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Mammoth Charter

30/06/2009
Charter Route

Over 2300 nautical miles of flying

Today I am flying on a mammoth charter from Sentani, Papua to Budiarto, Jakarta. The numbers are pretty impressive – 2 days, 16 hours flying, 2344 nautical miles, 3200 litres of fuel. Its the equivalent of flying from Auckland to Sydney and back or Kaitaia-Invercagill via Wellington and back, then back to Invercagill again. A mission indeed and it is quite possibly the last of my flying in the right seat. I am flying with an Australian Captain that joined the company at the same time I did, it should be an enjoyable couple of days at the office.

These long trips in the Caravan are not that uncommon (although my longest yet), being such a spread out company there is often the need to ferry aircraft around the archipelago. This time is a little different as it is a charter where we have a rather large load of cargo to transport from Papua to Jakarta. It means we can’t just fill the fuel tanks to full and for all legs bar the first we are fuel limited. Even in the days of reliance on GPS the fundamentals of navigation and flight planning are still alive and well.

So out have come maps and nav computers to piece together a flight plan. Unfortunately because of the over-water distances and requirement for fuel stops we can’t follow the great circle route which is the shortest possible distance between two points on the globe. However, given the non-great circle route we are taking it is only an extra 116 nautical miles, we are of course very close to the equator. The route we are taking is shown in the picture above taken from the Great Circle Mapper website. The actual route won’t exactly follow the red line as we are planned via a number of IFR compulsory reporting points and VOR instrument stations. We are departing from Sentani to Tanah Merah where we will pick up the cargo and then from there a fuel stop in Nabire (company base). Then another fuel stop in Ambon before a large water crossing to Kendari (company base) where we are going to overnight. Up early tomorrow morning we will set course for Banjarmasin (company base), top up the fuel tanks and then cross the Java Sea for Budiarto which is in West Jakarta.

Weight and balance has been critical in the planning because of the cargo we are taking, it is very heavy and requires accurate placement so we can keep the aircraft in balance. As I mentioned earlier it also makes us fuel limited and we will be operating at maximum take-off weight (MTOW) at all stops. This also requires us to establish runway performance so we can ensure we have enough runway to get airborne. The runway at Tanah Merah, depending on who you believe is between 900m and 1050m, not short for a Caravan but when you factor in the temperature and operation at MTOW it puts it close to the limit. In this case it is achieveable and will be our only runway critical stop as the rest of the runways are in excess of 1400m.

Indonesia is of course still a developing country and this includes aviation infrastructure. A lot of the nice, useful services for planning in New Zealand and many countries around the world just aren’t available here. In Sentani we can’t even get terminal aerodrome forecasts (TAF) or meteorological reports (METAR) let alone enroute winds. Its still possible to get some information but it is certainly not as easy as it is in New Zealand. While used with a good dose of salt the Internet is invaluable for meteorological information.

Wind is always a a big issue when it comes to navigation planning as it has a huge bearing on fuel. Being near the equator for the most part winds are light and variable. 5 to 10 knots is the usual expected enroute wind at altitude, but over such a long distance on fuel critical legs a constant 5 to 10 knots can make a lot of difference. It becomes important to know the location of the Inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) in order to ascertain the prevailing winds. On average the ITCZ is more biased towards the north, but it does move with the sun and can sometimes extend towards central Australia during a southern hemisphere summer. At this time of the year the position of the ITCZ in this part of the world is very much north of the equator. This means we should experience a general south-easterly flow (Trade Winds) across most of Indonesia, meaning a slight tailwind for the trip to Jakarta. Our planning however has been somewhat conservative as there will be some variation caused by localised weather especially at the altitude we must fly at.

With all the GPS ‘wizbangidry’ we will still be using pencil, paper and a nav computer enroute to update our flight progress against the plan and ensure we can make all our planned stops comfortably.

After we arrive in Jakarta I will be heading to Soekarno-Hatta Airport and heading up to Medan for my captain line training. The Captain will be joined by another First Officer to make the return trip with a slightly heavier cargo load and not only heading into the wind but against the sun. I guess I’m getting the easy part.

Photos in a couple of days.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 22/07/2009 03:21

    Very useful content:D Will visit soon/

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