Fading Memories


June 26, 1971, AP-ATO,  F-27, Zuberi, LHE-MUX-UET-KHI

Multan elevation is 403 feet, Quetta (Samungli) airfield is 5287 feet and Karachi is 100 feet.

On sector MUX-UET, we crossed a reciprocal F-27 flight near Multan (Capt. Nasim, F/O S.A. Aziz) who gave a cloudy picture enroute and near Quetta. Near destination captain had to be reminded to change to QFF setting for the altimeter. The safety altitude was 14500 feet and we were at or slightly above with the reset altimeter in IMC (clouds) over terrain. A descent was started through a gap in the clouds, and we made it but there was anxiety. After arrival at the ramp, the captain was first out to greet the Governor of Baluchistan, who had travelled with us, and for whom the foolhardiness was enacted.

MUX = Multan; UET = Quetta

QNH = Pressure setting on the altimeter which indicates airfield elevation above sea level on landing, i.e., for Quetta it should read 5280 feet if the setting given is correct. QNH and QFF are almost the same.

QFF = Regional sea level pressure set on the altimeter near Quetta

QFE = Quetta tower gives this altimeter setting prior to landing. With this setting, the altimeter should read zero feet on landing.

IMC = Instrument Meteorological Conditions, meaning you are in clouds and flying on instruments

Standard Setting = once past the Multan area, the altimeter is reset from the Multan QNH to the standard sea level pressure of 1013.2 Millibars or 29.92 inches of Hg. It is reset to QFF near Quetta and finally prior to landing, to QFE. Kilopascals are used now as units of pressure instead of Millibars. The reading is the same but you have to put the decimal correctly.

May 30, 1972 AP-AUW, F-27, Rahat, KHI-Masirah-SLL-Masirah-KHI

  • Salalah elevation is 73 asl
  • SLL = Salalah, Oman

Flight time outbound: 0455; Flight time inbound: 0530

Cockpit crew comprised of Capt S.H. Rahat, Capt F.H.K. Ghori, and First Officer S.M. Husain. This was a flight conducted to carry Pakistani labour working in Salalah. We landed at Masirah Island enroute to discharge some passengers. On departure from Salalah, we were briefed by the airport personnel (British) to avoid the hills on the climb out for there was an insurgency active in the area. On sector Masirah-Karachi, the captains were discussing amongst themselves the depleting fuel situation, as a direct route had been taken from Masirah to destination. A ditching possibility was even considered as an alternative. However we landed safely at destination.

March 18, 1974, AP-AXA, B707, Israr, KHI-JED-NBO

On departure from Jeddah, the flight plan was left behind at the table in the restaurant. The result was hectic activity with the Jeppesen charts and time interpolation to pass on the ETAs to the respective area control centers. Captain didn’t lose his cool but I don’t know who was to be blamed actually?

  • JED = Jeddah; NBO = Nairobi
  • ETA = Estimated time of arrival


AP-AWZ at Heathrow

AP-AWZ at Heathrow

April 18, 1974, AP-AWZ, B707, Ishaq, SIN-KUL-CMB-KHI

Cockpit Crew: Captain M. Ishaq, First Officer Idrees Ahmed , First Officer S.M. Husain, Flight Engineer Fazal, and Navigation Officer  R.I. James

Extensive weather encountered on sector KUL-CMB. Starting with the takeoff in heavy rain with an active thunderstorm, and captain instructing First Officer Idrees to monitor his climb out and observe the VSI for any downward swing. There was a small hill at the end of the runway on the departure end. The radar was on continuously but switched off at times for rest. Continuous flashes of lightning throughout the sector, heavy turbulence, with attendant static discharges on the windshield (St Elmo’s fire). The landing at Colombo was also in rain, in IMC to start with, and through an instrument let down. This flight remains in my memory for a superb display of command.

  • SIN = Singapore; KUL = Kuala Lumpur; CMB = Colombo
  • IMC = Instrument Meteorological Conditions
  • VSI = Vertical Speed Indicator


May 26, 1974, AP-AWV, B707, Hashmi, KHI-RWP-PEK

Captain was hauled up by Air Traffic Control at Beijing, our destination for going off the airway. The Chinese controllers impressed on him to fly the air corridor like a straight line, which is not possible during turns, such as the one beyond Urumchi at Fukang, when you turn to fly east-south-east, the aircraft swings in an arc through more than ninety degrees.

June 15, 1974, AP-AXA (B707), Omair, KHI-ADE-NBO-DAR-NBO

Captain didn’t let me touch the controls on this four sector flight. He must have been really tired at the end. The total flying time was 8.20 hours, not to mention block times. At Dar-es-Salaam, in honour of visiting dignitary Kenneth Kaunda at the airport, we witnessed a spectacular African dance festival, simultaneously with an aging DC-3 doing touch and go at the airport.

  • ADE = Aden
  • DAR = Dar-es-Salaam
  • NBO = Nairobi

Oct 26, 1976, 1716 –2105 Z, Capt. Shafiq Qadri in a B720, AP-ATQ, on sector Jeddah-Nairobi

During a flight to Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta International, we were cleared by the Nairobi Approach for a Runway 06 arrival using the Instrument Landing System (ILS) via the Golf Golf (GG) radio beacon. Captain Shafiq did a hold over GG,  and then continued on to intercept the ILS Runway 06 procedure and landed safely. While parked in the holding area near the runway, and waiting for a KLM flight to touch down, we were queried by the tower for the hold over GG*, as advised by the approach controller. Capt Shafiq apologized for this oversight and was apparently let off for we didn’t hear anything on the matter after that.

*The captain was cleared for an ILS Runway 06 procedure, so the hold over Golf Golf beacon was not authorized. In other words, he had to depart the GG beacon on the instrument landing procedure without any delay, and not hold over GG and then go for the landing procedure.



August 16, 1978,  Siraj Ali, B747-282B, AP-AYV, Sector DXB-RWP, 1230-1527

  • DXB = Dubai, elevation 62 feet asl;
  • RWP/ ISB = Chaklala 1665 feet asl

Timings are GMT or the modern UTC.

It was Ramadan and our arrival at Islamabad was just after Iftar, sunset. Captain was flying the sector and made a visual approach for landing on Runway 30,  after joining right downwind (runway is to right). This means the aircraft is flying in a southeasterly direction (120 degrees magnetic) over Islamabad and short of Barakao Firing Range turns right, and right again to align with the runway (300 degrees magnetic). He had also broken his fast earlier in the cockpit a little while ago.

On final approach after gear and full flaps had been selected, Flight Engineer Hasan alerted me that the aircraft was going below the glideslope (descent path)*. I gave the captain a call of one dot below glideslope as we approached the locator outer marker (5 miles out). This was repeated by me at least twice, all to no avail and the aircraft sank further on the slope as we continued.

I brought my left hand over the power levers meaning to open up immediately. This resulted in the captain coming out of his trance and applying power. We eventually caught up the glide slope and landed safely. During the roll out after landing, the captain admonished me for not giving him proper call outs during the approach. I immediately replied that he should refrain from fasting while flying. He kept quiet. In 1986, the captain survived a serious mishap at the same airfield with another set of crew when the landing was made without the landing gear down.

*For non-aviators, flying the glideslope is descending on an electronic beam via your cockpit instruments (Instrument Landing System). The system is incorporated in aircraft and airport.

On April 22, 1984, B707, AP-AXA, Pakistan Seven Four Four, sector Nairobi-Abu-Dhabi, 1405-1910Z.

After departure from Nairobi (elevation 5546 feet asl) with First Officer Asrar H. Khan,  East Air Centre handed us over to  Mogadishu Tower prior to entering Somali airspace. We established contact with it, and  while heading for Mogadishu,  I heard over the common Radio Telephone (R/T), Mogadishu clearing a Somali flight on a reciprocal track through our level*.

We were in clouds and I immediately contacted Mogadishu repeating time over Mogadishu with flight level, and communicated with the reciprocal flight giving him our data, position and level. I mentioned this in the debrief log and it was taken up by our flight operations department via ICAO with East Air Center.

* Reciprocal means coming from the opposite direction. Through our level means, the opposing direction flight will climb through our cruising level on maybe a collision course.

This clearance can be properly affected in absence of radar, through positive knowledge of aircraft’s position and timed separation. Thereafter on many other flights over Somalia, Mogadishu Tower never replied to my transmissions though we kept the channel open. There was another frequency 126.7 MHz on which all aircraft used to give blind transmissions giving their data to listeners whoever was interested and 121.5, the international distress was kept selected on the secondary VHF communication receiver.

Photos are courtesy of Historyof PIA.com.

One thought on “Fading Memories

  1. In March 1995 I travelled on AP
    AYV 747282 from London Heathrow via Dubai to Karachi then onto lahore on
    PIA A310.
    During my departure day I was getting
    Married in lahore and was travelling
    With my late father . We travelled to Heathrow with my 2 other brothers and got T3 departures and was the told the aircraft had a technical problem .. PIA
    Need not have the shame of telling us passengers that the aircraft had gone tech and we should not come to the airport . However through sources via
    My uncle who was a manager at PIA
    Cargo heathrow told us that the B747
    Has been having engine changes not one but all 4 or 3.
    Anyway the following night we departed
    2 days late . This how PIA used to treat
    There passengers nearly 24 yrs ago .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.