Survey overhead Makassar

After a mere week and a bit of flying around jungles of Malinau, I get the call that I’m needed over in Makassar, as there’s a rather tricky survey project about to start there. So, I flew down to Balikpapan to collect the aircraft from maintenance and then fly it direct to Makassar. I wasn’t to realise quite how tricky it was going to be until I got there….

Final approach 03 at Hasanuddin Airport, Makassar

Now, I’ve never really enjoyed survey flying and this one was really going to test my reserve as there was a rather large number of factors to mess everything up. Firstly, I was going to be flying with a totally different LIDAR system (a Leica one; more of that in another post one day), with a pretty green survey crew, in an aircraft that seemed to take a dislike to me the minute I got it airborne and all this overhead one of Indonesia’s busiest airports. Joy.

Things didn’t start out too well as the hotel the rest of the crew was booked into was full. So I ended up in some (apparently) 3 star place on the waterfront of Makassar. Sounds quite nice on paper but he live karaoke band playing until 1am directly outside my window did nothing for my rest before the 5:30am wake-up.

My best parking effort yet!

Anyway, the hotel got sorted the next day so it was on to business. The survey project was actually made up of 2 areas. One about 60nm to the north and the other directly overhead; encompassing both Makassar airport and the city. The former should have been done in about three days. For many reasons it ended up taking well over a week. Mainly due to the aircraft going tech for a variety of reasons which certainly tested our engineers and required some rather long ferry flights to get to the bottom of. And of course the weather. Any day the aircraft was undergoing maintenance, the skies were clear. Once we could fly again, the clouds came.

Yet another other factor that delayed things was the military and their fast jets. Now, I enjoy the sight (and noise) of a Sukhoi as much as the next person but they do rather frighten Makassar’s air traffic controllers who would put a halt to any survey flying should the jet-boys decide they wanted to go and play. And they certainly liked to go out and play; pretty much every morning mid-week.

It required a lot of meetings with the ATC personal to get this survey up and running. Everyone seemed to have different opinions of how to get the job done. The expression “too many cooks spoil the broth” certainly came to my mind on a number of occasions. Still, was quite nice to go up to the tower and have a wander round.

View from Hasanuddin Tower, overlooking the main apron
Backup system should al the computers fail

Once we actually managed to get going with the survey, it was surprisingly smooth. Makassar ATC even switched the runways for us to accommodate the lines we needed to fly. Without fail, the runway switch seemed to confuse every single commercial jet coming into the airport, who would have to double check with ATC they were really supposed to land runway 13 and not the usual 03.

Surveying overhead Hasanuddin Airport, Makassar
Makassar City

So there we go. I find myself writing this sat at Jakarta airport awaiting my flight back to the UK were I’ll be for the next month on a well deserved holiday. I’d rather have gone on holiday having managed a good few weeks of bush flying to report back on but I guess that’s the way it goes. Take the rough with the smooth. Gives me something to look forward to when I get back anyway :o)

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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