Never a dull moment when travelling in Bangladesh and on this occasion, the journey from Dhaka to Barisal by small plane was no exception. There are several ways to travel from Dhaka to Barisal. I have done, and survived them all! You can fly by small plane, 45 minutes, travel by car, 12 hours along a treacherous road or take the overnight ferry along the Padma river.
On this occasion we travelled from Dhaka to Barisal by plane; Air Parabat. A small local airline with one aeroplane! It was a small plane with a high wing and one turboprop engine on each side. The plane was capable of carrying ten passengers, fully loaded. The plane looked a little flimsy and the fact that it was manufactured in China certainly did not fill me with confidence. It looked a little rough around the edges. Scheduled departure time was 08.00am. We boarded the plane promptly at 07.45am and squeezed into the tiny seats. Great! We will be in time for our meeting with the customer in Barisal, I thought to myself.
09.00am and we have not moved. Apparently, the fire truck has not yet arrived at Barisal airport, our destination. The plane is not allowed to depart Dhaka until the fire truck has arrived at the destination airport. Really?, is it usually needed?, I thought to myself? Is it too late to disembark and take the ferry?
10.00am, we have still not moved and we are still seated in the hot and stuffy aircraft. I guess the fire truck is busy extinguishing fires elsewhere in Barisal and can't make it to the airport. Either that or the driver took it home the night before and is still asleep in bed!
At 10.30am we were told to disembark the aircraft to get some fresh air. All passengers mingled around the aircraft waiting for news of our revised departure time.
At 11.00am the call finally came through. The fire truck has arrived at Barisal airport. We can now depart. All passengers reboarded the aircraft and quickly took their seats. If it wasn't so amusing, it would have been scary..... even disturbing, to watch a technician standing by, close to the engine. He stood just far enough away from the spinning propeller, holding a fire extinguisher at the ready, lest the engine burst into flames as it started up. I expect there was another "fire warden" on the other side, however, I could not see through the window on the other side of the aisle. To my relief, both engines sprang to life without bursting into flames, just a puff of black smoke. The pilot released the brakes and we quickly taxied to the take off position. Several moments later the throttle was pushed to full, the engines roared and we accelerated down the bumpy runway. A few moments later we were airborne. The small, fragile plane vibrated violently and "I hope the glue holds together", I thought to myself.
The flight was uneventful and 45 minutes later we were on the ground at Barisal airport. Thankfully, we didn't require the fire truck after all but there it was, in all its glory, at the end of the runway.
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