One of our more exciting and then amusing customer episodes was that of Captain Mike Cawsey, who was Director of the Amiri (Royal) Flight who was responsible for operating the Ruling Family planes on behalf of the Government.
When Porsche announced the 928S, they have two spare production slots for regular 928’s and asked me if I wanted to take them. I said I would, provided they could be built as C16 specification cars as we had two potential customers for them. The Porsche Factory agreed and we sold the first car to John and Chrissie Rowe-Parr and the second to Captain Mike Cawsey.
The Rowe-Parr’s had collected their car, which was built to look like a Porsche 928S, from the factory as Tourist collection and Mike Cawsey ordered his for delivery to Bahrain.
Mike’s car duly arrived and he arranged for a letter from the Amiri Court to allow it into Bahrain exempt of customs duty. Rob McEwen did the pre-delivery inspection and Mike and his wife Gerry came and collected their new car.
Mike was ex-RAF and he had worked overseas for many years and the offer of the job in Bahrain working for Gulf Air was his way of topping up his retirement funds. It was during this role as training captain at Gulf Air that he was offered the Director position for the newly created Amiri Flight by the then Crown Prince, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa AL Khalifa (who today in the King of Bahrain). So effectively Mike worked and reported to the Crown Prince, so he was a good man to know.
Mike was popping in and out of the workshop to ask certain questions about his 928 as the delivery time progressed. I knew he would look after his car like no other customer we had and the day arrived when he came down to collect his pride and joy from our workshops.
Shortly after, I had a call from him inviting me over for dinner at his house to celebrate his new car arrival. Upon arrival at his home, he told me he was absolutely delighted with his car. Mike told us that he was planning to retire and return to England in a couple of years, hence he had ordered a British C16 spec car. We were joined at dinner by his depute in waiting, Peter Hanford and his Dutch wife Susanne.
I had known Susanne for a number of years as she was in charge of all the cabin crew at Gulf Air and her former husband Kaes was a friend of Willie Zauner our first Porsche 911 customer.
Peter told me he was also looking for a new car and I suggested he test-drive our Porsche 944 demonstrator. He said, “Why not bring it over to the Amiri flight offices”? I knew these were attached to the hangar at Bahrain International airport where they kept the planes. I told him that would be fine and we set a date and time. Mike then casually stated, “If you are coming over, I can take you up for a flight in the Amiri Flight Boeing 727 assuming of course you are interested?” Both Mike and Peter knew I was also daft about flying and I think they set this up in advance, so I jumped at the chance and accepting their invitation. We had a lovely evening and left for home with me acting like a schoolboy again at the though of going flying again!
I duly arrived in our Porsche 944 demonstrator at the security gate to go airside at Bahrain International Airport and security called through to the Amiri Flight office that vouched for me to gain access. I drove round to the hangar and went in to find Mike and Peter.
Mike explained to me that he was going to do a “check flight” with Peter as Captain, which is a regular thing pilots go through to make sure they remain up to speed and have not developed any bad habits. So Mike would be sitting in the co-pilots seat on the right with Peter in the captain’s seat on the left. I could sit in the jump seat in the centre behind the controls. Mike showed me around the Amiri flight and introduced me to various people and then we went aboard the Boeing 727.
This plane was beautifully fitted out and Sheikh Isa, the then Amir, had a V.V.I.P. seat, raised slightly above all the over V.I.P. seats, and meeting rooms and bathroom suite(s). By seats, I really mean luxury armchairs with seat belts. There were a number of first class style seat for his entourage who accompanied him on trips in the rear of the plane.
Up on the flight deck, everyone got settled in and Peter and Mike went through their pre-take off checks and called Air Traffic Control for start-up. After start-up, Peter talked me through a few important points and when I asked him why he was pointing the engine RPM gauges to Mike, he said to make sure both of them agreed the engines were turning in the correct direction and gaining momentum. He then called for taxi instructions and we pushed back and taxied to the runway holding point. I had my own headset on so I could listen and participate in the whole process. We were then cleared for take off and we lined up to take off and immediately we were rolling. The power of this VIP plane suddenly hit me. We were airborne very quickly compared to a regular Boeing 727 passenger planes and soon climbing out rapidly. Mike explained we would do a couple of circuits and then fly off to the North and back again. I felt really privileged being in this aircraft and on the flight deck. Once Peter and Mike had completed their business I hoped into the left hand seat for a couple of minutes just to feel the controls. The flight was soon over and we landed and returned to the Amiri Flight hangar.
I thanked Mike and Peter and then we went in for some fresh coffee and I talked Porsche to Peter. Mike kept telling Peter that a 944 was more suited to Bahrain everyday use. I was not sure if this was due to the fact he was not keen on Peter having a 928 like his or if he really thought the 944 more practical for everyday use?
Peter told me he was only interested in the 944 so we said our goodbyes and then went for an extended test drive. Peter took the car for a good run both in town and on the highways and we returned to our workshop where Susanne was waiting to meet us. We sat down together and he placed his order. I was absolutely delighted with my day’s flying and to sell a Porsche 944 really made my day!
Mike did not drive his Porsche 928 very much and one day Peter called in to see me and told me Mike had stored his Porsche in the hangar and put a cover over it. It then stood there for weeks on end without him using it or even starting it up.