A Lucky Pilot - Pakistan Aviation

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Wing Commander Lanky Ahmad passed away on October 12, 2004 at Lahore, Pakistan where he was born in 1924 and is buried in the Pakistan Air Force graveyard located just before the landing strip of the Lahore International Airport runway.

June, 1964
An Encounter with Arnold Palmer

In 1964, I was on an official visit to the United States to study their Aviation System for three months. In some interesting circumstances, I met the World Golf Champion, Arnold Palmer in Oklahoma City. A day before, I watched the live tournament, in which he was the most popular player. The crowd supporting and following him was known as the 'Arny's Army'.

It so happened, that the General Manager of the Aero Commander Company, was keen to show me a jet Aero Commander under construction, forty miles away from the company's airfield. The aircraft in which the G. M. wanted to fly had some radio problem. He immediately taxied back to his office and spoke to the control tower to request Arnold Palmer, if he would be kind enough to fly him and his important guest from Pakistan to Tulsa to which he readily agreed. The aircraft was ready for take off on the runway when the G. M. made me sit next to a lady without proper introduction because nothing could be heard and understood, when the engines were running.

Soon after take off, I tried to make some conversation with my companion. I first praised the choice of Arnold Palmer, for purchasing an expensive executive aircraft, which was also included in the fleet of the President of United States. To continue the talk, I asked her whether she saw Arny playing the golf match a day before. She replied in the negative. Since there were a few minutes left before landing, I made yet another attempt to socialise with this stuck up lady. I asked if she knew as to why Arny lost so badly". She said "Don' know", least suspecting her as Arny's wife I continued; because he was holding a blond's hand after every shot.

Now, she could not keep quiet and started talking, "you know I am his wife and only short while ago, arrived at the city Airport from Los-Angles after flying most of the night. My husband drove me straight to this airfield and insisted that I must have a ride in his brand new Aircraft. I was half asleep when you tried to make some conversation with me" I apologised for being so naÔve and unthoughtful. This lapse of mine was mainly due to the fact that she was plainly dressed and did not look like a billionaire golfer's wife.

On landing, the first question she asked her husband was about the blond with whom he was so friendly. Arny looked hard towards me and replied "Darling you know she was Suzy whom I met her after many years". Everybody laughed and the matter seemed to be closed. After inspecting the new jet aircraft and a cup of tea, an official instantaneous picture was taken in front of the Aero Commander with Arny and his wife, which he autographed with a nice caption. During the visit of the factory, Arny asked me a few questions about Pakistan and was surprised to know that there were about ten Golf Courses in our country. He and his wife both showed keen interest to visit Pakistan. I met them again in Washington D.C. during the P.G.A tournament. They reconfirmed their visit to Pakistan the next fall after playing a tournament in Hong Kong.

On return to Pakistan in July, I mentioned the episode to the C-in-C PAF, Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who in those days was a very keen golfer and had a single digit handicap. He was kind to approve my invitation and said that I should write them to visit Pakistan on his behalf with a suggested intenerary as the guest of the Pakistan Air Force. No reply came, in the ensuing few weeks. The C-in-C on one of his visits to Lahore again asked me to remind them as they might not have received my letter. Sure enough before another letter was despatched a very nice reply came from Arnold Palmer's wife. She regretted very much for the delay in replying my letter and added that they would not be able to visit Hong Kong and Pakistan this fall, due to Army's heavy commitments. They, however, promised to come next year.

In 1965 the new Commander-in-Chief was Air Marshal Noor Khan, who was not a golfer. It was out of question for me to find some world renowned Tennis players because he was fond of this game. That year, unfortunately, the War also broke out with India and I was posted to the Civil Aviation Department as the Director of Aerodromes at Karachi. That was the end of the Arnold Palmer visit to Pakistan. I did try to meet him in the USA whenever he was near my place of stay. Last year, I was at Palm Coast Florida, where my friend Hassan Zaidi, his wife Carrol and their lovely daughter 'Naila' were staying. Arnold designed a beautiful Golf Course and has also built a house there. When I rang up he was as usual, out of town.

Talking about golf reminds me of an interesting story which was related by no body less than the late President Ziaul Haque at the Gymkhana Club Lahore after a Prize Distribution ceremony. To quote him:-

"The other day I was playing golf with General Ershad, President of Bangla Desh, He kept me involved with a golf story which eventually made him win the match. A husband and wife were playing golf together. Most of the time the husband was caught looking towards a pretty lady golfer on the course. When it became obvious that he was really interested in her, the wife asked him, 'darling, if I die, will you marry again'. The husband replied, may be, 'yes or no'. After sometime she repeated the same question and added, 'would you bring her to our bedroom'. He gave the same answer. Third and last time when she asked him, whether he would give, her golf set to his new wife. He immediately said, 'No darling'. She was very happy to hear this and felt that at least the husband had some regards for her. To her surprise when she asked him, as to why, he replied because you are a left hander."

When we were having tea, I asked the President if he would like to hear another golf joke, he immediately replied 'yes'. I said,

"There was a very good golfer who could hit a 300 yards drive. After a period of time he could hardly hit 150 yards. He got worried and went to a Doctor who happened to be a golfer as well. After examining him thoroughly the Doctor said, Mr. Smith, "there is good news and bad". He said give him the bad news first as he was used to them all his life. The bad news, that he was changing his sex. The good news, that very soon he would be able to tee off from the Ladies Tee."

The President was in a good mood and apparently enjoyed the golf story which was published in the Reader's Digest Magazine in those days.