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Another Day At The Office


The Setting Sun to the West of Lake Toba

9th December 2009

As usual the schedule is running late. But today the aircraft is sitting quietly on the ground and already refuelled. Today’s events are out of our hands.

An hour or so earlier a 737 was barrelling down the runway and suffered an engine failure at what must have been close to V1 (go/no-go decision speed). The result of the rejected take-off was some serious popped rubber. The aircraft was therefore staying put about two thirds down the 2900m runway.

737 stuck on the runway after a rejected take-off

The crew from the morning shift had been holding at the taxiway as the event unfolded and had to suffer through the usual air traffic control madness – being told to line-up behind the clearly crippled aircraft. They tried to alert them to the small fire that had started but another flight was instead cleared to line-up. The crew of this A320 tried to get the point across that there was a small fire.

Eventually Rescue Fire responded and headed out to the runway. The overall management of the situation by the various airport services could at best be described as negligent. Engineers needed to go out and change the tyres before the aircraft could be towed clear of the runway. All up clearing the runway from the time of the rejected take-off took over 5 hours. This at the 3rd or 4th busiest airport in Indonesia.

Once the mess was finally cleared up we were able to get start clearance and after a landing A320 we were the first flight to depart the freshly opened runway. It was a bit of a mess on the radio but we got out of Medan airspace without any drama, we managed a fairly prompt turn-around in Silangit, helped by having to park on the runway because there are apron and runway works going on.

Coming back into Medan I was pleasantly surprised that the controller was handling quite well with the barrage of delayed arrivals and departures. Traffic was being moved around sensibly and orderly, far more so than on any normal day. We landed without having being held up for too long, refuelled and were able to depart on the final return trip of the shift. The requirement was to be airborne out of Aek Godang before sunset as there is no runway and airport lighting.

The very new co-pilot did a good approach and landing into Aek Godang and we again managed a quick turn-around back to Medan. One of my biggest concerns heading back to Medan at night is the weather. Most afternoons, especially in the wet season which we are now in it gets challenging, so it was comforting that when we had left Medan there weren’t the tell-tale build-ups that could become a problem.

The flight back really was a beauty. I think just about all of our 8 passengers were busy snapping away with their camera’s at the beautiful vista around us. Thanks to the right mix of cloud and smog the sunset to the west as were flying over Lake Toba was something else. As darkness continued to envelope us we pushed on for Medan, the weather radar was painting some ugly pictures but thankfully much of it was to the north and northwest of Medan and wouldn’t be a factor for us. However, It was close enough to add to the visual feast and provide a vivid lightning show.

Traffic was reasonably light and we were cleared for a visual approach as we passed through the extended centreline. A little unusual but the night air was still and clear and I made a gentle 120 degree turn to the right to intercept the final approach track. Configuring and slowing us down for a thankfully smooth touchdown on the runway.

Another productive day at the office.

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