Getting stuck in the mud

Touchdown. Dab of rudder to keep things straight and a touch of brakes to slow it all down. All nice and normal, so far. Tailwheel unlocked into steer, and taxi to the end of the airstrip. Slow down a little at the end, lock the left wheel and swing the tail round so the aircraft’s lined up for a speedy departure. Only the left wheel’s decided to corkscrew itself into the alarmingly soft ground. Increase power. More power. Full power. Bugger, we’re stuck!

Pilatus PC-6 Porter left wheel stuck in the mud at Tuput, Papua

Those of you who follow my Facebook page will have already seen a sneak preview of this little incident. Unsurprisingly, it’s not exactly uncommon for over two tonnes of aircraft to get stuck in the mud occasionally. I’ve been fairly lucky thus far, in that all of my mud vs. aircraft problems have been relatively easy to resolve. I know fellow pilots who have not been so lucky and had to spend hours digging themselves out of places. Nothing quite so drastic for me this time thankfully.

Stuck in the mud

Last week I had a charter from the tiny village of Gome to the even tinier village of Tuput. Tuput is on the high plateaux at nearly 9000ft elevation and a few miles from Agudugume. It’s not a place we go to very often and no-one from our company had been there for a few months. So before landing I made a low pass over the airstrip to check it’s condition out and all seemed fine with no visible obstructions, ditches or water logging problems.

Stuck in the mud

Landing and taxiing were all fine and the airstrip was surprisingly dry. The wheels weren’t digging in and braking action was very good. So it was a surprise when I came to turn around at the end of the airstrip and got stuck. The left wheel corkscrewed itself a good four inches into the ground and no amount of power was going to bring it back out again. So I accepted defeat and shut the engine down. With the passengers off loaded, along with all their baggage, the now lighter aircraft should be easier to extract from the grips of the mud.

Using the tow bar to straighten the tailwheel

First thing one needs to do to get unstuck is to straighten up the tailwheel. As I got stuck towards the end of turning, the tailwheel was at nearly 90 degrees to the fuselage. The Porter has a handy tow bar stored in the rear empennage which attaches to the tailwheel for manouvering the aircraft on the ground. It’s important to ensure the tailwheel is unlocked and in steer mode before using it though.

Tailwheel straightened up

Once straighten out, it was a case of digging out the left main wheel and laying down some stones for added traction. Now everything was prepared, there were two ways to escape the mud. One option is to gather as many local villagers as I could and get pushing. This can work but as there was only half a dozen or so folk around, and I was already lined up for take-off, I opted for 550SHP of Pratt & Whitney PT6 to get it out.

Lip in-front of the wheel smoothed off and stones added for traction

The aircraft rolled out of the hole with surprisingly little power and I departed without issue. All in all, pretty much a non-event and just another little tale to add to my life story out here in the jungles of Indonesia.

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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7 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Was the hole left on the runway? 🙂


    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Good question! No, the villagers were ready to fill it in and add more stones to the area to help stop any other aircraft getting stuck (although personally I just won’t use that section again).

  2. Jon Grace says:

    Ha ha, great story. I do really love reading this blog!! Especially when the weather is so poor here, I can’t do much flying myself. It kind of makes me feel that I’m keeping my hand in if that makes sense? Even considering joining Facebook just to get the updates ha ha!!

    Safe flying dude.

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Glad to hear you’re still enjoying it Jon. Hope the weather picks up for you guys soon!

    • Jon Grace says:

      Mate so do I, although it seems we are stuck in winter here, with light snow forecast again for this coming Monday. I’ve only managed four hours in the air this year which is ridiculous! I’m missing it like mad I can tell you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love this blog too! It has inspired me to finally train for my PPL

    Best Wishes

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