Europe so far with a PT6

06May20  ...New Photos

05Apr20  ...New Photos

 Enjoying the PC12    New Photos 10Nov19    Barcelona & Gatwick

10Nov19  ...New Photos and Videos

21Sep19  ...New Photos

18Jun19  ...60 New Photos

17Apr19  ...New Photos

11Apr19  ...New Photos

18Jan19  ...Best wishes for 2019 to all and apologies for the lack of updates.

Believable excuses include the burning smell which marked the passing of my laptop, the transfer of all data to a new laptop which then developed a fault, the delayed supply of another new laptop and the month needed to find and install the data which by then was stored in 20 different places.
Circumstances also combined to bring a lot of flying but this meant working almost all days each month with my regular contracts in Belgium and Poland plus some ad hoc flying for customers between times.
2019 started equally busy but great changes are afoot and life should settle down soon with new challenges and a more normal schedule.    

09Nov18  ...New Photos  Story to still to follow.

18Oct18 ...New Photos  Story to follow.

24Sep18 ...on day 8 of a 12 day tour in Warsaw enjoying operating an old model PC12 for an airline Support Service. So far a few trips dropping off spare parts and positioning crew to France and around Poland (finally able to add a dot on the map for Wroclaw too). 

01Aug18 ...incredible that my small adventures have been shared by more than 15,000 visitors to this blog and almost 24,000 views of the YouTube Channel.

I enjoyed some interesting flying during June but there were no photos or stories of note.

July was better while based in Poland and Belgium and going to Katowice, Rhodos, Son Bonet (Palma de Mallorca's General Aviation airport), Salerno and Mikonos - ending with dropping the aircraft off for scheduled maintenance in Gray St. Adrien in France.

I do have one story though ...on a car drive to the north of Scotland we spent a few nights at a Bed&Breakfast in Strontian.

The chaps who ran the B&B also kept ornamental chickens, including an intrepid one named 'Tina Turner' (it will make sense when you see her photo).
We departed the B&B and drove 45 minutes to the Corran Ferry.
Having joined the line for the ferry and shut down the engine we could hear scratching sounds from up front ...and found that Tina had joined us on our journey and sensibly found a space behind the bumper when the car started moving.
With the hood opened and me peering in at Tina peering out it was obvious she could not be removed past the hot engine without injuring and/or cooking her [and me]. Tina retreated back into the cavity behind the bumper.
We finally got her out by blocking off her route back into the engine and then removing the bumper.   Tina was used to being handled and came out with only a token amount of clucking, flapping and pecking, and then sat happily in my arms.
A phone call to the B&B brought one of the chaps speeding down the road to collect Tina ...and all was well again.

26May18 ...back enjoying a tour on the support aircraft based in Warsaw. Woken up at 0445 and airborne within 60 minutes to take an urgent spare part keeping a Boeing 737 on the ground in Poznan ...and establishing a personal record for the smallest cargo I ever flew. 
Sadly also here at the bloc of flats yesterday things did not end well for a Vietnamese illegal immigrant who jumped out of a 3rd floor window when authorities carried out a raid.

01May18 ...back home from a very busy short tour operating an airline's AOG support aircraft all over Europe - Berlin, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Poznan, Stavanger, Katowice, Marseille and Mykonos in the Greek Islands. Most days were hazy so the photos are not perfect, but the views of the Alps and Carpathians were superb. 

28Mar18 ...enjoying an 11 day stint based in Warsaw again with a sweet old PC12/45 supporting the airline AOG (Aircraft On Ground) and crew service.
So far it has been a gastronomic tour with duck in Poland, meatballs in Sweden, bratwurst in Austria and schnitzel in Germany. 
Heading home to Glasgow on Friday ...hopefully a better trip than last month when a computer failure at KLM and a collapse in Customer Service combined with snow in Scotland and I was stuck in Amsterdam for 5 days [without suitcase].

26Feb18 ...operating a PC12 in support of an airline technical and crewing service for 10 days. Temperature on the ground has dropped to -14°C and de-icing was required for a flight from Warsaw to Krakow and back to collect a crew.
It has also given me the opportunity to visit the flat where my family lived when stationed in Warsaw in 1960. 

30Jan18 ….back home in Glasgow after a very pleasant 3 day trip on behalf of Charleroi, Belgium based EAPC taking hunters to Castelo Branco in Portugal with a fuel stop in Pau Pyrénées Airport.

Merry Christmas 2017 .... so far 12,000 visitors to this blog and 15,000 views of our videos on YouTube.   Thank you very much for sharing these adventures with me !


01Sep17 ....as usual I start by apologising for the 5 month silence.  To my great disappointment the job in Ireland did not work out and there were some months of stress and upheaval.

I am now based back at home in Glasgow and am blessed with a pleasant amount of freelance work, to date mostly around Europe on the PC12.


There will be more stories in the near future but in the meantime there are new photos and a few more Papua videos.


Some of the movies may not play on phones and tablets (music issues).
View instead on PC / laptop or on phones and tablets in 'Desktop Mode'.

01Mar17 ….sorry it has been a while, but I am now settling into the new job operating our brand new Pilatus PC-12 around Europe.

Highlights so far include an 1100 NM trip to Faro in Portugal and a 3 hour run across Europe at 30,000 ft on a crystal clear night :
sunset over the Alps, big cities below, stars above and surrounded by the flashing lights of other traffic ….and dealing with rapid ice accretion descending a -48°C cold soaked aircraft into a +8°C UK drizzle.

Click on the icons below for the first Euro PC12 photos and GoPro Test as well as new or updated Indonesia movies :

Tue23Aug16 ....recognising that I have reached the limit of what is possible to achieve whilst remaining alive in Papua and having exhausted my tolerance for the region's unique practices
....I have decided not to return to Indonesia at the end of this leave.

I would like to thank my colleagues and friends in Nabire for your kindness and support over the past 21/2 years, and send my best wishes for safe flying and happy landings.

Thanks also for the almost 7000 visitors who shared this adventure to date.


Thu07Jul16 ….almost at the end of Tour 8 and very glad to be returning soon to Glasgow.

This Tour has been marred by avoidable aircraft airworthiness problems, organisational chaos and reduced cargo due to government stagnation.

Tribal tensions in the mountains fester and often erupt in airstrip-blocking riots, while the Independence movement have got their hands on more weapons which they are using with gusto.

More problematic is that the arms windfall has also reached local bandits who are busy with the opium harvest, and fire on 'spy' aircraft overflying villages beside airstrips.

…and there is a very fatal epidemic in the more remote valleys which nobody talks about.

Communications in general and internet in particular have been bad, as you would expect when there are problems in the province and the flow of information needs to be reduced.

Sadly also a spate of accidents and incidents, most caused by human error, lack of proficiency and spectacular bad judgement
…the one notable exception being proof that you can be a highly skilled, locally experienced, well trained and very careful pilot doing everything correctly and STILL Papua will turn around and bite you.

…and it is the end of Ramadan and the start of Idul Fitri - so the entire nation has ground to a halt and everybody is a bit nuts.

Positive highlights include my first commercial loads out of Timika and getting signed off as Captain to land in Sinak, a few cloudless calm days which allowed close overflights at 16,000 ft of the Puncak Jaya, Carstenz Glaciers and the Grasberg Gold Mine.

Also some trips to the see the Whale Sharks, various beaches and an incredible jungle waterfall in the Karadiri Forest Plantation.

Further piscine thrills were seeing wild examples of fish which we used to retail in our aquarium business …and a yet-to-be-identified-and-photographed 2+meters fish cruising in the shallows of the High or West Lake on approach to Ilaga.
I spotted its wake from 1 NM away and could clearly see leisurely strokes of its caudal fin from 750 ft overhead.    Other fish were also clearly visible feeding, creating splashes on this normally placid and presumed lifeless ±10,800 ft elevation lake.    It has been mooted that is a catfish of the Siluridae family which would match what I saw ….and rumour has it that a missionary pilot seeded the high lakes in the 1980s - but we do not know yet what he threw in.    Highland natives say there is a very large, very frightening fish in the river which drains from the High Lake.

Other excitement was a minor earthquake - don’t know what is was on the Richter Scale but it tipped me out of my bed.
I was also hired out to another company to do Caravan ratings for their new Co-Pilots and Line Training for one of their Captains.

There are some new photos and videos.


Sat16Apr16... on leave in Scotland - suffering a bit in the clear but freezing cold weather under a Siberian High.

Many thanks to the 6000+ visitors
who have shared this experience !

END   OF   TOUR   7

Sun27Mar16… our Ground Crew happily support my eating regimen …Indonesians love it when you are willing to try local fare …they love it even more as you put on a show when it tastes horrible or need 10 tissues to absorb the spices running out of your nose and eyes.

Our usual day is 3 return flights into the mountains :

Flight 1   I have cheese and fruit juice,
Flight 2   I get a selection of fresh fruit and water and
Flight 3   I enjoy a thermos of coffee and local cakes
(kue - pronounced ‘kwaay’ ...see photo).

With the exception of cheese brought from Scotland, other items are provided in enormous quantities - culturally it would be a matter of national shame if I ran out of food …a happy side effect being that the Ground Crew get the leftovers at the end of the day.

On days when we have heavy items to load or cleaning tasks after flying there are a lot of extra crew …so I get a mountain of food which I take all the way into the highlands and back …and then distribute magnanimously after the last flight.
Again culturally, not a single piece of the ‘leftovers’ will be touched until I hand it over ….but if I take too long doing my paperwork then there are quiet hints of “kue kue” and “kofi boss” which increase in volume and frequency until the goodies are surrendered.

Unfortunately, it is a quiet time of year with not much cargo or passenger traffic …so we are only doing 1 or 2 flights per day.
Whether I do 1 flight or 3, I get/eat the same amount of food …it does not bode well for the next leave rotation that I am fat even before I arrive in the land of McD, KFC and FishSuppers.

Opulence is a sign of wealth and well being in Indonesia and is spoken about without any of the reservations we have in the West …when I return 9 kg heavier after a month’s leave I can expect to hear “you are really fat” - delivered without guile after an appraising look.

However, my Ground Crew are also canny enough to realise that blubber is an issue for a Westerner ….so they amuse themselves with small adjustments to my seat harness making it just tight enough to stress me out …and they fall about laughing when I come back from a flight with the cakes untouched.

[ I have fallen for that three times already …including yesterday ]

Fri25Mar16… Good Friday could have been better …frustrations galore during flights into the highlands with pigs and passengers in very cloudy weather.
It does not help that I am now on day 73 of a 60 day tour with correspondingly less tolerance.

On the other hand, the MAF families graciously invited me to a very relaxing and enjoyable Easter Celebration dinner.

A little background : as a personal rule I do not take passengers in the co-pilot seat, exceptions being known persons or a doctor or similar who speaks some English.
Anyone else is impossible to communicate with as well as being naked and unpredictable under stress …frightened Papuas will grab controls and/or pilot during turbulence.

Also, we insist that passengers have proper seats rather than putting them on the floor as was the norm two years ago
…so if we have an all-cargo load going IN we do not take passengers OUT
- although we do encourage forward planning and the highlanders will ask us to bring seats which are then fitted after the cargo is unloaded.

Within local culture “NO” = “let’s negotiate” with the same request being rephrased with differing enticements …my personal record is 17 times ...before I walked away.

That same culture allows “5 adults with small bag” to equal 5 adults, 3 teenagers, 3 toddlers, 2 babies, 150 kg of vegetables, 10 chickens, 2 pigs and assorted weapons.

…“children” count neither for Weight&Balance nor payment purposes.
One time I agreed and took payment for 1 elderly man …and they tried to board him and his 5 adult sons and daughters.

When [almost] all else fails out comes the sympathy card …there is always someone sick or bereaved who needs to come back to the big city …and could they preeze preeze preeeeeeeze x 17 come ?

…and finally, when all else HAS failed, some airstrips will sneak passengers and cargo on board …so you develop a habit of physically checking the cargo pods, looking under seats and counting heads after the doors are closed …and 10% of the time you will get a surprise.

My trusting nature evaporated permanently about a year ago when I fell for deliberate distractions and forgot to check the belly pods …the extra 350 kg they had sneaked on board made for an interesting departure off a 600 m runway at 13,000 ft density altitude with an 8 knot tailwind.

Did I say “a little backround” ? Sorry about that …..

Anyway, today at Ilaga I had 1 passenger seat available and there were 2 passengers.

“One …a woman with broken leg, and Two …a man whose mother is dead today.”
It being Good Friday and we were probably the only flight in that day I wavered,   emotionally moved by the passengers’ reasons for travel …and thought that with a broken leg the woman would probably want to lay down anyway leaving the bereaved man to use the seat.
OK ….let’s do it.

There she is, all smiles carrying a heavy bag and an infant, walking to the aircraft.
HOLD IT !!!!
Everybody amazed.
!!!  Why did you tell me the woman had a broken leg ?
More amazement ...what, you actually believed that ?
Oh bugger …now the bule (boolay = white guy) is upset.
Where is the man ?
Heer Keptin.
Selamat Pagi Om (Uncle) …I am sorry to hear about your [no doubt Saintly] mother.
What about my mother ?
She is dead.
No she is not.
!!!  Why did you tell me the man had a dead mother ?
Even more amazement …what, you believed that too ?
!!!  Motherf%£&()@g lying B~#<>ds !
Bules look funny when they are upset, don’t they ?

Deep breath (actually physically necessary …getting mad at 8000 ft above sea level uses up a lot of oxygen).
As tempting as it was to refuse both passengers the locals just would not have understood, so I took one.
Satu suda penumpang …only 1, you choose which.
Can you take 2 ?
!!!  Motherf%£&()@g lying B~#<>ds !
OK OK OK …we do not know what is upsetting you but 1 passenger it is …just to keep you quiet.

The happy lady (with a bandaged toe + bag + infant) boarded without assistance.
You take 2 ya ?
!!!  Motherf%£&()@g lying B~#<>ds !
OK OK OK …here is money for 2 passengers - as he tries to manoeuvre me away from the back door so they can sneak they other guy on.
!!!  Motherf%£&()@g lying B~#<>ds !
Oh bugger …now the bule is closing the door himself.
OK Happi Eesta Keptin …safe fright.
Happy Easter my Brother …and may a thousand termites nest in your armpits.  Photo

The next flight was also frustrating …because a pig was roaming the runway and the airport staff just did not see what the problem was.

Mon21Mar16... two flights today with passengers, shop goods and a motorcycle in beautiful weather.
Things are tense in the mountains so a man with a gun running to intercept us as we taxied after landing caused a reflective moment.
Actually it was a non-event as he was soon recognized as a known local sporting an air rifle ...private citizens in Papua are not allowed firearms so they make up for it with huge, high power air rifles as bling accessories to their usual spears, arrows, axes, clubs and machetes.
For some reason - possibly for effect - he decided to race us to the apron ....and nearly got shot by a tetchy soldier (see the following post).
There are some new photos

Wed16Mar16... two flights into the mountains in a calm but very rainy Freeway. 
On the ground we got talking to the TNI (Indonesian Army) soldier on duty at the airstrip ...eye-catching in that he had what seemed to be excess[ive] ammunition pouches draped all over him.
Also unusually ...he has been on duty alone for the last few days - normally there are at least 3 soldiers, 3 paramilitary police and 3 riot police around ...but there have been some firefights in the highlands and one can assume they are off on serious business elsewhere.
Which explains the extra ammunition - if things kick off he will need every round to be able to stand his ground long enough for his back-up to arrive.
A sobering reminder of the extreme tensions which exist just below the surface in Papua.

Sun13Mar16... some interesting flying this week, mainly due to extremes in weather.
Some days the Freeway and mountain airstrips were calm and clear while Nabire had moderate to heavy rain and a 700 ft cloudbase, other days the Freeway was nuts by 1000 local time requiring diversions and climbs to 14,500 ft to avoid the CBs and the worst of the TCs ....and by 1200 the winds closed most of the airstrips.

Holding in poor visibility in the limited space between terrain is fun while coordinating with four other Caravans doing the same thing at the same place ...it look's great once we settle into a routine and everybody follows eachother around the same distorted racetrack - 1 inbound, 1 outbound and 1 in each turn ...then somebody spots an opening, dives in to land and the rest follows ...except that the opening usually closes after a few minutes and the remaining Caravans hold a bit longer.

When starting to hold we use the timer to monitor how long we have left - usually not very long as little excess fuel is carried due to the weight limitations imposed by the high density altitudes and short runways.    Typically I would arrive overhead with 750 lbs of fuel remaining which will give me 10 minutes of circling at economy-power and some attempts at landing and missed approaches at guzzle-power ...once the clock shows 10 or the gauges show 700 lbs it is time to RTB so we have enough left to get back to Nabire, then if necessary go to the alternate, and land with 30 minutes of fuel in the tanks.

On Thursday we had one of those days and, having already circled for 8 minutes, I spotted the runway through a large enough gap in the clouds to make the approach (and a safe missed approach if required).    On short final one of the pilots already on the ground told me there was a large dog on the runway ...it was so big that I could see it from 3/4 NM away.    Happily it moved off the runway and I was able to land ...but had it not shifted then I would have gone around ...then ran out of time during the missed approach and had to RTB.

The dog, and later its owner, were captured and brought to the airstrip where it was impressed upon them that had an RTB been necessary the dog would have been given to the pilot for his dinner and the owner would have been billed for the fuel used for the trip back to Nabire.

Low cloud and bad visibility in Nabire does not present big problems, other than the terrain which in IMC requires Lowest Safe Altitudes of 6500' at 15NM, 4000' at 10NM and 3000' at 1NM - there is usually a gap in the clouds over Nabire so once visual you can spiral down to the runway.   If not visual then we have a GPS based cloudbreak procedure for an approach to the runway from over the sea.
BTW there are some more photos ...none of the dog but one of his friend the pig.

Wed09Mar16... a flight to Bilorai with cement and one to Ilaga with parts for a digger and live pigs (3 x 100 kg tiddlers - my personal record is a 277 kg monster) in very cloudy weather ....but the clouds cleared just enough for us to see the solar eclipse ...photos of course.

Sun06Mar16... back in Nabire after my Permits were issued in a record 36 hours.     With only 4 nights in Jakarta I barely had time for 2 x PizzaHut, 1 x Pork Schnitzel and 1 x Pork Ribs plus various icecream and doughnuts as well as shopping for food supplies.
It is still the low season for cargo but we had two flights to Ilaga carrying components of a digger which is being transported piecemeal into the Highlandsphotos

Mon29Feb16... in Jakarta to renew Residency and Work Permits. We have good internet in Jakarta so there are a new video and photos.

Wed17Feb16... two flights into the highlands in very cloudy weather and strong westerly winds. Added a few new photos 

Tue16Feb16... more heavy rain and low cloud delayed our first departure by 2 hours.    The flight was supposed to carry passengers and a motorcycle, but the delay was such that we changed mission to prepare for the coffin and family arriving on the scheduled flight so that they could transfer without delay.
The changeover was completed very professionally by our Engineers and Loaders and we were ready for the family and the body of the young woman - another victim of the Yogya university student alcohol poisoning which killed all 36 who were at the party.
20 of the victims were from Papua so there will be more coffins this week ...it is also a massive blow to local communities as an entire generation of educated Papuas is lost.
Delivery in the mountains was a bit tense with 100s of mourners, noisily upset and armed, crowded around the aircraft.
On the second flight we returned with a father and his little son who had broken his arm and needed treatment in Nabire.     Not a whimper out of the little guy who seemed to think it was all worth it to get a ride in an aircraft ...and he was not shy to point out in tribal language that his [considerable] suffering could be alleviated by a lollipop from the pilot's personal stash.

Mon15Feb16... heavy rain and low clouds have restricted operations for a few days, but we were able to complete one flight today : a coffin with mourners returning the deceased back to the village.
Apparently two other operators performed the same service today ...and another three coffins are due tomorrow.
I am told this is the result of an alcoholic student party going very wrong in Yogja.
We have one 'Beras' (=government subsidy rice) cargo tomorrow and then return to Nabire to wait for the arrival of the scheduled ATR72 bearing the coffins.

Tue09Feb16... having enjoyed 2 - 3 flights per day until the end of last week, there is now some trouble in the highlands so our main destinations are closed.
No flying yesterday.
Today, having initially been told that all was safe and with the aircraft loaded and prepped ....we were told that Bilorai was closed again.    Our loaders maintained their sense of humour unloading the 1200 kg they had just finished loading ....with some assistance from the entire supply of the pilot's lollipops.    We are on standby for tomorrow pending confirmation that there are no angry naked armed men on the airstrips.

Lesson of the Day : I have no words to title this one.
I woke up with a blocked nose and some pressure in my sinus so before showering I decided to sit under my towel and inhale some menthol crystals dissolved in hot water.
With a clear head I enjoyed the shower.
Then ....I used the same towel to dry ....transferring the menthol crystals which had been steamed into the towel to every part of my body.   'Hot Flush' does not begin to describe the sensation ....and 10 seconds later I was back under the shower.
Having had only one towel in the room I had to air dry before getting dressed.
Previous lessons...

Fri29Jan2016…Tour 7 has begun, back in Nabire.    The adjustment from Scottish snow at -2°C to +35°C was easier than the adjustment the other way around in when I started my leave in December.

The beginning of the year is always quiet so we are only doing 1 or 2 flights daily into the mountains.    We have also begun the Line Training of one of our Indonesian colleague pilots which provides a nice variation from the normal.

Just 2 new photos for starters.


End of Tour 6

Sun27Dec15 ...enjoying being home in Glasgow and proper internet. Uploaded the last two photos. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !!!

Sat19Dec15...hooray ...hooray ...hooray ! ! !

After 47 days on the ground in a jungle town with nothing to do and my brain slowly turning to mush .....we started flying again last week.
No internet worthy of the name so only posting now.
Wonderful flying into the highlands in challenging weather and creative wind this week ....and [unbelievably] today I depart for Scotland on leave !!!!
Some pics to follow once I get back into good internet.

Wed18Nov15...BORED ...BORED ...BORED ! ! !

Our Company has suffered a number of administrative, cultural and competence lapses - none of which involved our ops here in Papua - but the DGCA has still grounded us here for a while pending paperwork etc.

My last post was almost a month ago and now that I have the time I have no excuse to publish some updates.

I have a few slightly gruesome stories which I hope you will still find interesting ….about the dead.

In Indonesian culture there is no great distinction between the living and the dead ….both are equally included in daily life, family activities, decision making and ceremonies. The strong tradition of care and togetherness within families means your role, rights and responsibilities within that tradition do not change just because you are dead.

From the air I see what look like disorganised shanty towns all over Nabire and other towns. On a car drive we passed a few and I saw they were airy structures of various sizes (from a garden shed to a small house) with concrete foundations and corrugated sheet roofs - when I asked I was told “That is where dead people live”.

It is also normal for family members to be buried in the garden with graves visible from the street ….children playing and families enjoying a meal right beside well maintained mini-mausoleums which sometimes even have their own electricity and water supplies ….and get beautifully decorated and lit up on birthdays and public holidays.

Stopping to speak to a gentleman one day as I walked past his house, I commented on the beauty of his home and his multitude of children (at least 10). Pleased that his virility had been noted he also drew my attention to the graves in the front garden, saying “My Grandparents are looking after them”.
Ghosts are real, tangible and frequently seen ….and make good babysitters.

Another tradition is that the dead are interred in their original village so transporting coffins or bodybags by air across Indonesia happens a lot, usually along with a group of mourners.

The complex logistics of moving human remains by air are compounded by the need for speed in high temperatures, a lack of mortuary services and the limited hours in the day we fly - ops into the mountains usually finish by 1230 local time due to the high winds, thunderstorm build-up and heat.

Not dead yet - these complexities often require some forward planning on the part of the grieving relatives and it is very common that funerary transport is arranged once the unfortunate’s demise has been declared imminent.

So ….we had been booked to fly a coffin with entourage into the mountains except that I noticed normal cargo was being loaded instead. When I asked what had happened to the scheduled coffin the answer was simply “Not dead yet.” The job was completed the next day.

Paperwork - surprisingly little paperwork is required for these sort of flights …but one thing you insist upon is a Death Certificate which clearly states the Cause of Death as something innocuous.
The containers holding the deceased are in no way guaranteed to be properly sealed and the family, often but not always through ignorance, will happily bring a leaking, gassing and highly contagious corpse on board.
Twice in the past year we have refused a coffin because the Death Certificate was missing.

Not dead yet 2 - another common problem is that the dying will use their last gasps to get on board an aircraft so that they might die at home in the mountains - so people surrounded (held upright) by a crowd slowly approaching the aircraft steps arouse suspicion.
The same applies to the very sick (coughing, retching and oozing) who want to leave the mountains and come the bigger hospitals …we sometimes have to refuse them because they do not have the required Medical Certificate covering the spread of infectious diseases.

So the other day we were completing the refuelling for the next flight when there was a commotion in the van in which the 8 passengers were waiting …howling, ululating, crying, thumping, the whole van visibly swaying …grief is a very physical, intense and noisy thing around here.
The dying person whom they had planned to sneak on board had expired right there on the apron. Once they were told that they would not be allowed on board without the correct paperwork the whole lot, with smoking screeching tyres, tore off to the hospital to get the Death Certificate …where the ‘corpse’ apparently came back to life (and was thus disqualified from receiving said Certificate).
By that time our Company had let it be known that we would not be accepting the party on board and the price of their tickets was refunded.
You do not want to have a dying person on board because
1) the other passengers will go nuts and
2) the Papuas are canny and will blame the Company and Pilot for the ‘untimely’ death and claim compensation - this is so common that many Companies will not do MEDEVACs.
However, the story does not end here.
A few hours later the same party in their van arrived back on the apron beside the aircraft of one of the other Companies …and tried their luck again. As we all watched the poor guy died again on the apron …the family went nuts again …the van went off back to the hospital with smoking and screeching tyres …and the chap was finally awarded his well earned Death Certificate.
A third Company finally took him up to his village in the mountains the next day.

Size is important - our Company has learned the hard way to insist that the deceased are first brought to our warehouse instead of straight to the apron because sometimes the coffins turn out to be very heavy beautifully carved ornate sarcophagi which are so enormous that they will not fit into the aircraft.
Other times it will fit but all the seats need to be removed so that it can be slowly and respectfully manoeuvred into position - ‘respectfully’ because you want to avoid having to roll the thing on its side or raise it at a 45° angle with the contents bonking about inside. Once onboard it can then be secured and the seats re-installed …and off we go with an aft CoG.

One of the other Companies had accepted a coffin charter without checking …and 150+ mourners arrived at the aircraft with a 300 kg funerary masterpiece.
The mourners gathered round the hatch to sing a song of farewell along with some dancing, howling and ululating as the coffin was heaved on board …and it would not fit.
Finally it had to be levered out again to the stunned silence of the mourners.
It was repositioned and the loaders tried again (more singing, dancing, howling etc) …but no go.
Out again (silence) In again (singing etc) …several times …and the mourners were losing their sense of humour. For all of us watching the hilarity had also evaporated because such a large group of Papuas under stress can turn into a violent rampaging mob in an instant.
The loaders finally abandoned the effort and the police arrived to force the crowd clear of the aircraft.
After that all the seats and doors were removed from the aircraft and finally after tipping the coffin on its side it was manoeuvred into the aircraft. Some seats were put back in but the relatives had to climb over the coffin to get to them …the flight departed and I am told the unloading was an even bigger nightmare with 100s of mourners nearly ripping the aircraft to pieces.


Mon19Oct15…I begin Tour 6 with a salute to one of our frequent flyers. photo

We regularly transport fighting cocks to/from the highlands along with their owners, attending matches which form part of religious ceremonies (but not gambling, never, no sir) - yet often a prize fighter is worth more than the rest of the cargo.
We carry poultry in various forms (frozen, live, loose, as pets, unintentionally - what is that sound ?) but they are usually entered on to the load sheet simply as ‘ajam’ - and it is left up to the pilot, if he/she so desires, to enquire after the exact physical state of the ‘ajam’.

Fighting cocks, due no doubt to their value as a ceremonial sacrifice, are often listed on a separate line but still as ‘ajam’.
When asked last year our Ground Crew did not know the English words for ‘fighting cock’ so I was told it was a ‘Battle Chicken’ ….one of whom rose to become regional champion and he flew with us so often that I dubbed him Battlechicken Galactica.

Two days ago I saw the owner again but BCG was conspicuous in his absence ….he had retired unvanquished and had been put out to stud. Unfortunately his enthusiasm in the henhouse did not match his prowess in the ceremonial ring, so instead he was slow-cooked in a tomato, spinach and chilli sauce which the owner assured me was delicious.

Inuictus est, sapidum et.


Sun02Aug15...added some photos as well as two aviation videos and a video of our visit to Pulau Ahe to see the reef and the wreck of a WW2 aircraft.


Wed22Jul15…greetings from the jungle three weeks into Tour 5 !   The internet has been terrible but I am in a cyber café with a moderate chance of some up- and downloads, so here is a [longish] story and some new photos.

Chubby Checker -  our passengers are normally asked to report to our office where they can be corralled in a safe group and …

1) weighed ….in our critically high density altitude environment the cargo load is adjusted to the passenger load to keep us at our maximum take-off and landing weights. Passengers are charged per seat while cargo is charged per kilogram.

2) luggage can be checked. Alcohol and firearms/munitions are totally barred from the highlands unless being carried by military or police.     Weapons other than firearms are both traditional and totally welcome ….with the boring pilot insisting that airguns / machetes / spears / clubs / blowpipes / bows&arrows are placed in the cargo pod.     Passengers going to visit relatives often bring along live animals and they need to be restrained (to date chickens, ducks, rabbits, piglets, lemurs, pet dogs/birds, fish and small children).

3) then the passengers are loaded into the back of our pick-up truck and brought to the aircraft.

On one such flight we had a single passenger - actually the owner of the 1077 kg cargo who wanted to escort his wares to their destination. The passenger was a short-but-solid chap (108 kg) and as normal he was asked to present himself and his cargo at the office so that their combined weights could be entered onto the load manifest.

What nobody realised was that the poor guy thought his passenger seat was also going to be charged on a per kilogram basis ….so he had not eaten anything since the previous afternoon.

Anyway, if I have several passengers I offer them a lollipop and some fruit in flight which keeps them happy while I delve into my thermos of sugarless Douwe Egbert’s coffee and my box of cakes …this does not sound as rude as it seems.
Culturally the passengers would never expect me to share my food/drink which makes it a really big deal when you offer them a sweet etc.    Also, the Indonesians take a ridiculous amount of sugar in their drinks so they are totally not interested in sugarless coffee.
However, on days when I have only one passenger I always start with offering them a lollipop but then feel culturally (mine, not theirs) obliged to offer them a kafé-tidak-gula because I feel uncomfortable drinking/eating in front of them.
It is always a safe bet because the minute they hear tidak gula they lose interest ....often then staring at me while thinking “why would anyone want to drink a coffee without sugar ?”. Except ….

On the day in question I handed our single hefty passenger the box of lollipops so that he could make his selection ….and he took four ….three of which were crunched, chewed and swallowed within minutes.
Then, him being the only other person on board, I made my token gesture of offering him a kafé-tidak-gula ….which he accepted with alacrity.    OK, that’s a first, but OK.    Now I felt obliged to offer my box containing a selection of 8 cakes ….of which he took 3 !   OK, this is becoming distressing, but OK.
We both enjoyed our coffee and cakes, and when I was ready for my second cup I thought I was safe enough to make another token offer (surely no Indonesian would survive two coffees without sugar ?!?!?!) ….except he happily held out his cup for more.     The weight of obligation still on my shoulders led to my offering the box of cakes ….and he took another 3 ….politely leaving the last one and indicating that I should have it !
I had a quiet laugh about it and used the HF radio to give my Ground Crew prior warning that there would be no leftovers on my return to Nabire !


Wed29Apr15…it has been a while ….so sorry.   In fact, I am more than half-way through Tour 4 here in Indonesia ….still having fun but also very much looking forward to my next leave towards the end of May.

Today we are blessed with stable and fast internet so I thought I could post some new photos and stories while it lasts.

Everybody is awaiting the release of this year’s financial package by the government but in the meantime there is not a lot of cargo going into the highlands ….and we are only flying once or twice each day ….usually with a combined passenger and cargo load.

Apart from people (live, dead and MedEvac) our staples are still building supplies, shop goods, rice, pigs and chickens (live and frozen) as well as the mail, money and a surprising number of motorcycles.
Slightly more unusual was a 350 kg safe, medical supplies, school books, uniforms and shoes as well as bales and bales of slippers ….close your eyes and try to imagine a metric ton of flip-flops !

Please board when your row numbers are called - I started my 4th tour by travelling from Jakarta to Ambon on the scheduled service. It was a full flight and we were all bussed out to a remote apron where our 737 and a gaggle of ground staff were waiting.

Once out of the bus : ground staff totally dis-interested, no cones or safety wires ….150 passengers left to find their own way on board.

Most of the passengers from the No. 1 bus had made their way to the front stairs ….but one got lost and got trapped on the other side of the aircraft, calling up to the cabin crew looking down on him from the [also open] door on that side.

My group got out of our No. 2 bus and I headed around the wing for the rear door - appropriate for my allocated seat in the rear.
Other passengers, initially heading for the front stairs (now jammed 3-abreast), spotted me going for the queue-less rear stairs.
They obviously thought I had the right idea ….and in a skirmish line walked under the fuselage and wing, around the undercarriage and engine ….a dozen actually beat me to the stairs.

What happened next ?     Yep ….most of the ones using the rear stairs had seats in the front - and vice versa.
By the time I got on board the cabin looked like a pool of eels ….at one point there were people clambering over the seats to get through ! That made the stewardess squawk a bit, but even she did not venture out of the rear galley (where I was also hiding).

Anyway, like most things in Indonesia it was suddenly over and things continued as if it never happened.

Keeping a lid on things - The Aviastar Twin Otter following us on departure from Nabire spotted a Cessna Caravan fuel filler cap laying on the runway. They actually stopped, got out and brought it on board.
As we were the last Caravan to use the runway it seemed logical that it had come off our aircraft, and once airborne they gave us a call.
We were 25 NM out and still climbing, but our fuel state and consumption appeared normal - even with the cap missing our usual ‘less than half tanks’ fuel state would have limited the amount sucked out - so we decided to proceed to destination keeping a close eye on things (and avoiding rain).
Having reached Bilorai without incident, and with the Twin Otter parked beside us, everyone was greatly anticipating a big announcement that indeed our fuel cap is missing ! ….except it wasn’t - and we still do not know whose Caravan it did come from.
There is a photo of me balancing on top of dump truck ….the only way I could get a clear view of our caps without a ladder.

Battle Chickens’ - fighting cocks. Some of these birds are worth more than the rest of the cargo combined. One prize example has flown with us several times and been dubbed BattleChicken Galactica ….don’t worry, my ground crew also fail to see the humour ….but I think it’s funny.

Hammy-come-back - climbing through 4000 ft on the way to the highlands, one of our larger live porkers (actually only a medium 180 kg) managed to wreck his cage.
He was steadily working his way out when the passenger, with whom Hammy was sharing the cabin, brought the matter to the attention of the pilot ….tapping said pilot on the shoulder with some urgency.

A swift RTB saw the plane, pig, passenger and pilot on the ground within minutes ….a full and frank discussion with the carpenter who built that particular cage followed.

Sat14Mar15...back in Jakarta to start Tour 4.