View Full Version : Hero Pilots of Ariana Afghan Airlines

9th Feb 2008, 14:09
For any PPRuNer who isn’t a regular listener to BBC Radio 4’s From Our Own Correspondent (FOOC to its mates), I strongly recommend a report on 9 Feb from the estimable Lyse Doucet in Kabul. It’s called ‘Piloting Afghanistan to a Prosperous Future’. You can find the transcript at

If you want to hear the report in Lyse’s own inimitable tones, you can download it as a podcast on the same page. You’ll get the whole 29-minute programme, and Lyse’s 5-minute report is first up.


Max Angle
9th Feb 2008, 15:11
Nice one, sort of puts your own job into perspective. For those who don't listen to FOOC on a regular basis, do so, it's the best thing on radio and a fantastic window on the world. Thanks to listen again I never have to miss an edition and often listen downroute on the internet.

12th Feb 2008, 11:56
Just been listening to the podcast... I can tell why it's called "Scariana" by some, with the number of wrecks around the airport. :eek:

18th Feb 2008, 15:19
Flying around Afghanistan in the mid sixties, instead of war damaged IL-76's and Mi-8's, the wrecks I saw on the side of the runway were RAF Hawker Hinds, etc., from the thirties.

In fact, was not the first military logistical airlift ever flown the 1920's garrison re-inforcement and refugee evacuation by the RAF??

18th Feb 2008, 19:08
Gratuitous picture of Afghan Hind by Ian Haskell..


This one still very much in flying condition.

Il Duce
18th Feb 2008, 22:45
One of the Ariana B727s (donated by American Airlines, I think) was due for its inaugural flight with Ariana in 2002. It was supposed to do an air test in the morning followed by an afternoon flight to Delhi. However, thanks to a very protracted renaming ceremony which included too many over long speeches from various airline and airport officials and a religious ceremony involving the slaughter of a cow on the Kabul parking apron right under the aircraft's nose, there was no time to do the airtest. It was decided to combine the airtest with the flight to Delhi! Kabul has just over 11000' of runway and the aircraft barely made it into the air by the end of the tarmac. The rate of climb was agonisingly slow and I was convinced that the surrounding mountains were were going to be strewn with blue and white fragments. You could tell by the tone of the pilot's voice that he was not having a fun time getting the thing higher into the sky. It was very reminiscent of the IL76 take off on an adjacent thread - but this one had passengers on board and was surrounded by very high ground.
They did make it - eventually. Just proves that cutting a cow's throat by your nosewheel is just as effective as all that air test nonsense.

"Hero pilots", possibly; "Barking mad", probably.

19th Feb 2008, 07:51
Did quite a bit of flying on Ariana during my time there, and let me tell you - it was scary. One morning they were taxiing out with pax onboard and clipped the terminal building with the wingtip of the 727, effectively creating a nice blended winglet.

No worries, they offloaded, pulled the aircraft around the corner, and proced to beat the offending winglet into submission with hammers and things, before reloading the pax, and blasting off into the great blue yonder.

Then there was the day I caught the flight to Dubai. Was reading a book in flight when I noticed that there was a horrible little vibration creeping in. From my feet, all the way to my book, a nice rythmic vibration was pulsing through the aircraft. When I looked out along the wing, I could see the left hand aileron was fluttering about 20cm at a very high frequency.

Having been part of their power on descents before I realised it would be a good idea to inform the skipper, so as to fly a reduced speed decent. Getting no joy from the cabin crew, I clawed on for dear life as the aircraft started a high speed decent, making the vibration increase tenfold.

On deplaning, I found the skipper in the galley, a chap I had met before on the apron in Kabul. I asked him if he detected the vibration, which he said he did, but had no idea as to the source. I informed him of the aileron flutter, for which he was extremely thankful.

He said," We will have them look at it when we get back to Kabul". A mate who took the return flight, said it was done at full speed again, the vibration so bad that the entire wingtip became a blur in the descent....

Il Duce
23rd Feb 2008, 14:15
Are Ariana still banned from UK airports?

23rd Feb 2008, 14:30
Am acquaintance tells a story of how, when the RAF ran Kabul Airport just after the invasion (sorry, liberation) of Afghanistan, an Ariana 727 was running a little late. Cloud covered mountains, no airfield navaids, no on-board RNAV to speak of, no IAPs, a few PAGLs (tactical, multi-directional runway lights) and no radar. Anyway, darkness arrives on time (as advertised) and the Ariana crew elect to continue inbound. The RAF highlight to them that this is a rather reckless course of action but the crew politely ignore them. Anyway, the aircraft manages to weave through the fluffy mountains and successfully lets itself down to the airport. It turned out that the passenger (an important chap called Karzai) was rather insistent on getting home.

Either very brave or very stupid!!

29th Feb 2008, 23:54
Ariana actually used to be a very good airline; before the entire country of Afghanistan was ransacked. Back in the 70's 49% of the company was owned by PanAm and the remaining 51% by the Afghan government. They operated brand new 727s and DC-10s. It is depressing to see what has become of the airline and the country.:{

1st Mar 2008, 10:34
In the early 90's, when I was a smelly student, I bought a ticket to India on Ariana Afghan. I thought it would be more exciting and it was 30 quid cheaper than Alitalia.

We had to fly OK Air to Prague to connect as Ariana were banned from the UK. After a 6 hour delay we left Prague for Delhi. The plane only had 8 pax so it was quite comfy even if the seating was a little patchwork. I awoke in the descent but was surprised to find it was descent into Moscow. After a refuel we taxied out but had to return due to rudder problems. At this point the stewards donned dungarees and tool boxes and proceeded to bash the rudder for a while. This was quite impressive; I haven't seen cabin crew do this since.

On the next descent I looked out for the hills of Kabul but it seemed a bit flat and featureless. I think we landed in Uzbekistan, where we offloaded a chipboard coffin.

The real descent into Kabul was a standard overhead high speed join. The day before one faction had fired a surface to air missile at an Ariana plane on approach with the president on board. It knocked the nose cone off but didn't explode. This was more excitement than I needed.

We were told to wait in a small room in the terminal while more seats were fitted. Already in the room were about a hundred hardened Mujaheddin mountain fighters waiting for their Delhi flight. I doubt they had seen a woman for ten years and we had four blonde ones with us. They stared at them without blinking for two hours, it was socially a little uncomfortable.

The flight to Delhi was uneventful, and un-catered, thankfully. It only took 24hrs from LGW to DEL!

A week later they flattened the terminal building with mortars. I have no doubt the pilots are hero pilots and so are their passengers. I didn't measure up to the standard in that respect. I bought a return ticket with Air India.

Geezers of Nazareth
1st Mar 2008, 12:59
At this point the stewards donned dungarees and tool boxes and proceeded to bash the rudder for a while. This was quite impressive; I haven't seen cabin crew do this since.

What ... don dungarees, get a tool-box, or bash the rudder? :)

Short Approach?
1st Mar 2008, 13:29

1st Mar 2008, 13:38
just to keep things in balance.. Ariana is not the only operator functioning out there .. we also have KamAir.... plus a bunch of turbo-props operating into much more hostile areas than the two scheduled carriers... to offset the risks is the opportunity to operate in the most awesomely beautiful country I've had the pleasure to work in..

1st Mar 2008, 18:32
One or two 1900's are out there too, cheaper than using Hercs to transport the boys around.
The usual ZS (South African)registered ones flying in and out of Kabul, a good mate of mine is popping back across for another 5 weeks of fun in the sun and sand.

Actually pretty good living conditions...for a container!

The place is strewn with wrecks dating back to god knows when!