TBM Experience Massimo
TBM 940 N940XX
Flying over the land of the ‘One Thousand and One nights’
Massimo Casini is a newcomer to the TBM World. This Italian lawyer, took delivery of his brand new TBM 940 N940XX in October. Since his delivery he got a lot of attention from the TBM flying community because being based in United Arab Emirates, a region not reputed for being general aviation friendly. In reality the situation is somewhat different
After delivery of his TBM 940, he immediately started an intense Training Program, with a lot of corss country flying to acquire experience on his airplane in only 2 weeks, combining business and pleasure travel needs with flying practice.
“Jean Pechabadens, my TBM flight instructor, was particularly good and bring me, a pilot with very limited experience on turboprop an zero experience on Garmin Avionics, rusted by years of inactivity, to fly decently the fantastic TBM 940.” Commented the new TBM owner.
With about 65 hours logged on TBM, last November he felt confident enough to come back to his home base at Sharjah airport, UAE, from Lugano, Switzerland, via Brindisi, Italy and Cairo.
Except some bad weather over South of Italy and Greece, he described the flight as ‘uneventful’.
Next stopover was Cairo International Airport, the second busiest airport in Africa after Johannesburg, which serves the Egyptian capital. On the giant airport, general aviation is also welcome and the TBM pilot praised the very professional and friendly air traffic controllers. Customs were also very efficient. After 10 minutes he was cleared through the local FBO. So he and his wife could enjoy a night in Cairo with the unmissable dinner overseeing the Pyramids.
The following day after a easy vectoring by Cairo Control - Cairo Int. do not have SIDs - they were on their way to Sharjah. A 1,313 nautical miles trip, 4 hours overflying a bit of the Red Sea, Jordan, the wildlife sanctuary of Al Khunfah and sand deserts of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Persian gulf
An easy flight with 85 knots tailwind, and a cooperative Saudi air traffic control which approved FL310 route. To his surprise, they approved without checking if he did receive the Reduced Vertical Separation Minima’s Letter of Authorization (LOA) from the FAA. “The fact that my aircraft was able to fly in RVSM space and that I received proper training was enough for Saudi ATC.”
Then Dubai control vectored him to a Required Performance Approach (RNP) to Sharjah where he landed at night with a beautiful view of Dubai in distance.
“Our N940XX was fitted with over 12 pieces of luggage, this happen when I fly with my wife. I was expecting some delays. In fact just the time to put the aircraft in the hangar of GAMA Aviation and the custom cleared us. We were on the way to our new home in Dubai.” Massimo Casini recalled.
Coastal hops in the Persian Gulf
After this first experience, the new experienced pilot flew to local destinations such as Ras Al Khaimah, and Muscat – respectively 38 NM and 176 NM from Dubai. Short hops compared to his previous travel.
Ras Al Khaimah, at the feet of Jabal Jais, the highest mountain of the United Arab Emirates (6,345 ft) and home the world’s longest zipline, is a place worth a visit with a lot of historical landmarks. But for the TBM pilot it’s also a good place to enhance his skills with some training. Not a common practice in the area, so he called the Airport Manager for some suggestions.
“ He was very nice and, because, I’m not a flight school but a simple private pilot, I had to pay a deposit of AED 500 (about 135 USD) and be register as “entity approved to perform training on the airport”.
The missed approach procedure to Ras Al Khaimah airport is a good training exercise because the holding procedure is pretty close to the Iranian Airspace. Knowing the sometimes tense relationships between the two countries, better double check where you are to avoid diplomatic incident.
“The flight to Muscat, capital of Oman, was more simple except that, when I landed, wearing jeans and t-shirt the Custom initially refused to recognize me as “Pilot” because I did’t wear an uniform...” explained Casini.
The local FBO, Jetex, took care of this embarrassing situation and the TBM pilot could left the beautiful airport of Muscat, as the passenger of an aircraft without pilot...
On his return flight scheduled the same day at night, he was upgraded to the “pilot” rank as the customs finally understood his status. “As an excuse, they told me they never saw before a single pilot flying his own jet or turboprop aircraft himself...”.
A part from these incidents, Massimo Casini consider with his limited experience that flying in the
Middle East is easy, sometimes much more than in Europe:
- ATC is very professional and friendly, their English spelling is easy to understand,
- the reporting points are clearly identified
- the arrival and approach procedures are communicated well in advance.
His only negative comments are about flight plans which require a planification a couple days before to avoid any bad surprise, and taxiway clearances, which he considers as quite complicated on large airports. Nevertheless he found a way to overcome this issue “ If you tell the ground control you are new to the airport, they have always a follow-me car available.” He admits.
Routing organizations to prepare flights are now longer needed, “ I use ForeFlight to prepare all my flights and file the flight plan, but I always ask the local support of a FBO for overfly or landing permits.”
“ In short flying in Middle East is a quite rewarding experience especially for the view you have from your desk.” Explained the Italian pilot. “There are much less bureaucracy than in Europe, especially in these hard times of Covid-19 pandemic. If the handling fees are usually expensive – average 400/500 USD - jetfuel is not at 1.5 USD/Gallon.”
As a conclusion, he insists that members of the TBM flying community are most welcome for a stopover in Dubai area.