I started flying the Fokker F-27 on 15 September 1969 as First Officer. Between this date and end of October 1970, I did 51 trips to the Northern Areas from Rawalpindi, comprising 25 trips to Skardu and 26 to Gilgit with the following ten captains, of whom only five are alive now.
From the captains, I learnt to treat the weather with respect and caution in the forbidding terrain we used to fly. Initially, there were moments when their experience showed, such as in one incident, where the captain aborted the flight in a descent just before entering the approach valley into Skardu, although the tower had reported it clear from its side of vision. There were other captains who took chances and sometimes paid for their folly through lives and aircraft lost. In fact, one Fokker F-27 is still missing for about twenty years while returning from Gilgit.
Skardu and Gilgit lie in Baltistan which lies on a northwest axis between the world’s two highest mountain ranges, the Himalayas to the south and the Karakorams to the north. The Karakorams extend 250 miles (400 Km) from the Hunza Valley above Gilgit to the Western borders of Tibet, an unbroken chain of soaring peaks and glacier-filled valleys that, unlike the Himalayas, have no interesting passes, and are thus virtually inaccessible to travellers or commerce.
Skardu runway orientation is 32/14 with a length of 11,944 feet x 100 feet width, Elevation 7316 feet mean sea level. Gilgit runway is 25/07 with a length of 5,400 feet x 98 feet. Elevation is 4796 feet mean sea level.
My impressions of the captains I flew with
1. Shaukat Ali: ex-Air Force became a terror on all equipment he flew with first officers and flight engineers, whom he used to grill with questions. Was vindictive, but an able pilot.
2. S.A.H. Rizvi (Syed Ahmad Hussain Rizvi): ex Air Force. Was my mentor into the Northern Areas. Suffered a heart attack and was off flying later in 1970
3. Sharif: ex Air Force. Was known as a professional in the mountains and was one of the few who could take another route behind Nanga Parbat into Gilgit. Was Chief Pilot in 1969 at Rawalpindi when I reported to him in August for training on the Fokker F-27.
4. Osman Khan: ex Air Force, and extremely sensitive to weather. Died after a second round of heart surgery and was in flight safety after being medically grounded. He did my route clearance for Beijing / Tokyo on the 707 as a captain.
5. Rahat: ex Air Force. Known as the father of Fokker. Did not accept higher equipment for personal reasons and flew till retirement on Fokker in the mountains from Rawalpindi Base. An able instructor and pilot, he was known to Fokker in Holland for his experience. Sadly, he died in a car accident after retirement. In 1975, I flew with captains Rahat and Ghori to Salalah and Masirah in the UAE on the F-27.
6. Masud Ahmad: ex Air Force. Became Chief Pilot after Sharif left for higher equipment when I was posted to Rawalpindi in August 1975 as a captain. Honest and critical in his appraisal, but with a sadistic streak. Died from a heart attack after conversion on B707.
7. Fida: A good and safe pilot. Didn’t take chances. Suffered a heart attack while on B707. Passed away. Captain Fida used to take the route from Peshawar to Dera Ismail Khan which was actually a tangent to a mountain range.
8. Nayyar: ex Air Force, former instructor at PAF College Risalpur. Kept aloof and was a bachelor at the time. Stickler for detail, used to fill in the log book himself in a very neat hand. Aborted one flight with me near Abbottabad due rising cumulus. First Officer Talat mentioned a tricky spot with him when they had to use flaps to get out in a valley deep in the mountains near Gilgit. Also flew with him on the 707.
9. Amin Akhtar: dare devil. Had unlimited confidence in his ability to read the weather radar. Notorious for never cancelling or delaying a departure due weather. He was involved in a DC-3 accident in the Northern Areas with another captain.
10. Abbas: rather strict with new first officers. Remained a bachelor till I knew him
11. Zahid Hussain Khan Jamali: Joined the airline with me
12. Pervaiz Saeed: joined the airline with me
|16||X||AP-AUX||Shaukat Ali||1 Takeoff|
|17||X||AP-AUX||Shaukat Ali||1 Takeoff|
|3||X||AP-ALW||S.A.H. Rizvi||1 Takeoff|
|9||X||AP-AUX||S.A.H. Rizvi||1 Takeoff|
|29||X||AP-ALW||Osman Khan||Extra Section|
1 Takeoff, 1 Landing
|7||X||AP-AUX||Shaukat Ali||Pk 629, 1 Landing|
Pk 626-1 Takeoff; Pk 627-1 Landing
|15||X||AP-ALW||Rahat||Extra Section; 1 Takeoff, 1 Landing|
|25||X||AP-AUW||S.A.H. Rizvi||1 Take off|
|4||X||S.A.H. Rizvi||Extra Section, trip aborted near Golf Course (Zulu Bend); 2 hours, 1 Takeoff|
|23||X||Masud Ahmad||Trip aborted, 50 minutes round trip|
|20||X||AP-ALM||S.A.H. Rizvi||Pk 627, 1 Landing|
|19||X||AP-ALW||S.A.H. Rizvi||Pk 626, 1 Takeoff|
|5||X||AP-ALW||Amin Akhtar||Could bring only one passenger from Skardu because of temperature and weight limitation.
Aircraft was flown by First Officer Ejaz-ul-Huk, who was P1 u/s, in the centre of the valley by the direct route.
Cloud base was restrictive.
|Requested transfer to Lahore and on Oct 11, 1970, operated first flight from Lahore Base.|
1 Landing at RWP
Featured image map includes Chitral, Gilgit & Skardu