I must confess that I really did not know what I was getting myself into flying a Moth through Egypt and Sudan, at least so far. I am not easily deterred, but Africa has given me a crash course in how differently private aviation works in other parts of the world!
I thought I would give a few more details about landing in Cairo. First, I had a very long flight from Crete over the Mediterranean – close to 6 hours in a survival suit. After the brief 2-hour turnaround in Mersa Matruh I got airborne again for October 6 Airport outside of Cairo.
A 2.5-hour flight on paper turned into almost 4 hours, because of the way Egyptian airspace is arranged and maintained. Should I return to Egypt in the future, I will know better, but this particular afternoon I was not expecting that the air traffic control (ATC) would have me flying almost northbound to reach my destination in the southeast! Eventually I got a southerly course after Alexandria, but I realized that the setting sun was going to be a problem. I would not be able to land at October 6 after dark. I knew that I had support at October 6, but the ATC refused to let me take a shortcut, even after I had explained my distress.
I had no choice but to land at Cairo International airport after being radar vectored in total darkness and having only the light from my mobile phone screen (perfect light!). My landing at 05R was demanding but it went well, and after almost 30 minutes taxiing I parked and was relieved that at last I was safely on the ground.
A lot of people came out and admired the Moth and took pictures. The police appeared as well. We began to discuss the cameras when they saw my fixed camera positions on the airplane. I took out the Gopro cameras to show them, and with that the cameras were confiscated. I was detained while the authorities studied the equipment and films. After a long time passed, I found out that they suspected that I had illegally filmed military installations.
We then went through a lot of questions and explanations…Finally one of the officers told me I was going to be fine but the procedures had to be followed and it would take all night.
It took a total of 30 hours. I had over 9 hours of Moth flying behind me and was exhausted. In the morning I was finally offered coffee. Egypt Air was my handling agent for this landing; handling is mandatory and cost USD 300-400 – after discount. The Egypt Air staff were very helpful and came with food and drinks, but I was not yet allowed to leave the small police office. I was released close to midnight the next day after landing a little before 1900 the day before.
I am so grateful for Eddie Gold and Ahmed Hassan of General Aviation Support Egypt (G.A.S.E.). Eddie sat and waited until 0200 in the morning, with no idea where I was. Both Eddie and Ahmed will continue as my advisers, and are arranging handling through Africa, for the remainder of the trip. I have realized that this kind of assistance is a must.
My next problem was the short hop from Cairo International to October 6. That Thursday we got the Moth fuelled for this brief trip, which wasn’t too difficult – but arranging all the permits I needed from Egyptian authorities for making just this simple trip was a mammoth task. However, I did have some good luck thanks to retired general Mohammed Badran, who keeps a hangar at October 6. He very kindly lent me space in the hangar for the Moth, away from the dust and harsh UV rays…
I was also glad to accompany Eddie to the pyramids and ride Charlie Brown the camel. I got to relax and have a few beers, but the 5 days in Cairo went fast. I didn’t get to gather a lot of tourist points. I must come back to Egypt someday, but not in a Moth! Perhaps by camel..? At any rate, Egypt is behind me now, and after Dongola I set my sights on Khartoum.
I got a great reception when I landed in Khartoum today (though touching down was maybe a bit more exciting than I would have liked, owing to having a very large airliner right behind me as I approached the runway…more on that later). Representatives from Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority and the Swedish Embassy in Khartoum were waiting to greet me.
Tomorrow the Islamic “feast” holiday called Eid al-Adha begins. Everything will be closed…I will refuel the Moth and give her a bath. She got very dirty during last part of flying today. I will also rest and give Cape to Cape followers more updates and tales of adventure, I hope with 2 blog posts tomorrow. Have a bit of a “backblog” to catch up on!