerous ground crew met me with suspicion as my flight originated from Pakistan. I dragged myself out of the aircraft and continued to heave off to the side of the aircraft. I did not care if I had an audience, just that I was safely on the ground. I would deal with the bureaucracy later.
After determining that I posed no threat to Indian national security, I was asked to re-position the aircraft to the general aircraft area of the busy airport. I was so glad to be back on the ground and not ill in the aircraft in the bumpy monsoon weather.
The newspaper account of events as translated by Google in to English. It seems that I started my trip from Colombia!
Emergency Landing in Pilot of Ahmedabad
- Started World Travel from Colombia from June 2018
John Kohler's health suddenly deteriorated with a single plane
Ahmedabad. July 6, 2018, Friday
John Kohler's flight to travel around the world by private aircraft had to be landed on priority basis at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport in Ahmedabad today. John Kohler, who had gone on a trip alone with the plane, had asked for permission to land at Ahmedabad Airport.
According to the information received in this regard, a message was received at 12.18pm on the Air Traffic Control Tower (ATC) of Ahmedabad that the International Private Flight N944JK flight is about to be delivered to Ahmedabad Airport. Because John Kohler's health, who is on a single trip with this plane, is unhealthy.
ATC-Ahmedabad has urgently allowed the aircraft for landings. Crash fire tenders, ambulances, medical facilities were also deployed when the aircraft landed at 12:30 pm at the Ahmedabad Airport. The passenger was treated at the airport by a doctor.
According to sources, the passenger did not have to enter the hospital as he had a general health problem. John Kohler started his world tour in Colombia in June 2018. Till now, he has visited Bahrain, UAE and Pakistan. He was currently going to Karachi from Karachi to Multan.
Emergency Landing in Pilot of Ahmedabad
The general aviation tarmac - Ahmedabad, India. The ground staff patiently waited two hours for me to secure the aircraft. I was extremely weak and further affected by the midday heat and humidity. This was the low point of my trip.
After aircraft tie-down, I spent 4 hours waiting to clear customs, probably due to my unorthodox arrival. My customs paperwork contained at least twenty forms, all needing to be signed and stamped with multiple copies distributed to various departments. The Indians love their paperwork and their bureaucracy is formidable.
I spent the next 4 days recovering in my hotel room, but managed to take a few walks near the hotel. Strong odors, noise from honking tuk tuks, the crush of humanity, and ever rising levels of humidity as the monsoon intensifies - visiting urban India can be overwhelming.
Dare to cross a road in India? I hope that you have a life insurance policy.
Local pilots from the Concord, CA EAA branch (chapter 393) tracking my flight progress over breakfast. Ed Neffinger and Maurice Gunderson provided updates to the group.
The richly furnished waiting room at the Al Bateen executive airport in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
On final approach to the Al Bateen airport, you pass the spectacular and blindingly white Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Photo Credit: Sam Chui
From Abu Dhabi, I was cleared to climb up to 13,000 ft over the mountains of Oman. The air quality remained very poor due to dust until I was hundreds of miles out over the Indian Ocean. To the north of my flight path lay Iran and Afghanistan, two countries that would not welcome a visiting pilot from the United States.
Two hundred miles from Karachi, Pakistan, I reviewed all the approach plates and confirmed what procedures to expect with air traffic control. Every instrument approach is different and requires vigilance and attention to detail. By now, the desert crossings were just a memory, as the dry climate had turned to sweltering monsoon. I descended through the clouds to minimums and landed at Karachi international airport. What a busy place! Two minutes after landing, a Boeing 777 landed in my wake.
I was warned by Eddie Gould from GASE to expect a large crowd forming around the plane upon engine shutdown. Nevertheless, it was a bit overwhelming trying to keep track of twenty people touching the plane and all asking questions at the same time. One fellow grabbed a screwdriver from his pocket and pried off my freshly painted fuel cap to check on the fuel level. Another guy was the entertainer and told non-stop jokes and another stared at me with his obvious hatred of Americans. It was a bit unnerving to take all of this in while securing my aircraft.
Once I passed through customs, I was whisked to the heavily guarded and fortress-like hotel. I would have liked to explore Karachi, but was advised by many people that it was too dangerous to leave the compound.
I was lucky up to this point with my health. Whether it was the air, the exotic food, or just the anxiety of being in such a strange place, I would not feel well for another 3 weeks until passing through Australia.
I flew within 1 nm of the Isreal border and their hyper-vigilant air defense system.
An American infidel flies over the empty wastes of the Saudi Arabian desert.
"Far below me, a yellow haze hid the desert to the east. Yet it was there that my fancies ranged, planning new journeys, while I wondered at this strange compulsion which drove me back to a life that was barely possible....I knew instinctively that it was the very hardness of life in the desert which drew me back there - it was the same pull which takes men back to the polar ice, to high mountains, and to the sea. To return to the Empty Quarter would be to answer a challenge, and to remain there for long would be to test myself to the limit....It was one of the very few places where I could satisfy an urge to go where others had not been....in those empty wastes I could find the peace that comes with solitude, and, among the Bedu, comradeship in a hostile world." - Across the Empty Quarter, Wilfred Thesiger
24 hours prior to departure a sand storm was raging over the central and eastern Saudi Arabian desert. I endured the remnants of this storm as I progressed east during the last 3 hours of flight. Visibility dropped to less than one mile as I flew through the brown haze. I hoped the engine intake filter was removing the dust/sand particles before it contaminated my engine oil.
Manama, Bahrain. At 118F, I was cooking in my nomex flight suit prior to departure.
Visibility varies from marginal VFR to IFR during the summer due to constant dust storms. Temperatures were so extreme I paid to park the plane inside an air conditioned hanger owned by a local sheikh. I worried that the canopy would melt if the plane was left outside. Eddie from G.A.S.E told me about one RTW trip that was halted in the middle east due to failing avionics and a melted canopy.
My iPad, running Foreflight, crashed several times in flight due to the unbearable heat. The panel avionics worked flawlessly throughout the entire trip with the OAT -15c to +48c. My iPhone 7, a backup to the iPad for all approach charts, did not appear to be impacted by the heat.
The magnificent Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
The columns are covered with gold leaf and inlaid with semi-precious stones and mother of pearl.
Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE is the world's tallest building (828m or 2717 ft).
Sail shaped Burj Al Arab Jumeirah - The world's most luxurious hotel. I could not believe the display of wealth in the United Arab Emirates.