1000 hours flying the Pilatus Porter
There has been so many moments, it’s pretty difficult to select just one but I reckon it’ll be hard to top that feeling of being let loose on my own, in the mountains of Papua, with my very own PC-6. That first solo landing after being line-checked out of Timika was pretty special.
Worst moment: Survey flying
Whilst this is not quite what one would describe as a moment, survey flying has been by far the hardest flying I’ve ever had to do and not especially enjoyable if I’m honest. On the plus side it seriously sharpened up my hand flying to very precise limits and did allow me to fly around and see almost all of Indonesia.
Scariest moment: Acute food poisoning
Most interesting experience: Overnighting in the jungle
Spend enough time flying over the jungle and it’s pretty likely you’ll end up spending the night there eventually. A steadily decreasing oil pressure reading forced me to make a precautionary landing mid-journey at Long Alango in northern Kalimantan. It proved to be a pretty interesting experience staying in the local village for the night, full story here.
Longest flight (distance): 670nm
Unsurprisingly this was a ferry flight to reposition the aircraft from Balikpapan in Kalimantan to Kupang in Nusa Tenggara Timor. Thanks to a handy tailwind it only took 5 hours and 30 minutes.
Longest flight (time): 6:00hrs
This was the longest single survey flight I’ve done and was from Ternate in East Sulawesi. Trying to balance out drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated and not dieing for a pee mid-flight is probably one of the hardest parts to these long survey flights.
Shortest flight: 3nm – Long Paday to Binuang
Both of these airstrips are located in north Kalimantan and occasionally we’d have a need to drop into Long Paday from one of the other local airstrips before continuing on to Binuang. This has to be one of the shortest commercial flights in the world I reckon.
Favourite airstrip: Hidadipa
This airstrip is located in the highlands of Papua off to the side of a pretty steeply sided valley. In order to land on it, you have to descend into the valley nearly half a mile away, hug the right hand side before dropping down between the trees on short final to make the landing. Once you’re in the valley you have to land, as even a Porter can’t climb out again when fully loaded.
You just can’t beat a good sunrise as you climb out towards the giant bush pilots’ playground that is Papua. It’s a real pleasure to see these each morning and really brings it home how special it is to fly in this wonderful place.