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Through the eye of a needle - Skardu to Gilgit


Davecook

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This is a reconstruction of a real flight I took some time back in the mid-1980's. I was working for British Aerospace and we were trying to sell the BAe146 to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to use on their domestic routes which included some tricky airfields up in the Himalayas. We had planned to carry out a demonstration flight and a team of us went out to Pakistan to reconnoitre the route by flying on a PIA scheduled service from Islamabad to Skardu, Gilgit then back to Islamabad. As I had a camera I sat in the cockpit jumpseat to take pictures, including the particularly hazardous approach into Gilgit.

 

The day began before dawn as we had to get to Gilgit by 10am otherwise, at over 4,000 ft altitude, it would have been too hot for the elderly F27 to take off. I actually noticed on the Aircraft Manufacturer's Data Plate mounted in the aircraft entrance that the airframe was older than I was at that time!

 

The flight up to Skardu was spectacular and visibility was excellent. The crew advised that, on clear days such as this, one can sometimes see the dead bodies of climbers, in their brightly coloured climbing suits, hanging off the sides of the mountains.

 

We unloaded our first passengers at Skardu and took off into the rising sun, circling around the wide Indus floodplain and heading for the valley that would take us to Gilgit. This would be like threading cotton through the eye of a needle, hand flying an F27 at 220 knots, 10,000 ft, through the narrowest of mountain valleys.

 

 

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Departing Skardu ... our route will take us through the valley behind us.

 

 

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Heading west from Skardu, into the eye of the needle ...

 

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The valley gets narrower ...

 

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... and we are treated to spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains.

 

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At times we had to make very sharp turns, changing from one valley to the next ...

 

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As we neared Gilgit the valley starts to open out again and we see signs of habitation where people were cultivating the rich soil,

 

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For some reason the Gilgit airstrip has been built across the valley.

 

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Landing procedure is to aim for the mountain and, just before you hit it, TURN LEFT!!!

 

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On the ground at Gilgit.

 

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Gilgit departure procedure:

1. Throttles to the firewall, brakes off ...

2. V1, V2 rotate,

3. Positive rate of climb? Wheels up.

4. TURN RIGHT!!!

 

 

Try this flight for yourself. Take an F27 or similar twin turboprop and hand fly from Skardu to Gilgit, not exceeding 10,000 ft. A good mesh and additional add-on scenery will make the journey all the more interesting and spectacular. Enjoy.

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And just in case you think I am making all this up here are some of the photos I took ...

 

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Spectacular mountain scenery on the way up to Skardu

 

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Circling around over Skardu after take off. Our route to Gilgit is through the valley behind.

 

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The valley gets narrower ...

 

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... and narrower ...

 

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... and narrower ...

 

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Sometimes it felt like you could reach out and touch the rocky outcrops ...

 

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Fantastic mountain views!

 

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The Indus valley starts to widen and we see signs of civilisation.

 

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First view of Gilgit, built ACROSS the valley!

 

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When you can read the message picked out in white stones on the mountainside it is time to turn left! (The message reads: Gilgit Serena Lodge welcomes you!)

 

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Turning onto finals ...

 

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On the ground at Gilgit. Although I had special permission to take photos in the air I did not have permission to take photos on the ground and so this picture was taken through a hole in my Flight Bag. The pilots are probably enjoying a well-earned retirement by now. After carrying out flights like this day in - day out I wish them a long and happy one, they have earned it !!!

My rig specs: ASUS P8Z77-V Rev3 IZ77 4D3 LGA1155; Intel Core I7 3770K Ivy Bridge3 5gHz/8Mo; SSD 500Go Agility3; DD SATA-III, 1To, 7200T, 64Mo cache; DDRAM III PC-12800, 2 x 4 Go; NVidia 1060GTX TI SC 6Gb 1563-E3 (not over-clocked); Power supply - 850W Corsair HX850; Windows 7 Pro 64bits, FSX Gold (SP1+2, Acceleration).
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That was some adventure you had there Dave. A nice recreation of the flight and super shots of it. :cool: :cool: :D

 

I spent two years in Lahore, Pakistan in the late 1960s and flew in PIA F-27s several times, into Peshawar and once to Kabul. Also flew PIA HS-Tridents to Karachi and Rawalpindi on occasion as well. Some white knuckle experiences in the mountains especially when the visibility was poor. :)

Larry

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