It was a short and sweet couple of weeks flying from our Nabire base to cover for the current pilot shortage there. It's been the most fun couple of weeks flying I've had thus far but as with all good things it had to come to an end, so for now I find myself back in my original hunting ground, Timika.
A large proportion of the airstrips we go to from Nabire are located along what's called the "Freeway". This is a track running roughly south-east/north-west along the valley between Nabire on the northern coast and Mulia airstrip in the central mountain ranges. Along the route are various reporting points that were established by the original missionary pilots and are still used by everyone today.
One of the main hazards you might encounter along the Freeway are aircraft flying at the wrong level. It's amazing some commercial pilots still don't know how to use the quadrantal rule which is the same here in Indonesia as it is in the UK when flying VFR. Radio silence is another one which can be compounded when some operators opt not to have their transponders serviceable, so that my TCAS system can't see them. First you see of them is an aircraft passing below/overhead, or a little closer before you spot it...
My two weeks in Nabire was cut a little short due to having to take the Porter based there to our maintenance facility for it's 100 hour check. All our Porters are inspected by our engineers every 100 hours which tend to come up every 3 weeks or so. Unfortunately, the engineers found some pretty serious corrosion below the floor which was caused by something leaking from cargo some time before. It's bad enough that the aircraft is now grounded until it can be repaired properly.
I was expecting things to be fairly quiet here in Timika but thankfully it's as busy as usual thanks to the never ending need to get cargo flown into the mountains. The majority of the flying in Timika is locally subsidised routes for the local people. The contract for these routes expired, as it always does, at the end of December. For reasons best known to Indonesians, they opt to renegotiate the contracts during the month of January and thus there are no subsidised routes being flown. This happens countrywide in Indonesia, every year. Why can't they negotiate them in November, before they expire and thus save wasting January? I just can't get my head around it!
|PAC P-750 XSTOL over-taking me along the "Freeway"|
|Old and new|
|You'd be amazed how accurate they are with those things|