March 18, 2013

HSI's and other 3 Letter Acronyms

Aviation is full of acronyms. In fact, when it comes to HSI, it could mean either Horizontal Situation Indicator or Hot Section Inspection. And let's not even get into pilot talk, as that could qualify for another linguistic dialect altogether.

A Hot Section Inspection is when you take apart a turbine engine (in our case, a PT6A turbo-prop engine) and, well, inspection all the parts that get really really hot, and spin really really fast.

Earlier this year, a Hot Section Inspection was just what we did on our Kodiak MEB. It is actually the highest time Kodiak in the world, so this is the first time ever a HSI has been carried out on a Kodiak in the field. (MEB, by the way, is not an acronym but part of the aircraft's registration. The funny thing is, pilots & Air Traffic Control folk normally expand these registrations as call signs for purposes of clarity over the radio, ie: "Mike Echo Bravo".)

Below is MEB with the front 1/2 of it's engine missing. One of the main purposes of the back section of engine (still shown on the airplane) is to basically provide large amounts of compressed air, that will in turn be mixed with fuel and burnt like a big torch, hence the "hot" section.
Almost 2/3's of the engine's produced horsepower is used to make this part work - more than is used to turn the propeller! I still find that kind of weird. The next time you are in an airplane and feel all that fresh air blowing through those little vents above your head, you can thank this part of the engine. That's why when the engine's are starting, the air turns off in the cabin for a few minutes while the engines get up to speed & the pilots turn on the environmental system. I love watching every one fiddle with their air vents wondering if they broke. I think I've even done it myself.
 Above, Karl & Tim have fun figuring out what parts of the temperature probe system needs replacement.
Hot section components! These parts are worth a lot of dollar bills, and are pretty critical to a happy turbine engine. The compressor turbine (shown below) spins around 33,000rpm at very hot temperatures. Every so often, we replace a lot of these critical components and send the used parts back to the US for further inspection, replacement, or repair.

Although the component costs associated with these engines are rather huge, the amount of people and cargo these planes are able to carry make it worth while. Smaller, older, & cheaper airplanes are not necessarily that much more cost effective.

The front section of the engine & propeller hanging on the hoist waiting to be installed.
Reg making sure all is well! Or maybe he's looking for that wrench he forgot the last time he was in here (joke). We promise you, there weren't that many extra parts left over when we figured out how to put it back together.

March 10, 2013

A Weekend Flight

Every now and then, MAF gets a weekend call to do an emergency / medivac flight. The other weekend I had the opportunity to ride along with one of the pilots (Steve P.) as we went to the village of Long Bawan to pick up a sick person.
Pak Toni also re-arranges his weekend plans to come in and fuel the aircraft, pack the cargo, and readies a few extra passengers who were able to take advantage of a weekend flight. While we were gone, he stayed at the hangar to man the radio / flight follow.
Up, up, and away! For the first number of minutes out of Tarakan, it stays fairly flat, with miles of meandering rivers and countless shrimp farms blurring the boundary between river bank, coast, and jungle forest.
There were quite a few poofy cumulus clouds for so early in the day (so I was informed). For a mechanic like myself, it is neat to observe how MAF pilots daily navigate around weather while mostly flying VFR (flying by visually referencing the ground at all times, as apposed to IFR where you rely on the aircraft instruments to navigate). It is also interesting how ones' perception of the weather up ahead changes as you get closer to it. What looks like a wall of clouds can look a lot different once you get closer.
 In Long Bawan! This village actually has a "paved" runway and is kind of a center for the Krayan region. None of this area is accessible to Tarakan by road. The sick guy was helped on the plane, made comfortable as possible, and off we went.
Jungle & mountains! While there are no snow peaked Matterhorns in Borneo, there are mountains...and a lot of jungle. I was a bit surprised at how much untouched looking jungle we flew over.

 Above is one of a number of small villages we passed with a little runway down the center of it. They all seemed so close to each other in the airplane - a few minutes here, a few minutes there. But, on foot travel is usually measured in days.
Back to home sweet Tarakan! To the left is the airport, and just right of center is some of the bigger buildings around the main intersection in town. The big building way in the background is the muslim cultural learning center. And behind that...the Celebes Sea.

March 1, 2013

To the Beach!

Yes! We have a beach here in Tarakan!  Of course, no white sand with blue water, or any sun baked touristy looking tourists sipping on Corona's and reveling in the fact that they've reached Nirvana (at least that is what TV has influenced me to what the culture of a white sand / blue water combo normally looks like). No, Tarakan Island's waters are pretty muddy due to it being situated at the mouth of a river. There wasn't really that much garbage at all on the beach (I think the tide helps that one out) and there was the ambiance of free running stray male dogs by the parking area fighting over the ladies.

That all said, I've heard coral's, multi-coloured fish, & and blue tropical waters lie a few hour boat ride away.

But our beach does have sand! And kids like sand for digging. It reminded me of burrowing holes into the side of sand bars along the Columbia river before it was flooded for the Dam north of Revelstoke. Dig till you hit water!!
Charlotte didn't do too much digging, but a lot of goofing about and a little throwing of mud.
Historical fact: I'm pretty sure this is the same beach head the Aussie's used to land on in their invasion of Tarakan Island in the 2nd World War. They eventually took the island back from the Japanese who had previously taken it from the Dutch.
To have a spot just to feel the open breeze and to have a little personal space is a breath of fresh air so-to-speak. And for that, we're thankful for this beach!
Luke digging a hole straight thru to, I mean Canada:)