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Time Fly’s

15/07/2009

It feels like its been a while since I last posted and as the title suggests things have been moving pretty rapidly. My first official day in the left seat was certainly an experience I will always remember. It truly brought home to me the gravity of the Pilot in command position. I won’t go into too much detail but a diversion became necessary due to some typically nasty Sumatran weather. The outcome was very positive as was the response from the passengers and the company and you can’t really ask for much more – A bit of positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Most of the line training dealt with the G1000 avionics that aircraft in our Medan base feature. The Caravan is truly an awesome aircraft and without getting too cheesy the Garmin G1000 really does top it off. While the sheer volume of information and the different format in which it is presented can be a bit overwhelming its a massive step forward from the traditional complement of instrumentation and avionics.

Primary Flight Display while being vectored Singapore Radar

Primary Flight Display while being vectored by Singapore Radar

While there is definitely an increased weight of responsibility sitting in the left it is nice to have that ability to make the final decision. Its also nice to fly with colleagues that by virtue of having been in the same position I haven’t flown with before. While I sat in the right seat for a long time I am glad that I did, I firmly believe that drawing on that experience will help me in working with those colleagues I now fly with.

Early on Monday morning I flew with another recently upgraded captain to ferry one of the Garmin G1000-equipped aircraft to West Kalimantan (Borneo) to swap out an aircraft that was already on a charter there. This required us to fly through Malaysian and Singapore airspace and what a breath of fresh air that was. Indonesian air traffic control (ATC) like most services in the country is developing and lacks a lot of funding and resources. This shows in the poor end-service that we receive day-to-day. Malaysia and more so Singapore are much more sorted and it was a joy to speak on the radio, all but briefly to such competent operators. We were tidily vectored around the busiest part of Singapore by Singapore Radar so as not to get in the way of the big boys and were then set on our merry way back into Indonesian airspace.

Singapore on the Multi Function Display, we are off to the right.

Singapore on the Multi Function Display, we are off to the right.

Bureaucracy is still king in Indonesia, despite the progress. This means that even as the 3rd largest democracy in the world civil aircraft and civil pilots are required to have all manner of ‘security clearances’ (the last vestige of the former military regime). On charters especially this is something that is quick to be checked upon arrival. Its a curious notion really, understandable in places like Pontianak (our first landing) which is dual civil/military but our next stop was a small barely visited aerodrome serving a small town. In addition to requiring sighting of the ‘security clearances’ one must also pay for the handling/landing fees. These range from place to place but as a general rule are nothing short of outrageous. If these ‘fees’ went to the general improvement of services it would be great but its fairly evident this is not the case. I think the term to best describe it is ‘clipping the ticket’.

At this intermediate stop we were greeted by the aircraft we were swapping over, a ‘middle-age’ model in the fleet (If such a term can be applied to a 2-3 year old aircraft). The captain I had been flying with was to stay with the G1000 aircraft and I got ready to take the ‘middle-age’ aircraft with the first officer to Balikpapan in East Kalimantan. This aircraft like most in the fleet features the traditional instruments and avionics and despite the lack of gee-whiz-bangandry it was nice to hop back into an ‘old-school’ aircraft.

Back with conventional instruments and avionics

Back with conventional instruments and avionics

Wonderful weather prevailed and the 3 hour flight to Balikpapan with an intermediate fuel stop was uneventful but enjoyable. A problem with the flap system meant flapless take-offs and landings and required approval from the Chief Pilot. After this was obtained I discussed it with the first officer and how we would deal with this ‘non-normal’ event. Thankfully we had things on our side – long runways and a light loading being a ferry flight. Higher take-off, approach and landing speeds were called for but having just come out of training it was excellent consolidation so to speak.

After a night in a hotel in Balikpapan I was back to the airport to get on Garuda for the flight back up to Medan.

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