Local flying in the twin-jet Cessa T37 - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

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Local flying in the twin-jet Cessa T37

My first two weeks were spent in the T37 Flight Instructors School getting checked out on the aircraft and procedures. My instructor, the only one who had not been allowed to go on end-of-term leave apparently, was a cheerful officer called Flight Lieutenant Dost. I learned later Dost was not his name but simply an Urdu word that means friend: his real name was Rehmat. I had several hours in the air with him learning the PAF's way of doing things, simulating emergencies, and finding my way around the local flying area. One day Dost told me, to my great surprise, that there was no requirement for instrument flying "because we have no radar or other navigation aids and on the rare occasions when the weather is bad, it is very bad so we don't want to fly anyway." During a post-flight debriefing one morning, Dost suddenly bundled me in a great hurry out of the crew room and onto the middle of the aircraft parking apron. There had been a minor earthquake that I had neither heard nor felt.

The very high outside air temperatures were extremely debilitating - for me, anyway. I learned the hard way never to touch any metal object exposed to the sun, including aircraft, unless I was wearing gloves. The shade temperatures almost every day during my first few weeks were in the mid-40s Celsius, so I hate to think what they were in the open air.

I found the Cessna T37 to be a truly delightful aircraft to fly. Taking into account the high altitudes at which we operated in the local area, its performance was only roughly that of a Mk 3 Jet Provost in temperate climes. The advantage of having two engines for operations in the barren mountainous area just to the north of Risalpur was obvious. The T37 had air conditioning but it wasn't permitted to turn it on until the aircraft was airborne because the system used air bled from the jet engines' compressors and that would have reduced the engines' thrust even more at the most critical time. By the time we did get off the ground, both pilots were wringing with perspiration. The air conditioning had to be switched off again as soon as the aircraft had landed and so by the time we reached dispersal we were wringing with sweat again.

It was, perhaps, not surprising that after two or three days I was suffering quite badly from a fever, a persistent bad headache, and a feeling of extreme lassitude. The Flight Aviation Doctor prescribed some sort of drip "to rehydrate you, Tony". I was a bit worried about the twice daily 30-minute sessions lying flat on my back in his surgery when I knew not what was being pumped into my body. My symptoms lasted for only three days, one of which was a National holiday for Pakistan Independence Day, so there was no flying anyway. On the fourth day I declared myself fit to fly again but after my first sortie I discovered that the Flight Doctor had reported me to the Academy Commandant. I was summoned before the Commandant, with the Flight Doctor standing by his side, to be told that once a flight doctor had taken a pilot off flying for medical reasons, only that flight doctor could authorise the pilot to resume flying. I discovered that drips of whatever it was, were regularly prescribed by the Flight Doctor. I made sure that I didn't have another fever or chill during my time at Risalpur.

Above: My flight on August 20, listed as IRT (Instrument Rating Test) was actually a navigation test to make sure I could find my way back to Risalpur on those frequent days when the horizontal visibility was very poor. The initials against students' names were IIAF (Imperial Iranian Air Force) and RJAF (Royal Jordanian Air Force).
In due course my instructor, Dost, told me that my conversion was complete. I then had to fly two acceptance checks: the first with my new squadron commander, just back from leave, and the second with the Commandant, after which I was declared competent to fly with students. For some reason, my check ride with the Commandant was never entered into my flying log book (see image above). I cannot now remember whether that  was by design or whether I simply forgot to log the flight.  By that time all the students and the other instructors had also returned from leave and I was the subject of much interest and scrutiny. The students I would be training were from Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Kuwait. There were two groups: those who had already completed half their course and those who were about to start from the beginning. I would have students from each group. There were two other Exchange QFIs: an Iraqi and an Iranian. They almost always flew with students of their own nationality.

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