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I have done over 300 hours in Papua now but there are still a huge number of aerodromes I haven’t been in to and an even larger number that I never will because they can’t take Caravan’s. Since being back in Papua I have been able to go into a new aerodrome for me – Ilu. 

Turning Final at Ilu

Turning Final at Ilu

We regularly fly past Ilu in the course of our normal operations and the Ilu Pass which it sits near is a reporting point in the ‘Freeway’ which runs through the east-west mountain range. Recently the Papua base has started operating into Ilu quite a lot so its been good to get some exposure to another new and challenging aerodrome.

Ilu is at an elevation of 5200 feet and like most aerodromes in Papua it is a one-way strip with runway 17 for landing and runway 35 for take-off. To get in we have to continue a descent past Ilu to the east and then turn back so we can join a base leg. Because of the valley wall to the right the base leg is quite tight so finals to the runway is very short, all the more difficult in a cross-wind. With a slope of 6% the 700m runway is certainly more than long enough for the Caravan but at this time of year the wind can certainly make it a handful.

Take-off is quite spectacular because you are taking off towards the valley wall again. Even with the downhill slope we still do a maximum performance take-off on the brakes because once we’re airborne you have to make a pretty early left turn to avoid the valley wall.

Valley wall in the take-off path at Ilu

Valley wall in the take-off path at Ilu

Like a lot of these aerodromes we don’t have staff there but the locals are great, the usually have the aircraft tail-stand in before I hop out and start opening the doors so cargo can be unloaded. It can be quite a work-out to help unload at 5200 feet so us lazy pilots usually just stand and watch. Plus we need to observe the weather and make and think about the departure plan.

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