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.

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