On final approach to landing there were people running across the runway and then halfway down the runway there were 2 major soccer games being played on the grass right next to the runway. That really made us smile as we steeled ourselves for having to deal with the officials. The instant we switched the engine off we could tell the difference – the attitude and the smiles. I am not complaining or anything but it is so great to arrive somewhere and the locals immediately treat you well, smile, greet you happily … that was my first impression of the people of Indonesia.
I have been thinking why is it that arriving at Chuuk in Micronesia reminded me of arriving in Nigeria and I realised that in both cases the officials (and many more of them than are actually needed) immediately approach you after landing and all of them try to get their paperwork done at the same time – this one asking this question, that one asking that question and where is this paper and why didn’t you have that paper and most of all of course to get money off you. At 99% of international airports you take your passport etc and go into the terminal building and then deal with one lot of officials at a time.
At Biak it was a thoroughly pleasant experience dealing with the officials although very expensive once again. Talking about fees – from my previous long trips and this one – the most expensive landing, handling, navigation and parking fees have been in the less developed countries. I am not talking about fuel prices – that is something else. In the USA, Canada and most of Europe (excluding Greenland) the fees were not too bad (the USA being by far the cheapest with mostly no landing fee and sometimes just a $5 overnight parking fee). I guess on average the last few landing and other fees have added up to about $250 per stop. In SA our landing fees are really cheap by comparison.
The newly renovated and inexpensive hotel that we checked into is right opposite the airport – not more that 120 metres from where the Sling is parked. Jais, who is the Biak Briefing Officer offered to help us change money, get some food and very important, beer. The way to experience Biak is of course by moped – all you do is stand in the street and put your hand up and in no time you are picked up and are on your way, your driver wearing a helmet and you without !
In the little town of Biak the teenagers were out in droves, walking in the streets, riding around, just hanging out and they were all friendly. Dinner was really cheap – one of the best known dishes from Micronesia is Nasi Goreng which is a mixture of vegetables some meats and rice with egg and was developed as a dish from leftovers – well it is really yummy.
On our rest day we worked on the plane – it is a process we go through before each flight … the top cowling comes off and the engine and engine mount are systematically checked. This time we had to tie up the asbestos around the exhaust a bit, check for a possible coolant leak, adjust the carbs slightly and top up the oil. This way at least we know that on take off we are in good shape and that reduces our chances of problems developing in flight.
After lunch and a swim we went around the island on mopeds which included a visit to the famous cave in which thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed during the Second World War. The thing that struck both James and I as we rode around is the friendliness of the people … most people waved – the old the young, the men, the women, everyone waved and greeted us. Whenever we stopped we were approached with smiles and laughter – the kids wanting to take photos with us (two slightly scruffy men of dubious character … well that really applies mostly to James as we all know!)
What do we talk about while we are flying … well most of the conversation is about the flight and all the aspects around that of course, then there is politics and engineering and stories about our youth and what we plan to do with our business and how we plan to market and sell the Sling. But most of the time we sit quietly with our own thoughts because the flying is quite stressful and tiring which is not conducive to inspiring and enthusiastic conversation.
Technical stuff … when we are fully loaded we climb out at about 75 knots and 250 ft/min burning about 23 l/h. Once at altitude – say 4500 ft we get the speed up to 85 knots (90 true) and burn 19 l/h. Towards the end of the flight we will usually be higher (8500 ft) and indicating about 92 knots (102 true) and burn about 17.5 l/h.
Our health … generally we do not suffer from sore bums amazingly enough. We had the seats made with special foam and the angle and length of the seat spreads our weight partly onto our legand our back.. Also we can move around very easily which we do. Another thing is there is so much leg room that we can easily stretch our legs, lie back and even turn around. We are both well and happy and of course we enjoy the flying so although it is tiring and scary at times we are doing what we want to do! I hurt my leg a little jumping out of the plane the other day so I didn’t join him, but James has just returned from a run and now is doing pressups on the floor here in the hotel room. Comes on James just 20 more and please stop that grunting!
FLIGHT TO BALIKPAPAN
We took off an hour late … as James was checking the drain valves one of them broke and fuel came pouring out. While James held his finger over the valve to stop the fuel I ran around getting containers and then using the piss tube and funnel we drained the tank (luckily it was a tank with just 30 L in). So that took a while and we knew that we didn’t have too much time to spare because the flight might take 12 hours if the winds were not favourable and we didn’t want to land after sunset if possible.
On lining up on the runway there was a big black ugly cloud that was rolling towards us so we got airborne just in time. And then it started – cloud dodging. Not the little puffy friendly kind – the nasty black, swirly, heavy rainy kind. We went left and then right and climbed and climbed until at 10,500 ft we were above a lot of the cloud and could see better. Later on in the flight it got easier but the beginning was quite hectic.
This time we had music all the way … wow, that was so great. Dodging clouds, flying over oceans and islands and jungles while listening to brilliant music. Life could not be much sweeter!
Right, it’s breakfast time.Bye