Ferry back to Sumbawa from SW Java

After a few days on standby in Jakarta, I finally get the call that the aircraft will be ready for collection the following day. So I make my way back down to Pangandaran along with a good buddy of mine and brand new Porter pilot, JJ (check out his blog here). Annoyingly, due to the Indonesian Air Force (again!), Halim is closed for most of the day meaning a rather early start to catch the only flight down south at 06:30am.

Departing Nusawiru on a test flight

A quick test flight later and the aircraft was deemed fit to fly again (or so we though, more later). So we (JJ and I) headed back to the company base in Pangandaran for the night, ready for yet another early start for the flight back to Sumbawa. JJ was coming along with me to gain some experience ferrying aircraft across Indonesia.

Road from Pangandaran to Nusawiru airport

If there’s one thing I’m not especially keen on, it’s getting up before the sun has risen. And when it starts to get light at 5:30, you know it’s an early start! More annoying though is when the driver to take you to the airport decides to show up over half an hour later. The road to Nusawiru is pretty poor meaning absolutely no chance of a sneaky snooze on the near hour long drive there. Anyway, we finally got to the airport and got airborne around 7am (an hour later than planned).

Volcano venting off steam just south of Bandung

As much as I dislike them, the early starts are however rewarded with the most fantastic light. I’ve not done much flying around Java but it certainly looks beautiful with majestic volcanoes steaming away into the early morning light.

Our first destination was originally going to be Lombok but for company operational reasons, we were instructed to head north west towards a tiny microlight airstrip called Lido where we were dropping off an engineer who’d be collected by a company Cessna Caravan.

Suction caution light

All was not quite so well with the Porter though. We started to get a suction annunciator coming on during the cruise, along with the master caution chime. Not much you can do about that whilst in the air other than be aware the artificial horizon might not be accurate. The warning means that the vacuum system pressure is either too high or too low. We continued on to Lido and would investigate further once on the ground.

Short finals at Lido
Short finals at Lido

Lido’s a lovely little airstrip about 30nm south of Jakarta. It’s about 800m long and grass with a slight up-slope. Not a problem for the Porter and a nice little treat for what would otherwise be an ordinary ferry flight.

Once on the ground in Lido, the engineer adjusted the vacuum system’s air filter to fix the suction problem we were getting. Quite why this didn’t happen during the test flight is anyone’s guess. It does however serve as a reminder that often the most likely time you’ll get a problem with an aircraft is after it’s come out of maintenance!

JJ landing back at Lido

Short test flight complete and all was well with the Porter again. Next stop Lombok!

Just over 500nm to go then!

Due to the lack of reliable weather reports we weren’t entirely sure if we’d be able to get all the way to Lombok on the remaining fuel. Back in the real world, wind charts are pretty handy for this sort of planning but out here you just have to guess. Luckily the winds were none existent and we were able to get there in one hop. Otherwise we’d have to stop off in Surabaya to refuel, further lengthening the day.

Mt. Agung, Bali

A rare treat towards the end of the flight was Mt. Agung in Bali not being totally shrouded by clouds. Never realised quite how big it was until then! Bali ATC also gave us a direct clearance to Lombok thus saving 5 minutes flight time if we’d stayed on the airways. My bladder was certainly thankful for that.

I had to leave JJ in Lombok (poor lamb) as he was due to head up to Malinau to start his line check there into the strips, whilst I would collect the survey customers and take them on the short hop over the water to Sumbawa.

All in all, a bloody long day but great to share it with a friend and see a new airstrip along the way. Next stop after Sumbawa for the survey is Kisar. Now that’s going to be remote!

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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