A Slow Flight to India – Final Report – Day 5 – Muscat-Ahmedabad

Today was already our last leg from Muscat, Oman (OOMS) over the Indian Ocean all the way to Ahmedabad in India (VAAH). It was also the longest flight ánd the longest stretch over water in our single engine diesel Piper Archers.

We got up early again and took the taxi to the very nice lounge of Jetex at the huge Omani airport. I downloaded the latest wind aloft situation on Foreflight and the forecast confirmed that we would have to fly very low to enjoy a bit of tailwind because high up we would face headwinds that we could not afford if we wanted to arrive with a safe margin of fuel left in our tanks. Flying low also means flying in reasonably hot air, and the sun that was rising in the east, would shine in our face the whole flight.

This time again we filed for a formation flight, so only one flight plan: we would have to stay reasonably close together with the lead having its transponder on, and the other two without having the transponder on. We did a formation takeoff from runway 26R in Muscat after some long taxiing. An immediate right turn put us on course over the water: India, here we come !

We flew about 7,5 hours over water: first with Iran to our north which was not an inviting place in case we would have to make an emergency diversion. After a while we lost contact with Muscat Control, but airline traffic above could relay messages to Mumbai if needed. In the meanwhile we kept ourselves busy by hand flying, chatting over our common frequency, dozing off, drinking small sips of water or sorting through our pictures. The most important activity was keeping a close eye on our calculated remaining range and fuel when arrived, and about the fuel situation at a whole: headwind made range to dwindle down, tailwind gave immediate relief.

Two nights ago in Kuwait, we had decided to clean our wings and prop from insects that had encountered a sudden death when coming in contact with our aluminium. The shear action of removing those bugs significantly improved our flying characteristics and range, a fact that we found truly enlightening and amazing: insects on the wings and prop do actually matter for performance !!

And so the hours ticked by and we kept cruising at 1500-2500 ft.  Iran was being replaced by Pakistan as a diversion possibility to our north, which was far more hospitable for us westerners. First we started hearing airliners talking to Mumbai Oceanic, and later we heard Mumbai Oceanic answering: we were getting close ! We split up the radio duties: N726DX tuned in into Buj, the nearest airport on Indian soil, N721DX listed to Mumbai while we monitored the emergency and on-guard frequency of 121.5. On our second radio we kept each other up to date via our common “private” frequency chosen to not disturb anyone else.

Then N721DX reported seeing land !! We made landfall ! In Indian coast came into view and the dull waveless sea was being replaced by saltpans, villages and crazy drivers down velo. The real smells of India entered our cockpit.

We were told to avoid Buj airport by the north because of military reasons and because of a big developing thunderstorm to the south. I was worried because of bad weather indicating above Ahmedabad. I verified the METAR of Ahmedabad once more by Garmin InReach and got confirmation that weather would not play a factor … luckily because our fuel range diminished mile by mile.

We dove under the Class C of Ahmedabad at 800 ft, obtained a clearance to enter and climbed to 2000 ft. We chuckled when Jaxon, who was flying ahead with N721DX called the “runway in sight” at 800 ft while still 20 miles away 😊

One by one we flew over the city and joined righthand downwind for runway 23. Jaxon and Sandrine landed first, followed by Sam and Mack and we finished our fantastic ferry trip last !

We had covered almost 4400 nautical miles or 8000 km in five flying days and six legs for a total of 55 flying hours with six pilots and three slow Piper Archer DX, each having consumed about 800 liter of Jet A1. What a hell of a trip !!

We were overcome with joy, and the dreaded bureaucracy on entering India wasn’t so bad after all. We checked in a nearby hotel and had a lovely Indian style buffet dinner: it just doesn’t get better than this.

Thank you for following along on this trip report. Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions and leave your feedback.

Thanks to Sam, Mack, Jaxon, Sandrine and Ray, with whom I spent a lovely trip.

See you on a next trip … hopefully a bit faster next time !

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