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Malta to Gibraltar   Israel to Malta   Jordan to Israel

Live Satelite Image
Satellite data provided by The Living Earth Inc./Earth Imaging 1996, All Rights Reserved.

LEG 13: Tel Aviv (LLBG) to Malta (LMML), 14 August 1998, 5.7 hours

"The rolling hills near Eli and the house where we stayed near John’s sister Julie’s home."


Transponder Solution

Mr. Raam Shaoul, of both FedEx and our handlers in Tel Aviv, Laufer Aviation, did a yeoman’s job of helping expedite delivery of our replacement transponder. He had LAC ship it direct to him at FedEx Station Tel Aviv (TLV), and it arrived Thursday morning, 13 August, at 5:00 a.m. He called us later that morning to coordinate clearing the part through customs. While he said he could probably do the clearing without us, after I faxed him copies of my passport and pertinent info, he thought it best that we come back to the airport to make sure everything went smoothly. Given that their weekend began the next morning (Friday) and no officials would be around, we agreed that it was best to make yet another trip to Ben Gurion, and so cancelled our sightseeing plans, and made another hellacious trip to the airport.

We called our handlers, Laufer Aviation, at noon to have them arrange transport, and arrange for the transponder, fueling, air for the tires and other predeparture preparations to be ready for our arrival at 3:00 p.m., and to arrange return transportation for us back to Eli at 6:00 p.m. With the exception of Raam Shaoul, who saved our hides by expediting the transponder delivery, Laufer was a total disaster. When we arrived as scheduled at 3pm, they had done nothing we’d asked them to do three hours earlier. I spoke to the Duty Officer about our problems, and she took no responsibility, saying that they were very busy (as if we all aren’t!), and that we’d have to wait. After 1.5 hours sitting outside her office with nothing happening, we insisted we be taken out to the plane to get going on our work and to await receipt of the transponder.

"Doug opening our newly-received transponder, shipped to us Top Urgent AOG (Aircraft on Ground), at Ben Gurion International."


After an hour at the plane, where we had to figure out starting the GPU ourselves, we had entered the next day’s flight plans into both GPS’s, and were ready for the transponder, which was delivered to our hands at 4:30 p.m. While we were working in the plane, Transponder #2 had miraculously healed itself, and was working for a full hour. We tried #1, and it worked for about 10 minutes and then died. Then #2 quit again. We installed the new (reconditioned) Wilcox 1014A in the #1 bay and powered it up. It worked like a champ for 15 minutes, but once we put the nose panel back on, it pressed hard against the antenna and connector harness, and the unit failed within 5 minutes.

By this time, it was almost 5:30 p.m., our return ride was due in 30 minutes, Laufer had still not gotten the fuel truck to us, and we had no working transponder. We had begun to suspect the problem was with the installation on the right-hand side (#1 bay), and so decided to put the new transponder in the #2 bay, move the former #2 to the right-hand side, and see if that worked. Meanwhile, after our third radio call to Laufer and their further excuse that they were too busy to deal with us, they said they thought they could get fuel to us within half an hour, and that they could push back our car departure. We swapped transponders, and the new one seemed to work in the #2 spot, and the fuel truck showed up at 6:00 p.m. They gouged the paint while fueling, and kept us there for 45 minutes while doing an incompetent job. By the time we got everything closed up and got transport back to the terminal, it was 7:30 p.m. before we got on the road for another nightmare taxi ride back to Eli and Julie’s house.

Doug had been having major pain in his left shoulder ever since a brutal massage in Singapore. Between the awkward work of installing the new transponder, and being thrown all over in the back of a mad cab ride back to Eli, he collapsed in excruciating pain at the house. The pain got so bad that we nearly braved another 45-minute ride to the emergency room in Jerusalem. But between heavy-duty painkillers, a bottle of wine and some good spaghetti prepared by Julie, Doug slowly came back to life and we continued our plans to leave in the morning. Julie offered to give us a nice, quiet, calm ride to the airport, and we gladly accepted.

"John’s sister Julie and family at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem"


The Flight

Our departure from Israel was not without incident, but we were anxious to move on ASAP. There were delays in filing our flight plan, and getting our departure slot. The forecast winds were also much stronger than expected, up to 35 to 40 knot headwinds for parts of the leg, so we decided to put additional fuel in the ferry tanks. The fuel guys were able to make it to the plane within an hour this time, but were even more incompetent than the day before. We wanted just 300 liters in Ferry #1, and needed the fuel guy to watch the meter since we could not see it. He only wanted to flirt with our handling agent. As John was fueling the tank, the driver did something to the truck that resulted in a pressure surge, blowing the nozzle out of John’s hands and creating a geyser of fuel soaking John and the cabin. After cleaning all that up and resuming fueling, the whole thing happened again, when the fuel guy ignored the meter, and the tank overflowed at 600 liters. What a mess!

Another minor, but persistent, problem we’ve had has been with food. We try to order catering at most stops, so we can eat lunch during our long flights. We always order the same thing: two turkey sandwich box lunches. No one can seem to get this order right: they charge exorbitant fees and delivery inedible food. Again, Laufer was the worst on the trip, delivering trays of inedible fish and assorted, unidentifiable salads. Even the bread was bad! So, on top of everything else, we had to go hungry on the flight after paying through the nose for the privilege.

We were ecstatic to get out of Israel and back into relatively civilized travelling. The new transponder worked like a champ in the #2 position, and was a big help now that we were back to flying largely in a radar environment. We have also had solid VHF coverage since Israel, and it’s a delightful change not having to mess with the HF. Even though we were radar identified at the start of the trip, Athens Control seemed to slide into semi-radar operations, asking for partial position reports without ever calling "radar services terminated." Everyone on the frequency seemed to make abbreviated position reports, even though the transponder was replying steadily throughout.

"John and our first major chart refile. This involved ten standard Jeppesen binders and took over an hour."


Our flight took us over Crete and the Sitia VOR, which was familiar from our flight in the area last year in the Bonanza. It was good to see Crete again, as we flew the East-West length of the island. Then it was on to the island of Malta, just south of Sicily.

"Navigating and Hiding from the Sun"


As we were handed of from Athens to Malta Approach, we were given a new transponder code, and the controller called "radar identification," so we stopped giving position reports. We were with Malta Approach for the last hour of the flight, and were entertained by an especially frisky Air Malta pilot with a heavy Italian accent. Among other funny comments, after the controller asked him to maintain best rate of climb following his departure from Malta he said, "I give you good rate. I’m old, but I climb good." He had a bunch of other funny one-liners before leaving the frequency for Athens.

"On final approach at Malta, looking aft over the flap"


Go to Next Leg | Back to Top

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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