Johannesburg to Cairo in a Vision Jet
FALA – FAWI – HKJK – HSSS – HECA (Vision Jet Service bulletin service) 3500 nm
As the only approved Cirrus Service centre in Africa, Cirrus South Africa was the perfect option to assist a Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet that was in Egypt and required a standard service bulletin completed as issued by Williams international.
The Cirrus South Africa crew completed the service bulletin on their own G2 Vision Jet and then flew up to assist the grounded Vision jet.
Day one saw the 3 crew, (2 x pilots and 1 Engineer) begin with a COVID test and then after waiting for the negative test result, they departed FALA at 1300 L. Due to the restrictions on international travel, customs and immigration through FALA was a breeze and took less than 45 mins after arriving at the terminal before we were airborne.
The first leg was 844 nm direct over Zimbabwe to Lilongwe, Malawi to refuel. We fought a fair amount of weather departing the northern part of SA as tropical storm Eileen was making herself present even though we were more than 300 miles from the centre. Luckily the Vison jet is well equipped with De – icing boots as well as weather radar to keep us away from the red stuff.
We had some good chatter on 123.45 over ZIm, as there was a 2019 SR 22 G6 below us routing from Nairobi back to Lanseria for its annual service, there are 3 SR 22’s based in Harare, and it was a pleasure having the skies so busy with the Cirrus family.
We flew the RANV into runway 14 at Lilongwe breaking cloud at 2000ft AGL with beautiful scenery welcoming us into Malawi, although with a 11 kt tailwind on landing. The Puma Fuel crew were there to meet us at the parking bay, we had made coms on final approach, they told us they had been waiting for the Cirrus Jet the last week, as there are 2 Cirrus SR 22’s based in Malawi and had told them we would be arriving soon. They even made the effort of charging their credit card machine, which they were very proud of (We have refuelled there a few times over the last few years and this was the first time it was working!)
The only delay was the ground crew taking photos of the jet (which was to become a regular delay on this trip!) and then we were on our way, with a request for runway 32!
At level 310 we were above most of the weather, and made such a difference flying through Malawi, normally in the SR22 we fly at 11 000ft and we are right in the middle of the sporadic thunderstorms known to the area. Malawi is always the most incredible country to fly over, the terrain is lush and green and lake Malawi is the eighth largest lake in the world. A truly unbelievable sight flying over a lake where you can’t see the other side from 31 000ft.
AS night fell, the African continent turned dark, a beautiful sunset kept the spirits high as we flew over Tanzania and abeam Mt Kilimanjaro in the distance. Coming into Jomo Kenyatta International in Nairobi was beautiful, the skies had cleared up and the lights from the massive city were breath-taking, there were 9 aircraft in sequence for the vectored ILS into 06 and we landed without delay.
The ground crew were exceptionally friendly and efficient, the size of the apron there is unbelievable and full of aircraft from all over the world, and not just grounded like the rest of the world, but operational and busy. The Sheraton hotel 2 miles form the airport offered supreme accommodation and after a long day flying, well-cooked steaks and ice-cold Tusker larger was exactly what was needed. Being able to purchase a cold beer at a restaurant was a luxury us South Africans were not used to; we were in great spirits and looking to a good night’s rest and another long day flying to reach our destination the next day.
Nairobi Jomo is a special airfield, not only extremely large (larger than OR Tambo) but underground refuelling pods and a friendly ground crew make this a perfectly efficient place to stop. Amongst all the aircraft on the apron, the Vision Jet was making an impression. At one stage we had 4 follow me cars and a fuel truck around us which resulted in a quite a gathering of people to come take pictures and ask about this little Jet that they had not seen before.
A full tank of gas and a few pics later and we were first in que for a departure off 06 with a SID to level 300, max rate of climb was instructed to clear Mt Kenya, the second highest mountain range in Africa.
Our fuel stop for this day was Khartoum in the Sudan, 1043 nm away, at 285 kts with a head wind this was 4 hours of flying. What a pleasure 4 hours in a vision jet is, Bluetooth connectivity to our iPhone and the old school music was blearing, a packed breakfast from the hotel was delicious plus the views of Africa mid-morning are exquisite. Our Engineer in the back had the in-flight entertainment system going, which means the 22” fold down TV was set up and HD entertainment direct through his own headphones kept him entertained for hours
The stop in Khartoum is quick and the handlers there, besides charging a fortune, get the fuel to us without delay and with a smile on their face, although the facilities are nothing to write home about! What is impressive is the aircraft graveyard that seems to basically be the entire airport, old Antonov An-74, Mi -35’s and Mi-8’s. a very interesting stop in the heart of Africa, and always a friendly South African voice over the radio!
The final leg of the 3500 nm flight was the most educational, Following the Nile river from the Sudanese border at Lake Nasser all the way to Cairo. The Red sea to the East is noticeable and beautiful. The stark contrast between the arid Egyptian desert and the fertile green river banks along the Nile are incredible, and observing how the River supplies life to the area is magical. Arriving into Cairo in the front seat of your Personal Jet is something incredible that only a blessed few have the privilege of having. As the city begins to build around this massive river, the obvious landmarks are clear as day. The First sight of Pyramids from the air, leap us to conclude they are ‘The’ pyramids of Giza; however, we are mistake, just as impressive however are the Saqqara Necropolises, the Oldest pyramids of Egypt, the South Western area below Cairo is actually the ‘heart’ of the Egyptian pyramids with the oldest and most unique forms of Pyramids in the region. We are not disappointed though and soon enough as we position onto a final approach into Cairo, we see the pyramids of Giza to the north west of our position, what a sight! As we continue on for Cairo international we really get the feeling for how massive is, not only the city, but the airport. Cairo city has a population of 10 million people, it is incredible the buildings and how the city has developed as one of the oldest cities in the world, with history spreading from the Ancient Egyptians, Romans, Saladin, Mamluks, Ottomans and the British over the centuries.
The Cairo Airport is 37 square km’s with 3 parallel runways, with massive hotels and shopping centres between them, it really is impressive the size of the airport. After a taxi of what seemed like forever to our bay at the VIP / Biz jet section of the airport we finally arrived into a hot and humid Ciro, the real work was about to start.
The bureaucracy in Egypt started straight away and did not end until we had left the airspace, needless to say there was a lot of waiting and a lot of payments to get us even though the building, or back to our aircraft to collect bags. You don’t want to know the process for ‘security tags’ in order to get through to the hangarage area to awork on the aircraft. We will not be complaining about the Lanseria AVSEC course again! Although we landed at 1400 local, we were only cleared out at about 1800, even though we were the only people in the area. Our desire to begin work that day was decided for us. The plan to begin at 0700 the next morning was also decided for us as we would only be allowed into the airport at 1000h. So, we did what any good aviators would do, we went to the hotel for food and drinks.
The next day saw our Engineer and his 2 ‘apprentices’ arrive at the hanger and begin work immediately on the Vision jet. Fortunately, we had just completed the work back home and so the ‘appies’ were set to work clearing the area and securing bubble wrap and clean surface material to the hanger and the chief engineer got to the hard work. The work was non-stop that day, but we made good progress, the William’s engine is beautiful and simple in its design, by the end of the day we were well ahead of schedule. Day 2 brought us back to finish the job, clean up the hanger and give the Williams engine a thorough clean and run to ensure all aspects were running as required, which they dually were. The most difficult part was now having to negotiate having to pay $200 for the use of a step ladder in the hanger we were renting.
The job complete, a jet safe for flight and a customer happy to be on his way, the Cirrus South Africa team was mission accomplished and luckily had an afternoon free before having to return home. All the bureaucracy and dust and dirt were all worthwhile, when standing in front of the Sphynx and 3 great pyramids of Giza. Truly remarkable feats of engineering and a bucket list item for everyone for sure. The Cirrus life has taken us to some remarkable places and this was another place we will never forget. After a very enjoyable week, we packed up the aircraft and before we knew it, we were back in the air routing back to South Africa, ready to take on the next challenge.