Short, narrow, flat and located at the bottom of a pretty steeply sided valley, Long Alango is probably my favourite airstrip that we go to in Kalimantan. It’s also only 30 minutes from Malinau, so not too long a flight to get here either.
|Unloading outside the terminal hut at Long Alango|
The airstrip itself is pretty well kept and is the typical clay/grass type. It’s also pretty narrow. Actually, make that very narrow. In places it’s little more than the width of the Porter’s wingspan with a large bank on the east side of the strip and a drop into the river on the west side. Due to it narrowing towards the northern end, I only ever land on 36 and take-off on 18. It also makes the last 30m or so unusable for us as it’s actually narrower than the Porter’s wingspan. There’s also a large drop at the end into the river should you overshoot.
|Narrowing of the airstrip towards the northern end (note drop at the end)|
As if the narrowness and length weren’t enough of a problem, if it’s been raining the strip gets very waterlogged. The neatly cut grass can easily hide this, so I tend to assume it’s always wet. At least the general condition of the strip is pretty good; although the side to the river can be quite soft so best avoided. Oh and there’s also normally a tailwind on landing but at least that gives you a nice headwind on take-off.
Weather information is only attainable if you can get hold of someone with a satellite phone who’ll give you a typically optimistic report. It’s pretty normal for the whole valley to be under cloud in the morning.
Before you can land you’ve got to get to the airstrip. As previously mentioned, it’s normally under a layer of cloud in the morning so you’ll need to locate a hole large enough to descend down into the valley. If there’s no holes, give up and go home. There’s too much terrain about here to be messing about. Remain visual at all times!
|Descending into the valley for Long Alango|
Once in the valley, fly overhead the airstrip to check there’s no other aircraft already on it. As it’s pretty narrow, there’s not enough room for more than one at a time. If someone’s there, you’ll have to wait.
|Overhead Long Alango|
After flying overhead, carry on along the valley to the south of the strip and overhead the village. There’s just enough room here to do a 180 degree turn to position yourself for an approach for 18. I tend to be start getting fully configured as I pass overhead the airstrip.
|Short finals for 36 at Long Alango|
On short finals, check your ground speed. Decide early how much tailwind you’re willing to accept and reject if required. Aim to land as close to the beginning of the strip as possible and dead centre. Do not land right of centreline. That bank on the right is higher than the Porter’s wing and very close to it. To the left of centreline can be quite boggy too.
Be careful with the brakes, as it tends to be slippy and you don’t want to go skidding off centreline. Beta is best, as reverse will pull you off centreline if you’re not quick with the rudders. It’s not *that* short for a Porter and you should stop well before the terminal building.
For the go-around, do so just before touch-down, carry on straight ahead and continue up the valley to the right before turning around and flying back overhead the airstrip.
You can only take-off on 18 with the Porter, so a short backtrack from opposite the terminal building is required. Be very careful lining up for departure as the strip is very narrow towards the north and the banks very soft. Be very aware of where the wingtips and tailwheel are.
|Looking from the north along 18|
Once lined up, I favour a maximum performance take-off. Keep in the centre of the strip and keep looking straight ahead. Don’t be tempted to look to your left to see how close that wing’s getting. Provided you’re in the centre, it’ll be fine.
Everything written in this article are opinions of the author and should not be taken as sole reference for attempting a flight into or out of the aforementioned airstrip