I went out to Indonesia in November 2009 and before I flew the Pilatus Porter, I spent nearly two years flying Susi Air’s Cessna C208B Grand Caravans, initially as a co-pilot. It was a great learning experience and taught me so much about commercial flying from handling passengers to navigating through Indonesia’s storm filled skies. Over the course of my year as a co-pilot I moved about the whole country and flew the Caravan in Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (Borneo), Timor and Papua.
It was in Papua that I was bitten by the bush flying bug. Here was an island filled with tiny villages, inhabited by tribal people on one of this world’s last frontiers where the only viable form of connecting these villages was with aircraft. And whilst I loved the flying I was doing with the Caravan, I couldn’t help but notice the sorts of places the Pilatus Porter pilots were taking there aircraft. So I go friendly with some of them and blagged a few rides.
Those flights in the Porter, just watching what the pilots were doing and where they were going was all it took. I knew I had to get into this sort of flying. So I made it my goal and ensured I did everything I could to get flying those awesome PC-6s.
In November 2010 I got my upgrade on the Caravan and after a quick month or so flying from Medan in Sumatra, I moved to Kupang in Timor to help establish it as Susi Air’s newest base. It was awesome flying the Caravan from Kupang as it’s around 10 degrees south of the equator and so gets the trade winds blowing in most days. To make things more fun, most of the runways were aligned at 90 degrees to the wind so I got plenty of crosswind practice. It wasn’t unusual to be landing in a 35kts gusting crosswind which was challenging but enjoyable (although perhaps not so much for our passengers!).
I remained in Kupang despite the company asking me to go to Papua and fly the Caravan there. I knew if I started doing that, I’d scupper my chances of flying the Porter as I would then become too valuable on the Caravan fleet. So I held out flying the Caravan in Kupang and in August 2011 I finally got the offer I’d been waiting for; the chance to join the Pilatus Porter fleet.