The flight into Iraq was quite different this time around. Last year, we came in on a mid-sized jet from another direction, a routing that required only limited time in Iraqi airspace. That airline has now ceased operations into Iraq because of violent unrest and high tensions in the area of its flight path. It was also a daytime flight that required us to corkscrew down from a high altitude while over the center of the city. This prevented coming in over the plains at a low elevation and being vulnerable to a rocket attack.
This time, we took quite a small plane on a long path covering a considerable stretch of Iraq. The flight departed at 1:00 am in Jordan, arriving at 4:00 am in Iraq. The middle-of-the-night schedule aroused thoughts of being on a clandestine mission. The compact aircraft frequently met with severe turbulence that tossed it around like a rag doll, oftentimes leaving me feeling as though it was flying sideways instead of forward. This served to enhance the illusion of being on a covert bombing run with surrounding flak bursts causing furious air surges that disrupted the stability of the plane.
Under the cover of darkness, we took a straight course in, turning on the landing lights at the very last moment possible.
Last visit, we were welcomed by temps exceeding 115 degrees Fahrenheit . This time the mercury was right at freezing.
Lovely extremes. Welcome to Iraq!
(KEEPING WARM: Fires, propane tanks, and plenty of tea)