Battling the weather

Thanks to tropical cyclone Narelle brushing the edges of the Indonesia archipelago, the weather has been pretty wild this week here in Papua. The winds have been almost unheard of and along with the usual rainy/cloudy wet season weather has made flying a lot more challenging than it usually is.

Nice view out there…

Coming back to Nabire with 50kts at 1000ft on base leg, indicating on the G950’s wind speed readout, was something I’ve never seen before. It reduced to a more manageable 30kts crosswind on final approach and to about 20kts crosswind for the landing. I reckon trying to land a near empty Porter with a gusty crosswind is more challenging than most of the mountain airstrips I take it into! It seems the locals agreed, with over a hundred people all standing about the airport in Nabire to watch the various aircraft come into land with the windy conditions.

Lined up for departure at Apowo (yes there is an airstrip dropping away there)

The weather this week has caused a number of airstrips to be inaccessible which can be somewhat frustrating. As most of them are without any form of radio contact, the only way to know if you can safely get there and land is to go and see. Apowo seems to be my curse this week as I’ve only managed to land there once out of four attempts.

It’s all too easy to get carried away with trying to get into a strip you’ve repeatedly failed to get to but if there’s rain and cloud over the whole valley, making it impossible to see where the terrain is, it’s not safe to go in. Returning back to Nabire is the only safe option.

Unloading cargo at Pagamba

Aside from battling with the weather, I’ve been really enjoying flying into the mountains from Nabire. As I mentioned in my previous post, there’s a lot more variety here with many more airstrips and the change of scenery is fantastic. There’s also a lot more traffic flying out of Nabire. It’s a much smaller airfield than Timika and thanks to that, almost all the aircraft that fly from here are GA types; the biggest are the ATR-72s and Dash-8s.

Pagamba airstrip

The mountain people are always grateful to see an aircraft, with most of the village turning out to help unload the cargo which can be anything from the usual rice, to building materials and passengers. It amazing how many of them want to fly back to Nabire or one of the other larger towns like Enarotali but I’ve never yet flown the same number back to the same village. I can only wonder where they end up…

Locals at Bilai
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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