Borneo up in smoke!
Now that the rain has all but stopped up here in Northern Kalimantan, it’s that time of year when the locals start to burn parts of the rainforest. I always struggle to understand why they do this and thinking back to my GCSE geography the buzz word was “slash and burn”. However, chatting with the locals I can understand it a bit more from their view point.
|Large fires burning south west of Malinau, Kalimantan|
Kalimantan is fairly unique in the way rice is grown. The usual, modern way to grow rice is to have a flooded padi (paddy) field which has to be kept wet though means of an irrigation system that channels the rainwater into the fields. However, there’s another, more traditional, way to grown rice that relies on totally dry, fertile soil which you get by burning.
|Approaching Mahak Baru (airstrip in the foreground is the new runway not yet open)|
|Large fire next to Mahak Baru|
This of course creates some rather tricky flying conditions, especially when they start large fires right by an airstrip. The lower you go, the worse the visibility gets, dropping to 3km or less in places in the haze of smoke.
|Poor visibility along one of the valleys|
|Parked up at Mahak Baru with the fires burning next to the airstrip|
Of course, once you get above the inversion layer, the skies are lovely and clear. Thankfully the Porter gets up there nice and quickly too, as you can almost feel the smoky air poisoning your lungs in the lower levels.
|Pilatus Porter on climbout into the clear blue skies|
Aside from the smoke, flying up in Malinau continues to be awesome fun and always full of surprises. Flying a single pilot aircraft often means you have a passenger sitting next to you up front. Mostly they just tend to fall asleep but occasionally they get rather excited by their surroundings and the fact they’re flying.
In the Porter we can remove the right side control stick, so at least that minimises the chances of a passenger grabbing it, however when things get turbulent they do seem to grab whatever comes to hand. Usually they’ll grab their own seat or the front of the shelf that sits in-front of the instrument panel. However, I’ve also had them grab the door handle, the emergency door hinge release (which luckily requires a strong yank to release so I’ve not lost a door yet) or even my right leg which certainly takes you by surprise! A fellow Porter pilot even had a passenger grab his right arm on short finals which caused him to close the power level; not something you need at a critical stage of flight!
I’ll leave you with this photo I took the other day overhead the river in Malinau. Not sure how he got there but I guess he’ll have some explaining to do!