Going Places - To Sharjah
By Rodolfo Astrada
It is early morning when we taxi out to Mumbai International runway 27 bound for Sharjah. FSX decided a flight path which will take us over the northwest corner of the Indian Ocean squeezed between the Indian subcontinent and the Arabic Peninsula. Our destination is in the United Arab Emirates, the peninsula looking like a threatening dagger pointed to a dodging Iran, forming the Strait of Hormuz, gateway to the Persian Gulf.
Our first contact with the Arabic Peninsula is the corner location of Ras al Jinz in Oman, where an eco-themed park based on the endangered green turtle powers a lively tourist attraction. Close to Ras al Jinz is the village of Ras al Hadd where until 1507 there used to be the town of Quryiat. That year Commander Alfonso de Albuquerque razed it to make sure no rebellion to the Portuguese rule was to spring for a long time.
Portugal bears no resemblance today to the maritime imperial power it was in the 16th and 17th Centuries; actually it was in the 20th century when the last overseas possessions like Macao were released. Far East trade used to be by earthbound along the Silk Road, its terminal controlled by Ottomans in the Mediterranean shores, and by Venice by sea for further distribution in Europe. It was only natural for Spain and Portugal to try to figure out how to bypass the middlemen; Columbus convinced the Spanish Catholic King and Queen to go west on a hypothetical round Earth. Portuguese Vasco Da Gama instead turned East at Cape of Good Hope and on to India, all that before the discovery of America. Portugal focused on establishing a lucrative network of trade hubs spanning all the way to China and Japan and after the discovery of America in 1492 divided the world (except Europe) with Spain through the treaty of Tordesillas.
In the previous feature I mentioned how Mumbai was built around the Portuguese held chain of seven islands later given to Great Britain. The Indian Ocean was much of a Portuguese "Mare Nostrum" from roughly 1500 to well after 1600. Albuquerque conquered the entrance to the Red Sea at Socotra, and later Muscat, which just happens not by coincidence to be sliding abeam to the left of our flight path, on the eastern shore of Oman.
Back to the MD11 we are now flying courtesy of Simmer's Sky. I cannot asses how accurate this flight model is, but find it convincing. Noticeably ponderous, it takes heavy driving to start moving in any axis and then equally heavy opposite drive to stop it. She needs precision handling and advanced planning, to closely watch numbers. The MD11 has a bad reputation with respect to hard / bounced landings, had several mishaps resulting in hull loss for that matter, which prompted review of training procedures. Seems like from the cockpit it is difficult to notice a bounce which in turn may elicit ill timed control inputs. Stabilator size had been reduced with respect to the smaller DC-10 to improve aerodynamic efficiency, placing a fuel tank inside to trim with weight but this scheme reduced crosswind performance and made it trickier to land than similar sized planes. In the simulator at least, I had an initial spate of landing crashes I still cannot figure out exactly why, I mean not the obvious blunders but flares and touchdowns which did not look out of the ordinary yet FSX fastidiously cried foul.
I don't know whether wariness about landing performance was the case, but I recently caught a probably expensive inconvenience for Lufthansa cargo operations. October 19, 2016 was a stormy day here in Montevideo with high winds, rain and thunderstorms. I was watching D-ALCD from Curitiba approaching Carrasco runaway 24 with winds from the south - don't remember precisely, probably about 20 kts, maybe more, and gusting. Fact is about 2 miles from the threshold it poured coal and headed to Buenos Aires without ever looking back. Buenos Aires was also stormy but a little less intense. Then past midday it departed to Montevideo as scheduled before diversion, only to racetrack for almost an hour and give up, back to Buenos Aires and then Dakkar. I do not know the circumstances under which it was dispatched - it is only 90 nm Buenos Aires - Montevideo, only to hold, wait and finally abort. Other airlines operated normally in Montevideo that day, A330 / A320 / 737 / 777 / CRJ. To be fair an ATR 72 diverted too, but may be understandable. Perhaps some reader happens by chance to have inside info, should love to learn.
Last time we reviewed how after a tale of leaps and bounds, Boeing succeeded to lead the civil air travel industry with model 707, the first jetliner to attain significant impact. Douglas was soon playing catch-up with the DC-8 also in the same year of 1958, also a four engine plane in the same layout. Convair and Lockheed, the other major competitors in the commercial aviation arena, did not seem to foresee turbojet engines as being the wave of future so stuck to propeller driven - albeit turboprop. In Europe De Havilland continued manufacturing the Comet 4, while Sud Aviation launched the unconventional Caravelle with rear mounted engines, setting a trend that continues to this day in private jets and regional airliners.