Flying all over Papua
Alrighty, it’s time for an update seeing as it’s been a while since my last one. As per that last update, things continue to be rather unsettled for me with no permanent base or flying scheduled and thus I find myself back where I was around a month ago, in Wamena. Thankfully I’ve been able to do a reasonably amount of flying during a week in Timika, after a couple of weeks of being on standby in Nabire where I was beginning to get some flights in.
Sadly not long after my last update from Nabire, the flying dried up and I sat about for a couple of weeks on standby until I could be relieved by another pilot. This at least allowed me to hop over to our Timika base where things are ticking along nicely with two aircraft flying at least four flights into the mountains a day. It was bliss!
I’d almost forgotten what it was like to do a full day’s work with those 5:30am departures as the sun rises up over the mountains. It was last November that I was in Timika enjoying those sun rises, over five months ago! As well as all the usual Government subsidised flying (Perintis routes) we go to from Timika, there’s now a new route to Duma which is a mere 18 minutes flying from Timika. I’ve been there many times from Nabire as we often had charters to fly cargo from the mountain town of Enarotali into the village of Duma.
Duma is one of those fun little airstrips (around 320m long) located in a dead-end valley at around 4400ft elevation with a nice little 10% up-slope. No problem for a Porter although pigs and weather tend to be the main hazards to watch out for. Being in a dramatic valley with towering peaks to the north, the wind does get whipped up the valley bringing with it cloud and rain as the air is pushed up against the mountains. Thus Duma is always scheduled for early morning; although not too early as it’s often foggy first thing.
For the last week or so I’ve been lucky to be back up in Wamena. Whilst there has not been that much flying from here, there’s been just enough to get me out of bed each morning and keep me busy. It’s considerably more rainy compared to last month which has made it a little more tricky negotiating the clouds and mountains to get to where I’m going. It’s also meant the airstrips have been a little more slippery making for some slightly more exciting landings.
Whilst I was away from Wamena, a second BAE ATP managed to land and skid off the runway following a rather unstable approach in crappy weather. There’s a full report on The Aviation Herald here which makes for interesting reading. It certainly makes those commercial flights we have to take to get into and out of Wamena from Sentani that little bit more nerve wracking. As a pilot there’s nothing worse than being a passenger going to somewhere you fly into regularly.