After arrival in Erzurum.
But let’s start at the beginning. Around 4:30 AM (the time I set my alarm for) I was fast asleep and dreaming I was in the Koksijde Flying Club’s buildings (where I work on the weekends) talking to whoever. Suddenly I said to myself, “Damn, what am I doing here? I’m supposed to be in Turkey on my ferry flight. I will be late for my flight again! If only I can wake myself up somehow.”. The next thing I know I’m awake and I look at my smartphone: 4:35. What? That must be the craziest dream I’ve had so far…
Anyway, I made it to the lobby nicely on time but as you could read in my previous post nobody showed up. It was clear the agent that dropped me off and agreed to pick me up at 5 AM had a change of heart. Understandably… 40 minutes later a random taxi guy showed up and took me to the airport. After stopping for a car that flipped over in the middle of the long dark deserted road to the airport, we made it well in time for my planned 6:20 departure. With a bit of language barrier but helped by my 747 captain outfit it became clear to them I was on a private flight and needed to get to the air side. I must say however that the officials are generally quite understanding and helpful, even when you can’t communicate with them 😛
It was darker than I hoped for at sunrise due to the cloud cover so I pushed my flight plan a bit until I could tell the mountains from the clouds, since I was going VFR. The weather was OK at Sivas but there arent many stations in between. The METARs looked OK so I would give it a go.
I departed east at mountain top level, 8000 feet and was able to maintain that for a while. Thanks to the GPS695 with terrain I had very good situational awareness and was able to maintain solid VFR manouvering myself through mountain passes and around their tops.
But about 60 NM out of Erzurum it started to rain and the visibility dropped. I was flying in limit VFR conditions (about 5 KM in rain and 1500 feet above ground) at 7000 to 7500 feet with mountains reaching 8000 easily left and right. The approach to Erzurum is in a narrow valley of about 10 NM wide.
Luckily the weather didn’t deteriorate and I was able to continue with room for a 180 degree turn escape at any time. But boy, was I glad to see the runway!
After landing it quickly became clear that there had been an unfortunate misunderstanding. There is no AVGAS. I considered MOGAS and even went out to get 40L but in the end I knew that was a dumb idea. No way was I going to put this oily, murky super 95 car fuel that reeked of alcohol into this fine IO550B and fly it in marginal weather towards 13000 feet mountains in Iran. No. No….
So there I was. Stuck in Erzurum. Since landing yesterday morning at 8:30 AM I have been trying to find a solution. The only real solution is trucking in fuel at a cost of 2000 USD. For 60 gallons. Now, 36 hours later I am still in Erzurum trying to pay for this fuel and the truck still has to depart from a place 1100km away. Tomorrow the weather is OK but from Monday on the rain is coming and Allah only knows how long it will remain like that. So for now I’m not going anywhere….
The good thing from all this was that the young man from Celebi handling (who kept calling me captain) was very helpful and we even went for a bite in the evening. To finish off we had a Turkish coffee in a 300 year old coffee house and talked politics and religion.
Tourism here practically doesn’t exist so everything is very genuine and you get a good sense of what these people and their culture is like. Strangely enough I did not see any terrorists or radical muslims, go figure! (this was sarcasm) Today I spent the whole day in the hotel trying to fix the AVGAS problem to finally go out and try the local meatballs in a stunning looking restaurant (which is probably very normal to the locals).
I hope that they can send the fuel tomorrow and with a lot of luck I can still depart in the last hour of light although I highly doubt that.