So what exactly do we fly around in the back of the aircraft on a daily basis out here in Papua? The answer is pretty much what you expect, people. However, I've flown charters for all manner of things, many of which I'll mention here in this blog post.
People and their belongings are very much the bulk of what we do. Flying local families and their produce (mainly vegetables grown in the mountains), local government officials, sick/injured people and even dead people. This is mainly because we have a number of local government subsidised routes. They're known as "Perintis Flights" here in Indonesia and are typically flown by small aircraft in the more remote parts of the country such as Papua and Northern Kalimantan.
The local people here in Papua are quite fascinating. Many of them are very used to flying in small aircraft, having done so for many years and are quite comfortable getting in and fastening their seatbelts. However, many are not familiar with flying and even need to be shown how to sit in a seat. Whilst loading/unloading I tend to fold the seats down and a number of times I've had passengers climb in and sit backwards on the seat before I'd had the chance to lift it back up. Some even choose to sit on the floor. Seatbelts are another mystery altogether for many and most will need some assistance with them so they can learn how to fasten and unfasten them.
I should at this point mention the smell. Living out in remote mountain villages seems to allow the locals to adopt a unique musk that words fail to fully describe. No aircraft ventilation system in the world can fully mask the odour the often fills the cabin once the doors are shut. A unique blend of stale sweat, combined with other bodily fluids is pretty common. I'm told it's something to do with the diet and that to them, we Bules smell like stale cheese thanks to our more dairy rich diet. I don't know. Either way it takes some getting used to!
Aside from people, rice is probably the next most common thing we fly. Again, this is down to government subsidies for the local villages. I often wonder how they used to live before the aircraft came along. It's a little sad to see how much more dependant some villages now are on these regular rice drops.
Building materials come next along with fuel for construction vehicles. Some villages have expanded quite significantly since aircraft started to arrive with impressive, stone and wooden buildings being built along with roads and other infrastructure.
Other food supplies are also fairly typical and include things like frozen chickens, noodles, sugar and flour. Live animals aren't so common but I did see a Cessna Caravan from another company flying the above load of live pigs into Ilaga. I've also flown medical supplies into some of the villages for the local doctors there. That's always quite a satisfying load to take.
Basically, if it's under 850kgs and fits in the back of a Porter, we'll take it to where it needs to go within a hour's flight time from Timika. In the brochure for the PC-6, Pilatus say the following: Anywhere, anytime, in any environment. Based on my experiences, I can only fully agreement with that statement.
|Pilatus PC-6 Porter unloading passengers in Modio, Papua|
|Local people of Tsinga, Papua|
|Dead body charter|
|Offloading bags of rice at Dadou, Papua|
|Drums of diesel fuel being offloaded in Ilaga, Papua|
|Live pigs delivered to Ilaga, Papua|
|Delivering medicine to Agadugume, Papua|
|Boy and chicken about to board a flight to Gila, Papua|