From the Jungle to Sumbawa

So, having finally got back to Malinau for a few days, to do some observational flights with our newest Porter pilot, I then had to make my way half way around Indonesia to Sumbawa (which is about 60nm east of Lombok) to pick up one of our survey aircraft and complete a survey there for a few days. As per usual with travelling in Indonesia, nothing is easy and this little trip was going to take 2.5 days and 5 flights to get there, the last of which I’d fly myself in the Porter.

Day 1

Not too tricky really. Just a late afternoon hop on a company Cessna Caravan from Malinau to Tarakan for an over-night. I made the mistake of opting for company accommodation which is usually ok but that evening there were some rather long power cuts which made for a rather hot and sticky night’s sleep. Hotels have back-up generators, company houses don’t. Ho hum.

Day 2

Took a mid-morning flight form Tarakan to Balikpapan where there’s thankfully a Starbucks to ease the journey along. It’s funny really, until I came to Indonesia I’d always shunned Starbucks but since living here it’s become a bit of a sanctuary for me. Almost like an escape from the third-worldness of Indonesia. Prices are very first world however…

From Balikpapan I took another flight to get to Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta. Our company accommodation in Jakarta is about an hour’s drive from the airport via taxi (traffic dependant). I normally opt for a Bluebird or Silverbird taxi depending on the queues.

Bluebird taxi checklist

Item 2 on the above sticker inside the taxi always makes me smile. At what point do you decide the taxi driver’s being reckless. Driving down the hard shoulder? Making another lane in-between the marked ones? Undertaking? All standard stuff really…

Day 3

Last couple of legs to go. Another taxi ride back to Soekarno-Hatta airport for a flight to the new airport on Lombok, just east of Bali. Grab another Starbucks coffee and croissants (wish they did a loyalty card here!) as well as some free wifi.

It’s funny when you get on a commercial flight here in Indonesia and you hear an announcement saying welcome on board blah blah and then the words “this aircraft is going to xxx, we hope you are on the right aircraft”! Guess it must happen a lot; however, you always know you’re on a flight to Bali/Lombok when a good portion of the passengers are white folk. Makes a nice change to not be the only “bule” on a flight!

Lombok’s new airport is really quite nice. New, modern and featuring aircraft tunnels which is great (and something Bali need to get sorted out). As we taxi in I spot the Porter parked up on the end of the apron. Oh how I’ve missed flying it for nearly a month now.

Bags collected and clients met, we head out to the Porter to give it a once over. All refuelled and ready to go it’s on to Sumbawa. Getting back into it after a month away is always interesting. You can read up on the important stuff all you like but it’s always an interesting moment when you’re sitting in the cockpit with your finger on the starter switch, hoping you can remember the start sequence. Of course you can and the sound of that PT6 spooling up is all my brain needs to bring it all flooding back.

Parked up in Sumbawa

The flight over to Sumbawa was a quick one at just over half an hour and was a simple reminder of why I love this job so much. Nothing quite like island hopping between a couple of Indonesia’s beautiful islands; admiring the views of the volcanoes, beaches and crystal clear waters. Mantap! (Indonesian for “awesome!”)

Matt Dearden

Matt Dearden

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

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