Back flying with a bump

Well, lots of bumps actually as the winds have really picked up here in Papua for my return to the mountains. I’ve seen 45kts+ on the G950’s wind readout flying at 10,000ft or so which combined with even higher mountains makes for some very bumpy flights. Added to that, I’ve been moved out of Timika and over to Nabire to cover for a fellow pilot who’s on holiday at the moment.

Locals at Nabia airstrip

Nabire of course is where I learned to fly the Porter with Sven Imsand which brings me on to the first bad news of the year. Sven decided for a number of reasons to hand in his resignation over the Christmas holidays which has left a huge hole in the Porter fleet. Without him, our Porter fleet would not be what it it today and for that we will always be eternally grateful. Whatever you’ve got planned for the future bud, I wish you all the best!

Apowo approach

Although I’ve flown a reasonable amount in the Nabire area and gone to a number of strips there, it’s been a challenging but fun few days getting back into the swing of things. I’m always a little rusty after a few weeks off from flying and combined with flying in an area of Papua I’ve not flown in for a while has certainly forced me to up my game.

Hidadipa airstip

One great thing about moving to another area of Papua is the change of scenery and airstrips you land on. Nabire has far more airstrips closer to it than Timika does which I just love. The variety is awesome and departing before the sun gets up is a truly special event each morning (although does require waking up at 04:30am).

Heading out to the mountains as the sun gets up

The flights are incredibly busy at the moment with many people from the mountains wanting to get to Nabire. This has led to a few tussles amongst the passengers as they decide who gets to board the aircraft back to Nabire at the remote airstrips. Just this morning in Deneode, I had 20 or so people get into the back of the aircraft the moment the cargo was offloaded. There was some serious fisticuffs as I had to push them all out to get the seats loaded in. Luckily a couple of the locals helped me out and we eventually managed to settle on 7 passengers plus a few babies and cargo.

Pagamba airstrip

Aside from the wind, the weather’s not been especially nice either. Yesterday was a typical wet season stratus/layered cloud day with lots of rain and closed airstrips. By closed I mean covered in cloud so you can’t see them. It’s pretty frustrating flying above an airstrip you want to land on but cannot see, as it’s totally covered in clouds. Luckily sometimes, if there’s an airstrip close by that is open, I can just land there and drop off the cargo and passengers.

With the government rice contracts we often have a list of airstrips where it’s needed in order of priority. You try to land at the first one, if no good try the next and so on. Hopefully you can drop it off somewhere as returning back to home base with 850kgs of rice is a wasted journey but obviously always an option should all the airstrips be in the clouds. It’s certainly not worth risking it for a load of rice!

Watching the aircraft being unloaded
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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2 Responses

  1. alain says:

    exciting story and great pictures, it is always for me to discover a new post


  2. As always Matt, great blog and pictures and glad you’ve settled back in even if with a bump! Keep safe Son X.

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