The move to Nabire

After one and a half years being mainly based out of Timika, the time has come for me to move to our Nabire base. Although I’ve spent the odd few weeks there over the last eighteen months, this is the move I’ve been wanting to make ever since I first got a taste of the flying we do from Nabire.

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go..

It is amazing how much stuff one can collect when staying in the same place for a length of time. I had to have a bit of a clear out before leaving Timika and donated a load of old clothes and mobile phones to a local missionary cause, helping families living with HIV/AIDS in Timika. Despite offloading a few things I still managed to fill my big suitcase and carry on case with stuff. In addition I also had to bring my mountain bike and newly purchased espresso machine. Couldn’t be leaving those behind!

Despite the huge network of routes offered by the numerous operators out here in Papua, including the company I fly for, there are no commercial flights between Timika and Nabire. The only way this can be done is via Sentani which is an hour’s flight on a 737 in the wrong direction, an over-night there and then an ATR or another 737 back the other way into Nabire or via Biak.

To avoid this hassle, the way we usually do this sort of relocation of a pilot, engineer or other crew-member is via an airstrip that both our Nabire and Timika based aircraft fly to. I managed to jump-seat a colleague of mine to Bilogai with my stuff and then jump-seat another of our aircraft back to Nabire all on the same day. Of course this does depend on weather, schedule, cargo loads etc. so isn’t ideal but this time we had no other choice. I had to get to Nabire to start flying immediately as the current pilot was out of holiday.

Pagamba airstrip, Papua

Having arrived in Nabire at the end of last week, I’ve been straight back into it. The flying is back up to full strength with eight to ten sectors or more to be flown six days a week. It’s great to be busy again and get back into the various airstrips Nabire has to offer. Already in the last few days I’ve been into over a dozen different airstrips; I just love the variety of places we go to from Nabire.

Local people of Sanepa all dance about with excitement of an aircraft arriving
From left to right: pastor, tribe leader’s wife and kids, me, tribe leader

And that variety of airstrips is only ever increasing, as new airstrips keep appearing thanks to local villages constructing them to allow them flying access direct into their village, rather than having to hike hours through the jungle to the nearest village with an airstrip.

The latest airstrip is Sanepa which is located mid-way between Mbugalo and Pogapa on the same southern side of the Freeway. The local villagers were beside themselves after I’d landed; dancing around and cheering. Amazingly a local pastor there, Frans, could speak perfect English helped explain what some of the locals were saying. Although I can speak ok Indonesian, it’s always nice to have someone to help with communications, especially when each area of Papua has it’s own language. Hopefully soon we will be able to start proper flight operations here soon as it’s quite a challenging airstrip which is something I always enjoy.

Village of Sanepa posing with the Pilatus Porter and me
The PC-6 lined up on 185m or so of Sanepa airstrip, Papua

Sadly since I’ve been away from Nabire, another aircraft has had an accident in Pogapa. The previous accident was only a few months ago and involved a Cessna Caravan getting things a bit wrong on landing, not helped by the afternoon winds. This most recent accident also involved a Cessna Caravan which landed short of the runway and bouncing onto it, collapsing the undercarriage in the process. Thankfully in both cases, everyone walked away but these sort of things always serve to remind us of the hazards of flying out here in the mountains of Papua.

Another reminder of how easy it is to get things a bit wrong flying in Papua
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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8 Responses

  1. Wish you all the best in the new base.

  2. toPHENX says:

    Hi Matt …
    your stories, photos and video about flight activity in your blog is so awesome and very inspiring. Allow me on behalf of myself and our virtual airline to use your own photos to be used as an illustration of our VA website.

    SusiAir Virtual is a non-profits organization that is open to anyone especially for aviation lovers, users of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004/FSX/X-Plane etc., to simulate the flight operations of Susi Air.

    Thank you before…

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Hi there,

      I had no idea such a community existed and I’m flattered you’ve chosen to simulate the company I work for. Awesome stuff and I especially like the Tsinga airstrip you’ve created; looks very much like the real thing!

      Feel free to use any of the photos on this blog for your website but please do link back to this blog when you do so.

      Cheers and happy landings!

    • toPHENX says:

      A backlink was added, thanks so much..

      Taufan Hidayat // tophenx’at’ | info’at’

  3. Sweet blog Matt! I just added you to my “circles”. Keep up the great job!

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