After a heartwarming week of Rotary celebrations and welcome parties, I departed Ambala for Kolkata on July 27th. Once again, the staff of Air Officer Commanding, L.K. Chawla was extremely gracious in helping me get ready for departure. They helped refuel the plane, get the weather briefing and the clearances necessary to depart from an Air Force Base. Due to strong headwinds, the flight from Ambala to Kolkata turned out to be the longest duration flight of the trip to date and I was pretty tired by the time I reached Kolkata. I was received by Sanjay Choudhry, the brother of my close friend Dr. Ajay Chaudhry. The hospitality bestowed on me by Sanjay and his family was par excellent. Thanks Sanjay, it was a delight to visit with you and your family.
But as the saying goes, all good things must end, the departure from Kolkata was entirely a different experience. Kolkata in my opinion is the red tape capital of the world. Avgas is normally not used at this airport and clearance from many departments was required before refueling. Any and all things, no matter how irrelevant, were turned into most important, as your life depended on it. Re-fueling only a barrel of Avgas required five hours. Similar goes for filing flight plan, every little detail had to be perfect and three original signed copies had to be submitted. I was about to start the engine, when the flight service station asked me to come to their office and sign the flight plan. The flight service station unbeknown to me was outside the sterile area of the airport. I had stepped out without taking my identification papers and so was not permitted to come back in. It took two hours of pleading with various authorities before I could get back in. I had reached Kolkata Airport at 7:30 AM, but by the time I finally departed it was 5:00 PM. The flight from Kolkata to Pattaya was 950 NM, longest of the trip with most of it over Bay of Bengal. Normally, I would not fly over Open Ocean during night time, but since the weather was good and I was just so frustrated, I decided not to take a chance on next day and carried on with the flight in the night.
Next stop U-Tapao, Thailand!