Moving about and visiting friends

I’d love to say that my reason for not posting much lately is because I’ve been super busy but truth is it’s been rather quiet of late on the flying front here in Nabire. I was pretty worried that my visitors from the UK wouldn’t have much to see without all the flying but things worked out rather well in the end. In the five years I’ve been in Indonesia it’s the first visit I’ve had, so the pressure was on to impress Simon and Gill as I took them on a whirlwind tour of Papua.

Visiting friends from the UK!

The hardest part of having visitors out here in Papua is I’m never totally sure where I’ll be when people arrive. Normally I’m stationed in Nabire but with additional contracts in Timika for an extra aircraft and talk of new bases being opened, it was a case of see what happens. Thankfully my friends were happy to be super flexible and things actually worked out well as they arrived in Biak in the middle of the week.

Spot colour Garmin G950 equipped PC-6 cockpit

As we’re not flying very much out of Nabire, I was able to meet them off the company Cessna Caravan that flew them in from Biak which wash handy and despite the jet-lag and lack of sleep from the night flight to Papua, Simon came with me to Turimo that very morning. For me, Turimo is a pretty uninteresting airstrip to land on and about three times as long as a Porter needs but for someone who’s never been to Papua or flown in a Porter, it was awesome. I guess one gets used to the more crazy airstrips and it’s easy to forget how it all looks for the first time. The village is actually quite pretty and interesting, located on a river and surrounded by dense jungle it’s home to three missionary families who are always keen to chat about the village and show newcomers around so it was a great start to the tour of Papua.

Locals of Sinak checkout Gill’s photography skills

Over the following few days there wasn’t much flying but I did at least get a couple of charters to another pretty long airstrip, Sinak, so was able to show both Simon and Gill the highlands of Papua and the scenery there in. We then got pretty lucky as one of the aircraft in Timika suffered a flat battery so I was instructed to fly the Nabire based Porter immediately over there to make sure we could continue to fly our obligations in Timika. I think my friends felt pretty privileged to have their own pilot chauffeur taking them on a tour of Papua!

Morning clouds on the southern Papua ridges

I was only in Timika for a day but it was fantastic to get to show my friends some proper Porter flying and also to meet plenty of highlands people in the various villages we went to. I think Simon was most impressed with the views of Puncak Jaya (the highest and snow capped mountain in Papua) which was fortunately clear on our flight between Timika and Beoga.

By the time the day’s flying was over in Timika, a new battery had been sent in and fitted to the forlorn Porter so I was surplus to requirements and flew, with my friends, back to Nabire. The weather was much clearer on our return trip so had fantastic views of Lake Paniai near Enarotali which is another stunning natural sight in Papua. 

Local man in Jila helping children over the swollen river

Once back in Nabire I was again back on standby and awaiting any charters that came in. The only one that did sadly got cancelled due to civil unrest at one of the destinations and as the aircraft had less than ten hours remaining on it before it’s routine 100 hour inspection, it was decided to take it to our Biak maintenance facility a little earlier.

This was yet another spot of luck and Biak is a beautiful island with some fascinating World War II history and surrounded by crystal clear waters.  My friends had a good look around the Japanese Cave whilst I flew a few hops between Biak and Serui. It’s a harrowing bit of history and something I saw over three years ago but worth checking out if you find yourself in Biak.

A spot of diving off Biak, Papua

Once the aircraft was in maintenance, and I was relieved of flying duties for a couple of days, it was time for one last treat before my friends headed back to the UK. I’d dived the waters off Biak last year and checked out the WWII PBY Catalina flying boat wreck so knew it was well worth doing the same with my friends. So we chartered a boat and dive gear for the day and went exploring.

One of the reefs off Biak’s remote islands

The wreck was as amazing as ever (no photos as I had camera problems again) and the second dive off one of the tiny white sand islands surrounding Biak was stunning. It’s nice to see plenty of sea life out here as the area was heavily over-fished in the past anywhere near populated areas and much of the reefs decimated. Thankfully the remote islands were teeming with life and it was great end to my friends’ time in Papua. Hopefully their visit might inspire others to come out and visit as although it’s a very long way from anywhere, it’s well worth making the trip!

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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10 Responses

  1. Hi Matt,
    Thanks for this amazing blog. I have been diagnosed with APMD (Acute Porter Modeling Disorder), for which there is no cure. I am building 2 remote control Porters simultaneuously.
    I am doing the Susi Air paint scheme on one of them and figure, in honor of this amazing blog, I would use the registration number of your favorite Porter if you have one.
    I will maiden her on skis because it is winter in Montreal right now, she will get her wheels back in the spring.
    Few people realize that this is real flying. Flying a big shiny airliner jet is more like driving a bus. This stuff requires skill, careful planning and rapid decision making, day in , day out.
    Thank for the awesome videos, it is most inspiring. Keep them coming! Happy holidays.
    Olivier Damiron
    Montreal, Canada

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Hi Olivier,

      I too am building an R/C Porter model at the moment although I’ve still got a long way to go! It’s only an electric park flyer type but should hopefully look and fly well when it’s done.

      PK-BVT is the one I’ve got the most hours in and holds a soft spot for me as the first Porter I soloed in the mountains of Papua with.

      Cheers

    • Awesome! BVT it shall be then. Too cold to do any flying at all here right now, temps between -10 and -20 C all the time so plenty of time to build! When the weather relaxes a bit, something above -10, I will attempt to fly on skis. I have an electric kit from Multiplex, a foamie that I am painting to Susi Air colors. I will put a blog together and send you the link so you can see the pictures and hopefully disaster free videos! Been flying quadcopters for a few years so my fixed wing skills are probably very poor at the moment! Cheers,

  2. Simon G says:

    15 years ago when we met as University freshers in Southampton I would never in my wildest dreams have believed that Matt, the archetypal computer science student (can I say geek? ;-)), would one day be flying me over the Papuan Jungle, soaring high over imposing peaks and ridges, threading down steep winding valleys and landing on impossibly short bumpy and slippery landing strips.

    In reality, the hills, valleys and strips are steeper, more enclosed and more imposing than a camera could ever convey. If it looks exciting and inspiring on this blog, it is and more in reality. The skill and professionalism required to safely negotiate these Porter runs is also striking at first hand. There is no room for error out there!

    We were also very privileged to witness the vital service that these flights provide to the village tribes in modern day Papua. Meeting the locals was exciting and humbling and through Matt’s seemingly fluent Bahasa, they did their best to answer my, probably ignorant, first world questions!

    So it took 5 flights to get from Edinburgh to Papua and there was always a risk that Matt’s constantly changing schedule would see us on a wild goose chase around Indonesia, but in the end it was worth every one of the hours sat in a cramped seat on a skybus at 37000ft.

    What is ‘just the day job’ for a Porter pilot was a once in a lifetime experience for me and one i’ll never forget.

    Thanks buddy.

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Touching words there bud. And I’m so glad it all worked out for Gill and you to come out here to experience my life. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed I’d be out here when we met at uni all those years ago and I’m still a geek at heart although more of a Porter geek these days ;o)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Matt,

    I’m an aspiring bush pilot/great fan of your indopilot blog!

    I would like to ask you about your experience starting out your modular training from PPL, and then moving on to IR, CPL/MEIR before you went on to Indonesia to fly professional.

    Did you do your modular training sequentially like, e.g clearing your PPL first before clearing Instrument Rating..and then moving on to CPL and finally MEIR rating. Would you have any tips to share on how I should space my training out or if there were anything u would do differently if you had to train modularly, again?

    pilotjames

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      Hi James,

      If I knew that I’d end up bush flying for a living, I’d probably have not even bothered with the JAA/EASA license and gone for the (much easier and cheaper) FAA option. However, this was the order I did things in over three years or so:

      – PPL
      – ATPL theory + the odd bit of private flying to keep my hand in
      – Hour building in the UK from Bristol airport where I was to do my CPL
      – IR/ME
      – CPL
      – MCC

      I reckon that worked out pretty well for me and don’t think I would have done it any other way really.

      Cheers

  4. Unknown says:

    Saw you on the TV show. Having been overseas myself, I’m sure it was great to have some visitors. Continued success in your career, and I hope I get to stay in touch via the posts. God Bless! -joe

  5. jelvin says:

    hello Matt, thanks for amazing blog

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