Aviation History and Nostalgia Whether working in aviation, retired, wannabee or just plain fascinated this forum welcomes all with a love of flight.

Airfields in UAE/Oman

Old 20th Aug 2007, 09:19
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 611
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Airfields in UAE/Oman

I wonder if anyone can help identify an old abandoned airfield situated in the United Arab Emirates, south of Al Wagam and Al Q'aa (about 180 km south of Al Ain). It is almost exactly at the intersection of 23N and 55E, which makes it easy to find. There are two large sand runways forming a « T » that is easily visible on Google Earth. Otherwise there are just dumps of old tyres and cars, including a Landrover. Some are obviously truck size sand tyres; others look more like aviation types (rounded profile, almost treadless). No buildings, but human debris (ACs, cooking things, the odd gin bottle etc). What is the name of this airfield, and when was it in use? I presume it was oil-related, but there are no wells nearby. Maybe a clue is that toward the east of the field, we found a tall metal post in the sand, about 3m high with numbers and letters: on one side: AL91-306-VP1291+7 and on the other side: AL91-581-VP1619+6.

There are many old airfields around the UAE and Oman. One I visited fairly recently is Sumaini, Oman, at 24 39 10N, 55 53 40E. It is also visible on Google Earth, where you can even make out the white runway markers and the name “SUMAINI” in white. The striking thing is that it is absolutely clean, with no debris of any sort, not even marks from spilled oil or any sign of having been used. I have heard from a former Oman Air Force pilot that he landed a Beaver there in 1975.

Back in the UAE, there are still traces of the old Al Ain Airport, at 24 11 30 N, 55 49E, including the runway threshold marker in the form of a white arrow (just visible on Google Earth), and a helipad and a few ruined buildings.

http://l.garey.googlepages.com/home

Last edited by l.garey; 7th Sep 2007 at 08:45.
l.garey is offline  
Old 20th Aug 2007, 15:44
  #2 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Under the clouds now
Age: 86
Posts: 2,509
Received 16 Likes on 12 Posts
I spent two years flying Twin Pioneers and Pembrokes around Oman and the Trucial States in 1959/61. Oil survey groups from the Iraq Petroleum Company used to mark out strips using graders and use them for a month or so before moving on. The strips sometimes had names, sometimes numbers. Supplies were flown in from Beirut by Avro Yorks. Information on the state of the strips was not kept up to date. Some were near the mobile camps, others were some distance away and unmanned. I have enjoyed the odd pint of ice cold Red Barrel when we dropped in unannounced for a spot of lunch!
brakedwell is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2007, 20:48
  #3 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Caribbean
Posts: 171
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
The metal post you refer to, 3m high, with numbers on, would be the marker post for an abandoned oil well. I guess that it was a dry exploration well if there were no further signs of development.

I've been involved in building many such strips and landing sites around the Middle East and it is surprising how well they stay preserved. We've even reactivated 20 / 30 year old strips very easily.

For a typical exploration drilling operation the strips may get used for 3 months or so. If the wells produce then the strip would be used for the life of the well.

Typical uses would be to fly in personnel and urgent supplies. It's far easier and safer to hire an aircraft for 3 months to fly your personnel in, than spend 12 hours at a time on dodgy bus on dodgy roads.
Jed A1 is offline  
Old 5th Sep 2007, 21:22
  #4 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Kent
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Metal Posts

Metal Posts are driven into or concreted into the ground at the intersection of two seismic lines.
To decode the inscription;
Year is 1991 followed by Line Number, then Vibrator Point
AP stands for the oil company possily AbuDhabi Petroleum.
I had an airstrip constructed in Southern Oman/Dhofar in 1971 when I was running field seismic operations there. I became fed up with the eight hour round trip to the nearest air strip to collect the weekly supplies.

Last edited by Mearns Loon; 5th Sep 2007 at 21:30. Reason: finger trouble on keyboard
Mearns Loon is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2007, 12:26
  #5 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 611
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Old oil strip

Thank you Jed and Mearns for this explanation.

Last edited by l.garey; 7th Sep 2007 at 09:49.
l.garey is offline  
Old 6th Sep 2007, 18:12
  #6 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Caribbean
Posts: 171
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
or of course the metal posts could indicate a siesmic operation
Jed A1 is offline  
Old 7th Sep 2007, 08:41
  #7 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 611
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Old oil airfield

I have just been sent some photos of the posts that I described at "our" old airfield. I made a mistake in that the first letters are AL not AP. I have edited my original posting to correct that. So any ideas what AL is? Mearns said AP could be the oil company. Is that still the theory?
l.garey is offline  
Old 7th Sep 2007, 19:49
  #8 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Kent
Posts: 14
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Initials could also be name of the Oil exploration block. Sorry ;Can't help with 'AL'
Mearns Loon is offline  
Old 8th Sep 2007, 16:29
  #9 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Black Diamond AB (CEH2)
Posts: 6,677
Received 85 Likes on 52 Posts
Maybe a clue is that toward the east of the field, we found a tall metal post in the sand, about 3m high with numbers and letters: on one side: AL91-306-VP1291+7 and on the other side: AL91-581-VP1619+6.
Amazing what you find on PPRuNe. My day job is in oil exploration, currently offshore exploration, but I've had plenty of experience with onshore exploration and I know exactly what this metal post is.

I agree with ML's conclusion in Post #4.

It is a "permanent marker" placed by a surveyor to mark the intersection of two seismic lines. In this case AL is either the name of the oil company or of the exploration concession. 91 is the year of the survey and 306 and 581 are the numbers of the two intersecting seismic lines. VP1291 and VP1619 are the numbers of the closest "Vibration Points" on each line and the +6 and +7 refer to the offset distance in metres of each VP from the marker.

It is called a VP instead of a shotpoint (SP), because the seismic crew were using vibrators as an energy source instead of dynamite.

Before my use of the V word get this thread delegated to Jet Blast, I should point out that I am referring to 20 tonne vibrators like these:

http://www0.cgg.com/proserv/EyeD/eyedmaking216.html

Looking at the image on Google Earth, you can see many straight lines, some parallel to each other and some at angles. These are seismic lines and I expect that Lawrence's metal post would be at the intersection of two of the visible lines.

Last edited by India Four Two; 8th Sep 2007 at 17:03. Reason: Missed ML's earlier post. MUST READ POSTS BEFORE REPLYING.
India Four Two is offline  
Old 9th Sep 2007, 06:42
  #10 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 611
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
oil post

Thanks I42 for this extra information. And, yes, I see the straight white lines in Google Earth. Amazing!
Maybe the photo below will help. I am in the white hat to the right of the post!
The post was at 23 00.701N, 55 01.261E (GPS).
Do you know of any way I can find out more about this particular airfield (see my first post to this thread)?

Photo courtesy of Bob Reimer

Last edited by l.garey; 9th Sep 2007 at 09:42.
l.garey is offline  
Old 9th Sep 2007, 12:20
  #11 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Various
Posts: 290
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Well this lad sold me some beans.....
StbdD is offline  
Old 9th Sep 2007, 13:22
  #12 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 611
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
oil

Maybe we are getting away from aviation history, but I suppose oil exploration by air is still part of aviation.
Maybe I42 can tell me how these 20 tonne vibrators (the mind boggles) got into the desert? Surely not in a Twin Pioneer!
I can understand that it was nicer to be able to fly into a prospecting site rather than go by car, but why was "our" airfield so big (2 runways, 1800 and 1600 m), and so far from a decent road (20 km as the houbara flies), across dunes and gravel plains tough enough to break 2 out of 4 of our 4x4s!
If the seismic study was done in 1991, what aircraft would have been used then?
l.garey is offline  
Old 9th Sep 2007, 14:01
  #13 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Black Diamond AB (CEH2)
Posts: 6,677
Received 85 Likes on 52 Posts
The vibrators would have been brought in by low-loader to the end of the nearest paved road and then driven across country. They are actually very rugged all-terrain vehicles and stand up much better to desert conditions than a 4x4.

By the 90's, air supply of food, etc. and crew changes would be by Twin Otter or similar. Clearly these two runways are much bigger than required by a Twin Otter, so I suspect they might have been built to take larger aircraft (C-130s?) to bring in components of an oil drilling rig. However, I cannot see any evidence of a rig site in the immediate area, although the white area (with multiple vehicle tracks) near the bottom left of the T looks a possibility.

What's a doctor doing standing in the middle of the UAE desert, wearing a glider pilot's hat?
India Four Two is offline  
Old 9th Sep 2007, 14:14
  #14 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 611
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
my hat!

Oh, very observant. This doctor is (was) also a glider pilot, and is now a microlight (Apollo Fox) pilot. The hat is good for both.
I was at that time (2000-2004) a professor at the medical faculty of the UAE University in Al Ain, and an ardent supporter of the Emirates Natural History Group in Al Ain, where my specialities were finding bronze age bones (!), and old airfields.
I am trying to write a history of aviation in the Gulf region.

Any idea of whose Twin Otters or even C130s were used?
I confirm we found no sign of a rig in the area, just abandoned trucks, a fuel bowser, gin bottles, ACs, and camels (dead and alive), etc etc.

PS: have a look at
http://l.garey.googlepages.com/home
if you really want to know.
l.garey is offline  
Old 21st Aug 2008, 15:29
  #15 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: On the lake
Age: 82
Posts: 671
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Any idea of whose Twin Otters or even C130s were used?
Emirates Air Service (Abu Dhabi owned and based, no connection with Emirates Airline in Dubai) used to operate Twin Otters and Dash 7 combis supporting the oil industry, including ADNOC and ADMA. They may also have operated C-130's, or more probably L-100's, during the 90's.
twochai is offline  
Old 21st Aug 2008, 16:03
  #16 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 611
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks very much. I shall try to follow it up.

Laurence
l.garey is offline  
Old 20th Jul 2012, 17:20
  #17 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Lincoln
Age: 63
Posts: 9
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
i spent 6 yrs living in both Al Ain and Thumrait and saw some weird and wonderfuls operating out of the desert, we had an Antonov 12 that used to move oil drilling kit into the empty quarter, Cooper Air Services from Wickenby used to have an Aerocommander bombing around the place, the old Al Ain airfield is still in use by the Royal Family and a certain branch of the armed Forces trained at Al Ain Army base, when you fly up from Salalah to Muscat, the number of fields visible is mind boggling
Trenchard Brat is offline  
Old 21st Jul 2012, 02:41
  #18 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Posts: 1,349
Received 31 Likes on 12 Posts
I have spent more than one gritty evening lighting airstrips in central Oman for various flying machines of the rather unsophisticated variety . Coke cans half filled with kerosene, 4X2 (gun barrel cleaner) wick and you have serviceable runway lighting. The trick was to for the ground party to depart before the lights went out ...

Biggest problem could be camels that found that piece of graded desert more comfortable to sit on ... they will only really move after emptying half a mag of M16 rounds behind their left ear, then run like hell.
reynoldsno1 is offline  
Old 23rd Jul 2012, 05:31
  #19 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 611
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Trenchard:
I wonder to which "old" Al Ain airfield you refer? The one at Da'udi is certainly not in use, having been converted to housing a few year ago.

Laurence
l.garey is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service

Copyright © 2024 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.