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Jordan to Israel   Oman to Jordan   Maldives to Oman

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Satellite data provided by The Living Earth ® Inc./Earth Imaging © 1996, All Rights Reserved.


LEG 11: Muscat, Oman (OOMS) to Amman, Jordan (OJAM), 10 August 98 - 6.7 hours


This next day is the one we worried about most on the whole trip: flying through the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, trying to get to Israel, surrounded by hostile territory. We spent a lot of time in the Maldives planning a route that was reasonably direct, while avoiding Iran and Iraq. It was reassuring after all our planning to find that the route we came up with was one often used by other planes handled by Universal. It included more twists, turns and waypoints (22) than any other we had flown. It took us from Muscat to Abu Dhabi over the tip of the United Arab Emirates, then up the center of the Persian Gulf—less than 30 miles from the Iran coast—around Qatar (which we could not overfly) to Bahrain, then inland across hundreds of miles of Saudi Arabian desert to Amman, Jordan, for almost seven hour flight covering 1400nm.

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FliteStar® Used By More Pilots Worldwide

"The FliteStar chart of our route from Muscat, Oman, to Amman, Jordan. The four-letter names are the ICAO identifiers of major airports in the vicinity."

Transponder Problems

Our King Air has two transponders (ancient Wilcox 1014Bs) mounted in the nose avionics bay, controlled by a single control head in the panel, with a #1/#2 switch. Just before starting this trip, we found that Transponder #2 had become intermittent, working for 5 minutes to an hour and then quitting. We had LAC Avionics check and test it twice, but they were unable to duplicate the problem on the bench. Transponder #1 was solid, so we felt comfortable leaving with one good transponder, and an occasionally-good spare. Big mistake!

Every time we wash the plane, something breaks. The first time, the left main fuel guage went inoperative. After several days and a dozen hours of flying, it gradually came back to life. The second time we had the plane washed (in Singapore), the left fuel guage died in exactly the same way (which we expected), our "good" #1 transponder became intermittent, and our "bad" #2 transponder died altogether.

We thought that time and heat would dry things out and get the transponders back, but instead #1 just got worse and worse. On the leg into Oman, it worked for no more than one hour of the 7+ hour flight. We knew we were in trouble for the next day—our trickiest leg in the worst part of the world to be an unidentified aircraft. But our options were few in Muscat; if only we could get to Tel Aviv where we planned to spend some time, would could get things repaired. But #1 was intermittent, not inoperative, so we did what we had to do and took off.

Flying the Persian Gulf

Transponder #1 worked as we took the runway, and for the first few minutes of the flight—enough time for the controllers to call "radar identification" on our squawk of 6650. As we approached the UAE border, the controllers said, "radar identification lost, please recycle." That was a phrase we were to hear every half hour for the next 6-1/2 hours. We recycled; we tried #2, then back to #1. We went to full OFF, let it rest and tried to power up again (that had worked earlier in our trip); all to no avail.

Near the UAE border, the controller asked if we had a permit to overfly UAE. We said that we understood (as we did from Universal), that no overflight permit was required for UAE, but that we did have a permit for Saudi Arabia. He said he’d get back to us; we worried. Eventually, the controller agreed we needed no overflight permit for UAE. Crossing the UAE and over Abu Dhabi, we picked up G462 and headed up the center of the Persian Gulf to avoid Qatar and then headed inland to cross at Bahrain and then into Saudi at King Fahd VOR (KFA).

By this time, the controllers were worried by our no-transponder aircraft in this busy and tense airspace. Fortunately for us, the Emirates Radar controller, and the subsequent Saudi controllers were Americans—with Texas accents, no less. And fortunately they have very powerful radar that paints a pretty good primary picture for them. We had to fly certain headings for them, and report DME from various VORs not on our route so that they could confirm that we were the radar image they thought we were, but they seemed to have a pretty good handle on who and where we were even without a transponder.

The Emirates Radar controller told us that Saudi Arabia did not permit overflight with an inoperative transponder, but that he would call them and see if he could get a waiver for us to continue the flight. After about 15 tense minutes over the Gulf, he said Saudi had agreed to permit us, but was adamant that we must get it fixed as soon as we land. Even though Saudi and the Gulf are the first solid radar environment we have come to since leaving California, our inop transponders forced us to continue non-radar position reporting throughout.

We were worried about the handoff towards the end of the flight to Amman Control if we were not radar identified. Since we had gotten the waiver to fly without a transponder across Saudi, we turned off the transponders, hoping that we could get a few minutes of life out of #1 for the landing in Amman. We were unsuccessful in getting it to work in time for the handoff, and Amman Control knew nothing from the Saudi controllers. So we had to go through the whole "recycling" dance again. Luckily, #1 came to life for a little while during our descent into Marka International at Amman, so we got radar identification before it quit again. We were worried that if it were inop the whole time, they might not let us take off again, and we’d be stuck in Jordan!

The Jordanian controller (a local woman; no more American controllers!), cleared us direct to Amman VOR (AMN) and then said "cleared for the approach." Ambiguous language, which we took to mean the primary ILS DME approach. It was very hazy, with less than 10 miles visibility, and we received no vectors, so we crossed the VOR (which is off the field) with no field in sight, went outbound for the procedure turn, turned around to intercept the localizer, which seemed to center a little too quickly. Shortly thereafter, the pilot’s HSI flagged the VOR LOC, even though the both the localized and glideslope needles seemed to be giving info, and the independent flight director computer did not flag. The co-pilot’s HSI also showed no flag, and we were not in IMC, so we continued tracking the localizer on the flight director and co-pilot HSI, waiting to get a visual on the field.

About two miles away, we caught sight of the field: about a mile over to our right, even though the localizer needle on the co-pilot HSI was centered and we were on glideslope. We immediately broke off from the guages, turned 90 degrees right to intercept a visual centerline and landed visually. Lesson learned: if you EVER get ANY flag in actual weather, go missed approach immediately and go to Plan B! The localizer had ID’d correctly, and the tower said nothing about a problem, but their localizer was faulty and only one of our guages detected it. Good thing it was VMC!

This was a tense, busy flight, with lots of haze, so we got no pictures. Sorry for the lengthy prose and lack of visuals, but it’s a flight we’ll remember for some time…


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Satellite data provided by The Living Earth ® Inc./Earth Imaging © 1996, All Rights Reserved.

Click near each end of the red arrows for progressive reports


Click the following Legs for Progressive Reports

Departure San Jose, CA
Leg1 San Jose, CA to Honolulu, HI
Leg2 Honolulu, HI to Christmas Island, Kiribati
Leg3 Christmas Island, Kiribati to Apia, Western Samoa
Leg4 Apia, Western Samoa to Nadi & Matei, Fiji
Leg5 Nadi & Matei, Fiji to Port Vila, Vanuatu
Leg6 Port Vila, Vanuatu to Cairns, Australia
Leg7 Cairns, Australia to Darwin, Australia
Leg8 Darwin, Australia to Singapore
Leg9 Singapore to Male, Maldives
Leg10 Male, Maldives to Muscat, Oman
Leg11 Muscat, Oman to Amman, Jordan
Leg12 Amman, Jordan to Tel Aviv, Israel
Leg13 Tel Aviv, Israel to Valletta, Malta
Leg14 Valletta, Malta to Gibraltar
Leg15 Gibraltar to Cascais, Portugal
Leg16 Cascais, Portugal to Santa Maria, Azores
Leg17 Santa Maria, Azores to St. John, Newfoundland, Canada
Leg18 St. John, Newfoundland, Canada to Bangor, ME
Leg19 Bangor, ME to Danbury, CT (to see Doug's folks)
Leg20 Danbury, CT to Meadville, PA (to see John's folks)
Leg21 Meadville, PA to Boulder, CO
Leg22 Boulder, CO to San Jose, CA
Epilogue Epilogue
  Current position of Ponceby.

Satellite data provided by The Living Earth
® Inc./Earth Imaging © 1996, All Rights Reserved

The E90 King Air "Ponceby"

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