2012, the year that was

As time marches ever forward, I find myself at the end of one of the most mixed year’s of my life. It’s been peppered with a number of lows and so many highs, culminating in me achieving what I consider to be my ultimate aviation goal, to fly the Pilatus Porter in Papua.

For the first few months I spent a large amount of time flying surveys. Although not the most exciting flying, it did allow me to become nicely familiar with flying the Porter, having only qualified in November 2011. The survey flying took me all over Indonesia from the western most province of Aceh right through Sumatra and Java, into Kalimantan (Borneo) and across Sulawesi to the eastern island of Ternate and even into Timor to Kisar Island.

Things were not all smooth sailing though and the first sad event was the death of JJ and Ian who were both tragically killed in a crash back in April during a survey mission. This was a massive blow to everyone in our company but especially to the Porter pilots. Although the investigation as to the exact cause is still ongoing, there have been many changes since the accident to ensure it can never happen again.

After a trip to South Africa for JJ’s memorial service, it took me a little time to get back into flying but I was determined that it wouldn’t put me off doing what I love. Although one should never consider such events to be an occupational hazard, we must move forwards and learn from them.

Survey flying was suspended for a few months but the bush flying in Malinau still continued and I loved every minute of it. It’s a great place to cut your teeth flying the Porter into some challenging places and helped me improve my flying skills no end.

But then, out of the blue I get a message from a friend back in England that one of my oldest friends from when I was in school was killed in a motorcycle crash in California. The jungles of Malinau never felt so distant when I got that message. It took a few days of trying but I eventually managed to get tickets back to the UK to attend the funeral and catch up with all my old friends. 

However, once I got back to Indonesia, I got the best news I could hope for. I was to go to Papua to be evaluated for my suitability to fly in the mountains there. It’s always a pleasure flying with Sven, our Pilatus Chief pilot/instructor, and it was another great opportunity for me to learn more new skills. After a couple of weeks flying, I was finally given the green light to stay in Papua and start flying in the mountains.

My first base was to be Timika and I spent a further couple of of weeks flying there with a more experienced pilot before finally getting to fly solo in the mountains. I just love flying in Papua and especially flying the Pilatus Porter there. It’s the ultimate bush aircraft for one of the world’s most challenging flying environments.

The year has ended with what has been an amazing holiday, exploring a couple of parts of Australia with my family and my brother’s fiancée’s family. Starting initially in Melbourn where my brother lives and then on to Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville, Queensland. Completing my advanced PADI diver’s course and diving the SS Yongola wreck were the final icing on the cake to this most mixed of years.

What will 2013 bring? I have no idea but I can’t wait to find out!

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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6 Responses

  1. Jon Grace says:

    Hey Matt,

    Sounds like a year of mixed emotions!!

    Hope you had a great holiday in Australia. Mine has finally come to an end, but it was totally amazing, with one of my highlights diving off Green Island at the Great Barrier Reef. I’m writing this from Singapore airport, waiting to board for the long and hard 14 hour flight home. Hope this year brings you more highs then lows mate. Stay safe, happy flying, and happy New Year!


  2. kariyerguru says:

    Dear Mr. Dearden,
    I read all of your diaries. They are very good and very informative about Bush Flying in Indonesia and Papua. I will visit Indonesia, Kalimantan and Papua this month. Is it possible to fly with susi air’s aircraft to this remote locations? And do you have any recommendation for me about the most dangerous airstrips in Kalimantan and Papua(or other parts of Indonesia)
    Thanks in advance for your helps.. Please accept my best regards to you..
    Tufan Sevincel

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Of course you can fly on any of the routes we fly, you just have to buy a ticket! As for the most dangerous airstrips, they all have their own unique challenges which could be perceived as dangerous by some folk. However, Papua has the most dramatic looking airstrips and scenery but hopping about the jungles of Kalimantan is jolly good fun.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hey Matt,

    I have the same dream as many guys here I would love to be flying Porter in Papua! All help on how to proceed is extremely appriciated!
    I have EASA Cpl/Me/Ir/Mcc/Frozen ATPL and 350h

    Best Regards
    Nino Copelj


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