Wet Season

For those of you living in the UK I guess you’ll be pretty used to the idea of a wet season (read all year round) but for those of us in Borneo, it brings with it some challenging flying conditions. Take for example a typical little air strip here in Borneo. Normally located on the edge of a river bank, in a valley, around 4-500m in length and with a grass/clay/mud surface. Now, throw in some low lying cloud to hide that terrain, a spot a rain to water-log the ground nicely and perhaps the odd passing thunderstorm and you have all the hallmarks of some of the most difficult flying conditions available. Oh, and it’s still averaging 30 degrees Celsius…
Typical flying conditions in Borneo
Remaining visual with the ground is key here. If you loose that, with surrounding higher terrain, you’re in trouble. I’m pretty new to the area we fly in here, so I tend to remain high and descent down into valleys once I’m happy I can see the air strip I intend to land on from above. I don’t especially fancy flying along a valley, under the clouds, to discover my path blocked by a bank of fog or high terrain.
At least someone’s happy about the rain!
Landing is pretty much the same on a wet strip as it is for a dry one; you just have to be aware that braking is very much reduced and that the aircraft can get dragged into ruts hidden by water/tall grass. Thankfully, the Porter has a lockable tailwheel which helps keep it straight, so a three pointer landing (all three wheels at once) helps stabilise things during the roll-out. A wheeler landing (main gear only) is not desired. The other thing to bare in mind on wet surfaces is that reverse thrust can produce an even greater yawing to the right which can require a large boot-full of left rudder to keep you from slewing off into the undergrowth. All good fun!
One thing that’s always humbling is chatting with a pilot more experienced than yourself. Out in this part of the world they don’t come much more experienced than the guys and gals of MAF (the Mission Aviation Fellowship). I was having a chat with one of the guys earlier today which has really made me think about the way I’d been approaching a certain air strip. I’m not sure I explained myself quite right, as I think I made it sound worse that it was, but he very quickly dismissed a method I tried using to get into a strip the other day. Many thanks for the advice Paul and I hope I didn’t come across as a total amateur. One thing’s for sure, you don’t have to go flying to learn things in aviation.
As a final note, if anyone’s got anything particular they’d like to read about, do feel free to drop me a line. Until the next time, happy landings!
Matt Dearden

Matt Dearden

English born professional pilot, writer, blogger and columnist. Currently flying the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter in Papua, Indonesia.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Axel Pliopas says:

    Hi! I’m a brazilian Naval Engineer who is now flying to get a commercial licence…. so I’ve been flying C-152, C-172 and the Paulistinha (much like the Piper PA-18 but with a less powerful engine and no flaps)…. I just found out your blog and decided to read it from right from the first post!!!!! 🙂 Thank you very much for sharing the experiences on this wonderful kind of flying!

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Hi Axel, glad you’re enjoying the blog! I had to Google the Paulistinha as I’ve not heard of it; looks very similar to the Cub so I’m sure it must fly just lovely. Good luck getting the license and enjoy it :o)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *