2015 bush flying summary

As the year closes to an end, I thought it would be interesting to see how much flying I got up to in a typical year as a bush pilot. Along with a flying summary and some statistics, I’ll also share my twelve favourite photos/moments from what has been a pretty great year of flying for me from moving up to Wamena with the Pilatus Porter to learning to fly the PBY Catalina.

All my flights in Papua for 2015

All my flights in Papua for 2015

Flying Statistics for 2015:

Total hours flown: 453 hours
Number of flights: 935 flights
Total distance flown: 41,137nm
Total take-offs/landings: 938
Total water alightings: 16
Number of unique airstrips visited: 93
Number of new airstrips to me: 50

As you can see from the above Google Earth image of all my flights for 2015, the two places I flew from the most were Timika and Wamena. Sadly we didn’t operate a Porter from my old base of Nabire at all this year however the challenges of flying from Wamena made up for the loss of Nabire. As for what next year will bring, who knows!

Top photos/moments of 2015

January

The year started with me moving from my old base of Nabire up to the highlands of Wamena at 5000ft where I spent a few weeks flying into so many new airstrips I can barely remember them all! A definite highlight was the nearly 30% up-slope of Bangga airstrip.

Bangga airstrip - Papua, Indonesia

Bangga airstrip – Papua, Indonesia

February

The flying from Wamena continued into February where I started to consolidate my training and fly into the more challenging airstrips. Salema was a regular flight which was great being only 20 minutes from Wamena and offering a short, steep and challenging airstrip to perfect landing on.

Pilatus PC-6 Porter lined up for departure at Selama, Papua

Pilatus PC-6 Porter lined up for departure at Selama, Papua

March

Some charters out of Nabire took me back there briefly but it wasn’t the flying that was the highlight. That crown was taken by two trips to see the giant whale sharks native to the waters off the coast of Nabire. An experience I’ll never forget!

Photographing whale sharks near Nabire, Papua

Photographing whale sharks near Nabire, Papua

April

With a brief return to Timika to cover the pilot shortage there, I was back in Wamena and continuing the flying into the more challenging airstrips there. However, it was this month that I bit the bullet and made my biggest purchase to date, a share in a Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina based in the UK.

Sunrise over the ridges near Mbua pass, Papua

Sunrise over the ridges near Mbua pass, Papua

May

Having made the purchase of the Catalina share and spent the previous month studying all the ground school requirements, it was time to learn to fly Miss Pick Up from the historic Duxford airfield in Cambridge, UK. What an amazing aircraft and no regrets at all with buying a share in her and all the wonderful people involved with keeping her flying.

Checking the cowl flaps on the Twin-wasp engines

Checking the cowl flaps on the Twin-wasp engines

June

This was to be my first ever airshow and by a large coincidence it was also near my home town in Somerset. The Weston-Super-Mare airshow was amazing fun and it was great to be able to fly my father from Duxford to my old training airfield, Bristol International Airport. As far as I know, I’m still the first ever pilot to land a Catalina there (let me know if you know otherwise?)

Cockpit view from a PBY Catalina over Weston-Super-Mare beach

Cockpit view from a PBY Catalina over Weston-Super-Mare beach

July

I have always known that aircraft are a lifeline for the people of Papua but it wasn’t until we started to suffer the affects of the prolonged El Niño phenomenon and the lack of rain it was causing that I realised just how vital aircraft are. The people of the highland villages of Agadugume and Kwijawagi were suffering the most because all their crops had failed causing a severe food shortage leading to diseases and deaths. I was incredibly humbled by the welcome I received by being the first pilot to start flying the aid into their villages. This job is about so much more than simply flying aircraft.

Hero for the day helping the people of Agadugume

Hero for the day helping the people of Agadugume

August

This was probably the lowest point of the year for me as things were not going that well aviation wise in Indonesia. The local currency had devalued massively (and continues to do so), especially against the US dollar which was having an affect on all aviation activities that are naturally tied to the US dollar. It forced me to seriously think about my career and what is best for it. And for now, I’m pleased to say it’s bush flying!

Stunning sunrise out of Wamena, Papua

Stunning sunrise out of Wamena, Papua

September

One of the many reasons for getting involved with the Catalina was because, aside from being a warbird, she’s also a flying boat and operating an aircraft on water was an itch I have been wanting to scratch for a  long time. So off I went to Biscarrosse lake in Bordeaux, France to learn all about operating a WWII flying boat on the water and to gain my commercial seaplane rating for her. It was one of the most fun week’s of flying I’ve had. The trouble now is I want to do more seaplane flying but I’ve not figured out how to convince my boss the Porter needs floats yet..

PBY-5A Catalina Miss Pick Up on Biscarrosse lake, France

PBY-5A Catalina Miss Pick Up on Biscarrosse lake, France

October

Having purchased a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced drone, I started to put it to good use by capturing some amazing photos of the airstrips in Papua from angles never before seen. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to come over the next year so watch this space!

Phantom 3 drone photo of Ndundu airstrip, Papua

Phantom 3 drone photo of Ndundu airstrip, Papua

November

After a bit of a hiatus from the blog over the previous few months, I began to reflect on things in Papua and whether I really wanted to continue out here. 6 years is a long time to be anywhere but I’ve still not found anything better to do, so figured whilst I’m still enjoying the flying I’ll keep at it for now. And with airstrips like Wipon (pictured below), it’s hard to stop this kind of flying!

 

Drone photo showing the slope at Wipon airstrip, Papua

Drone photo showing the slope at Wipon airstrip, Papua

December

By far the biggest highlight was being the first ever aircraft to land on the brand new airstrip at Liligan. Whilst I have been to many airstrips new to myself, this was the first time I had been the very first aircraft into somewhere and I was taken back by the celebrations of the local people who were singing and chanting whilst dancing in circles around the aircraft. Such an amazing privilege!

Liligan airstrip in Papua, Indoneisa

Liligan airstrip in Papua, Indoneisa

Looking back it has been a pretty amazing year really and despite the lows, there have been some amazing highs and I can’t think of anything else I would rather be doing right now. So with that, may I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year and I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!

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. Elaine says:

    Thanks for sharing your interesting aviation journey with us and cannot wait to see what you get up to in 2016!

  2. AJ says:

    Mantaps bro!!…… thanks for sharing your experiences 🙂

  3. sily says:

    Silly question, why are the number of flights different of the total take-off+landing?

    Number of flights: 935 flights
    Total take-offs/landings: 938

    • Matt Dearden Matt Dearden says:

      It’s very common for that to be the case because if I’m doing some training, I will often do circuits to practice take-offs and landings. So I may do 3 or more in one flight. With the Catalina, it is a multi-crew aircraft so only one of the pilots will do the take-off and landing on each flight. So on some flights you many not do a them as the other pilot is.

      Hope this clears it up for you!

  4. Neil says:

    Really enjoy your blogs and postings and sensational photos.
    Happy New Year and thanks!

  5. Bill Stowe says:

    Thank you, Matt. Please keep the adventure coming.

    I am a 747 Captain. Wanna change places?

  6. Pedro Rego says:

    Great stuff Matt, all the best for your life mate!
    Still think you made the best choice career wise, cheers and safe landings!

  7. Yoga says:

    I’m really a big fan of you and really admiring your flying in Papua. To fly in a such beatiful place like that is one of my dream

  8. Aditya says:

    Dude, really inspiring diary and how i love to meet u someday! Im 23 and I do like to start my education of becoming a pilot this year, hopefully so. Im an Indonesian national, do they require ME lisence to apply for a job? How about insurance options, And how many years or hours would i need to have before i can work in Papua? The lifestyle, chalengges and salary suits me up i think, i love Papua! By the way i have watched all the episodes and its the best place to be a pilot, ever i think! U living a nice life man! Keep the spirit up!

  9. Krissie says:

    Hi Matt. I watched your show from Canada. You’re such a great pilot with nice personalities. You should consider to be a pro writer. Wish you all the best.

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