Join me for a day in the life of our Kodiak-- Papa Kilo Mike Echo Bravo (PK-MEB). On Friday I had a busy day, flying a ton of people and stuff. I flew an Indonesian pastor/missionary and his family to there remote place of ministry, a bunch of people back and forth from various villages, and got called to pick up a lady having complications in childbirth with twins. It's hard to nail down what an "average" day is in the Kodiak, because aside from hauling lots of people and things, the only thing that can really be expected is the unexpected.
Nevertheless I decided to take my camera along the next day, Saturday, to give you a "ride-a-long" perspective of what I love doing--serving the people of East Kalimantan on the wings of MAF. All of the pictures in this post, unless otherwise stated, were taken on Saturday, June 25th, during the nomral course of the flight day.
I started out with a schedule, as usual, but before my first take-off from home base, Tarakan, it had already changed. Not unusual. A call came in for a medevac flight from Malinau. Since my passengers were already loaded up to go to Malinau, that part was easy. Twenty five minutes later we landed in Malinau and re-configured the airplane to make room for the seriously injured patient, who'd fallen from the top of a high building.
Within an hour and ten minutes of receiving the call, we were putting this man into a waiting ambulance at the MAF hangar in Tarakan. Then we further re-configured the plane to allow three full drums of Jet fuel to be back-loaded to Malinau for later use. Malinau serves as an interior hub for passengers, loading and fuel. Often, I can take four, 55 galon drums of fuel in one load, however, because MEB was already heavily fueled earlier in the morning in anticipation of the original schedule, I could only take three drums--still an 1,155 lb load.
After returning to Malinau and unloading the drums, we re-installed the six passenger seats (there are 10 seats available--pilot, co-pilot and eight passenger seats--but we don't typically use the aft two seats, at least not until we're able to get a cargo pod in the future). We then loaded up eight passengers (plus me makes nine total) and there stuff for the one hour flight to Mahak Baru.
In Mahak, we once again pulled all the seats out to allow for an all cargo load to be taken over to Long Sule. With enough fuel to complete my flight to Sule, back to Mahak, back to Malinau plus reserve, I was still able to take 1,675 lbs of food and supplies in one load, more than twice what a Cessna 206 could take out of the same airstrip. In the picture below, my good friends are loading 50kg (110 lb) bags of sugar into the airplane first, before the lighter cargo which will be stacked behind.
While Mahak Baru is accessible by land (several days of arduous boat and dangerous 4x4 travel), Long Sule is not accessible by anything other than foot or air. So they rely heavily on the help of MAF for supplies of every kind. The Kodiak makes quick work of the flight from Mahak Baru to Long Sule--less than 10 minutes by air--what would take about four days by foot. And here we are unloading the goods in Long Sule.
Again, without the help of the village "agents", many of whom serve as the local village pastors as well, we would be really hurting--literally. It's a lot of work to load and unload that much cargo, so I'm very appreciative of all the help.
Of course, that's not the end of the story. The airstrip in Long Sule is a 425 meter strip (4% slope) that sits atop a little ridge just above the village which is nestled in the river valley below. So usually a bunch of people show up with their nifty woven "utility" backpacks that they're famous for in the Apo Kayan region, and they shove an unbelievable amount of barang (stuff) into those packs and heft it down the steep slope to their village, all the while wearing very happy, big smiles!
So after Sule, I went back to Mahak Baru again, where we re-installed the seats again and loaded up another eight passengers (yeah, there's only seven passenger seats in our configuration, but that means someone was holding a lap passenger--small kids can sit on an adult lap with the use of a "kiddy belt") for the flight back to Malinau.
In Malinau we pumped one of those drums of Jet Fuel that I brought in earlier into my wing tanks, and also rearranged several seats to allow for a mixed load of passengers and barang (stuff) to the village of Binuang. This time I had four adult men (plus me) and 625 lbs of supplies. Right now, especially with loads like this, we're limited not by what the Kodiak could haul, but rather by the CG (center of gravity) limits. When we are able to get an External Cargo Compartment (ECC) or "pod" as we like to call it, we'll be able to take several hundred more kilos on a mixed load like this, because much of the cargo can be placed beneath the airplane, further forward.
Anyway, after loading the plane we made the 20 minute flight to Binuang, another village that's inaccessible by anything other than foot or air.
Each village is different, but it always amuses me in Binuang and PaUpan and a few other villages, where the children come out in droves to carry the "barang" from the airplane back to the houses. They seem to love it--laughing and smiling and giggling, all while wrestling heavy and awkward, stubborn boxes that often demand two kids work together to manage the weight.
By this time it was about 4:00pm. As you can see, the shadows are long and the sun is getting low, but the sky is unusually clear and beautiful for this time of day. Typically, there would be large showers and thunderstorms dotting the sky, sometimes joining together to make lines of ugly, impenetrable weather. But Saturday was not like that. Recently, it seems the winds have been from the west, indicative of upcoming "dry" season, where the clouds drop most of their rains on the Malaysian side of the mountains. Smoky season usually starts in July or August depending on the weather.
Here's one of those heavy boxes--a two-kid job! It weighs about 25 lbs!
Well, usually, I'd be heading home after that last run, but today is a bit unique. On Wednesday, Joy and the kids, along with several other MAFers went into PaUpan to do five days of VBS with the village kids. Since I'm the only guy on the schedule to fly on Saturdays right now, and since they needed to be picked up on Sunday, and since I would be nearby Saturday afternoon, I offered to spend the night with the plane there Saturday evening. PaUpan is a day and a half walk from Binuang, but less than five minutes by air. When I landed, I was greeted by a whole bunch of excited little kids--including my own, that I hadn't seen since Wednesday morning, and of course, my beautiful wife!
Here's a picture of the MAF VBS team (this picture was taken the next day, Sunday). Five adults and nine kids (one baby is not pictured--probably being carried around by one of the older village women at the time).
So, after a long, full day of flying and serving the people of East Kalimantan, I secured Mike Echo Bravo in the little grassy parking area at the side of the strip, under what would soon become a clear and starry night.
The next afternoon, after they did the final VBS in the morning, and a full church service (Timo, our maintenance specialist preached the sermon), we all piled into the Kodiak for the 45 minute flight back to Tarakan. You can't actually see them all, but there's 15 people in the plane, plus over 300 lbs of stuff. The smiles say it all--tired, but energized and excited after five days of ministry interior!
Stay tuned for a post specifically about the VBS team's time in PaUpan. I'll try to do that next.