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Leg 54: Baghdad Intl ORBI to Diagoras (Rhodes) LGRP

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Leg 54: Baghdad Intl ORBI to Diagoras (Rhodes) LGRP

After Luxor, Jasmine departed and flew back to England or so I thought. I went on to Baghdad on my own.  It’s been over fifteen years since the invasion of Iraq but I was still nervous about going there.  The last attack was in April of last year when a funeral in near Al-Shirqat in the north of Iraq, was targeted, Baghdad’s last attack was in January of last year.

I reckoned that being a westerner made me more of a target and I wondered what extra efforts I should take to stay safe. Jasmin had given me a name and a contact number of a man who could help me with personal security, but I was hoping that I would have a short stay and I wouldn’t be going far from the airport in any event.


Hatshepsut Temple, Valley of the kings

After seeing the sights in Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, the tombs and temples etc. I caught a train from Luxor to Cairo. Similar to Luxor, in Cairo I visited the Pyramids, Sphinx etc., and eventually booked an Egypt Air flight to Baghdad.


The Sphinx and a Pyramid

Baghdad International airport doubles up as the New Al Muthana Air Base which is the home of No 23 Squadron IqAF which has three C-130 E aircraft, and the air base also is home to a number of Sukhoi Su-25 aircraft. The latter being Russian may be some of those which hid in Iran during the Gulf War.

I booked into the Baghdad International Airport Hotel which looked like a tarted up military barracks and for all I know it probably was.


Baghdad International Airport Hotel

I had planned to stay in the hotel for all of my stay in Baghdad, but this was changed by the arrival at my door of the guy whose name was mentioned to me by Jasmine. Sami, his first name, I never found out his other names, was an interesting man. Of Iraqi decent, he had first come to Iraq with the King’s Royal Hussars in a tank, subsequently left the army and returned to Iraq to set up a security company and errm… do some work on the side for MI6 shall we say.


Monument of the Unknown Soldier

Sami took me to see the sights in his Range Rover. This was no ordinary vehicle, for a start I noticed that the black tinted windows were ½ an inch thick.  It’s a good job he knew how to drive a tank. We saw the Al-Shaheed Monument, the Baghdad museum, the Monument to the Unknown Soldier (Iran-Iraq war) and several Mosques. All quite interesting but all viewed from the safety of the Range Rover AUV. (Armoured Utility Vehicle).

All of that took a day.  Now all I had to do is wait in the hotel for Joe. Fortunately it was not a long wait and I soon was back at the airport with the baton in my hands, but only after Joe had filmed me holding it and spent a while taking movie shots of the airport in general muttering some sort of commentary to himself. Very strange behaviour, I think he fancies himself as the David Attenborough of the aircraft world.

Back to the job in hand. What I needed was an aircraft. Sami had told me from the outset that the aircraft I would be flying was an RAF Typhoon and that it was almost ready and would be waiting at the New Al Muthana Air Base side of Baghdad International.

I hopped onto a passing airport vehicle and got a lift to the airbase side and. found my aircraft ready and waiting. Next door to the Typhoon there were two civilian aircraft parked up. I asked the driver what they were doing this side of the airfield and all I got in reply was ‘Best not to ask sir’.


Ready for pushback.

I popped into to the tower and made myself known, and was directed to a washroom where I could change into my flying kit.

Checks done and aircraft ready to go I was given a push back which scared the life out of me.  I thought the truck was going to hit me, but it didn’t, just scraping under the nose.

Fully pushed back and with taxi clearance I set off for the active runway.


Pushed back and pointing in the right direction.

I bumped and swayed over the taxiway, the general state of the hard standing was not so good, and eventually arrived at the active runway.


Bumping along to the active runway.

Where I was told to wait. Now I would have thought a warbird would be allowed a bit of priority in the take-off queue, but no.  These civies had paid for their takeoff slotts and I was just an inconvenience so I had to wait my turn.


Waiting at the threshold.

When I was allowed to go, the tower, unsure of my aircrafts performance, was concerned that I might catch up with the last aircraft to take-off and so I was asked how much space I needed to transit to 10,000 feet.  I replied ‘about one kilometre.  They were confused and asked me to repeat it. They didn’t get it the second time around and so made me wait what they thought was a reasonable amount of time for the aircraft in front to get clear of my take-off.


Afterburners on, gear up.

I executed a full afterburner take-off and a vertical climb to 10,000 feet, slightly less than a kilometre from the airfield I was at 10,000 feet.


Vertical Climb

Once at my cruising altitude of 20,000 ft, ATC called me up and said that an old friend wanted to formation fly with me for a while. I asked what aircraft and was told it was an RAF Tornado.  I agreed and soon the Tornado appeared on my starboard wing.


Tornado Joining

It was the aircraft was that I had flown on my last flight.  As it drew closer I recognised Jasmine in the back seat flipping two fingers at me with a big grin on her face. So much for her going home then.


Over the lake

We flew in formation over Therthar lake, and westward until we were over Syria.


Goodbye Tornado.

When about 200KM into Syria Jasmin gave me a wave and the Tornado peeled off and dived down to a very low level. As they turned away I noticed the array of munitions slung under the aircraft. Someone in some terrorist organisation was about to have a very bad day.


Passing over Al-Salamiyah

I proceeded westward over the baron looking landscape that was Syria occasionally passing a green and populated area like an island in a sandy sea.


The Syrian coastal mountains

Approaching the coastal mountain range, the landscape began to change, seeming to get greener as we approached the eastern Mediterranean Sea.


Approaching the coast

By now the cockpit was getting very hot as the relentless sun beat down on the Perspex, magnified by its lens like curve.  I fiddled with the environment settings to make it a bit less like a pressure cooker in the cockpit.


The unforgiving sun

The heat and brightness of the sun reminded me of Morocco and the edge of the Sahara which I once found myself crossing baking sand in 52 degrees centigrade heat. But that is another story, and an unpleasant one at that.



Sunny Cyprus crept over the horizon with RAF Akrotiri and cold beers below, but not this Greek and Turkish Isle for me as I continued west north westward. The Turkish coast was to my right just a haze in the far distance, all other directions blue sea now Cyprus was left behind.  But then, first a smudge and then a line followed by a more substantial shape, the island of Rhodes loomed up to greet me. This time a green isle in a deep blue sea.


High Speed pass over Rhodes International Airport

I checked my fuel and saw I had plenty although by now the drop tanks were dry, I decided to give the tourists something to gawp at.  After gaining permission from Diagoras tower I made a high speed pass low over the sea by the side of the airport. I whipped passed the tourist aircraft disgorging Lilly white livestock and boarding the brown and red passengers at each end of their package holidays, at a little over 580 knots, only just below the speed of sound. They probably didn’t hear me coming, but they surely heard me as I passed.


On finals at Diagoras.

Going around and slowing down, a lot, I was soon on finals with the air brake deployed, and the aircraft trimmed for landing.


Landing at Diagoras

I touched down just clear of the piano keys with the air brake out and then deployed the chute. Deceleration was rapid and I soon turned off the runway and was directed to a stand.


Taxi to the stand

A short taxi to the stand bought me passed the civil aircraft. Many of the passengers and crew stopping in their tracks to look again at the fast jet, this time tamed by the ground as it jolted and bounced over the taxiway toward the stand.


On stand and shutting down

On the stand I shut the engines and closed up the aircraft before handing it over to an RAF ground crew who had flown in specially to receive the aircraft.


Last look at the Typhoon

I strolled over to the terminal building, taking a last look at the aircraft as I passed into the building.

In a changing room I got out of the air crew kit and into a more comfortable garb and stepped out into the sunshine on the concourse to look for Mike.


Now just where is Mike?

I guess I will have to find the airport bar and wait there.  So I did. Sipping my Gin and Tonic I reflected back on what was the quietest and most uneventful leg I had flown in a good while. I really enjoyed it.

X-Plane 11

Freeware Eurofighter Typhoon

Freeware ORBI & LGRP

Edited by J G
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