Friday, December 27, 2013

Going solo

Having returned to PNG alone to continue my in-country training, I was pretty much straight into the check-out process. I had tests to ensure I could fly the aircraft safely and operate in the PNG environment, and my solo return was rewarded with my first solo flight early in December.

The joy of being solo - freeing, but terrifying!
All our flights are tracked on-line and this is a record of where I went on my first day. This does of course mean that, whilst I may be alone in the cockpit, I'm never on my own out there. No diversions for a spot of heli-tourism!

The track to the North East was my first flight, the South West my second
My first task was to collect a couple of sets of translators from villages on the Huon Peninsula. My second flight, on the same day, was to take a person and some supplies out to some other villages for the Salvation Army. Because I'm particularly fortunate, I also got audited on that second flight to check the department's adherence to the rules!

Back safely - the new pilot and the new aircraft (P2-SIL)
Having been to Kerema a few times before with an instructor, that was my next assignment on my own. I overnighted in the town so as to be on hand early the next day to shuttle people into the village for the official handing over of the Digicel Foundation's first rural aid post to the villagers.
A suitable number of speeches were made to mark the occasion
Unfortunately, as I finished my first re-fuel of the morning, the aircraft developed a minor fault and everything ground to a halt. A number of people who wanted to get into the village were stuck in Kerema and a group of people who would rather be out of the village before it got dark were now trapped up there. Thankfully it was still early. I climbed on the aircraft, found a fault and fired it back up again - the problem came straight back! Thankfully a fixed-wing aircraft was sitting unused at base, so  a mechanic jumped into it and was promptly with me. Along with the auditor! He wasn't checking me this time, but he was certainly being thorough. Aircraft fixed, I could get back underway, but now with significantly less time than I'd started out with.
The village landing site. Thankfully I didn't breakdown here!
Mercifully everyone was very gracious and understanding, so everyone who needed to got into and out of the village, and everything was completed before the weather closed in - just.

My last solo flight before the Christmas break was to a coastal village in the South East. I went to take out songbooks to be distributed.


I was glad to be able to bring these villagers the fruits of their labour, but it was a warm day in a warm part of the country and a flying suit is not the coolest of attire (at least temperature-wise).


I was longing to join the local kids in the river, but seemed to have forgotten my swimming shorts. At least I wasn't the only person suffering in the heat - a government helicopter brought in some local officials. I'm guessing their pilot was warm too.


But with the solo flying underway, it's nice to be back with the family again.

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