Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

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Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#1 Post by Pinky the pilot » Sat Oct 15, 2016 11:34 am

Somewhere on this site there are a number of posts re various 'interesting' airports/airstrips that members have flown into on a regular or one time basis and, for some reason, has stuck in their memory. :-o

For good or bad reasons is neither here nor there for the purpose of this thread! [-X

To start off, I nominate a place called Kamulai, in the Goilala area of the PNG Mountain area just north of Port Moresby. Elevation 5,300amsl. Strip 15/33 Length 481m Slope 11% down to NW

Notes from The Douglas Airways 'one way strip' book Ie The Bible for one way strip ops!
]"Carved out of side of hill. Slight bend in strip approx 1/3 way down 33. Land 15 T/O 33 After early morning, possible strong tailwinds and turbulence in NW (wet) season.



Image

It was literally cut out of the side of a Mountain, built almost single-handedly by a French born Catholic Priest named Father Abel, who used several tons of Gelignite and a small bulldozer that had been gas-axed into bits small enough to be carried into the area by Human Porters, then rewelded into a usable dozer.

It was universally acknowledged as the most dangerous and difficult strip in the Central province of PNG.

Thought I was going to die on several occasions when attempting to land there and having to go around!! :-ss :-ss

Alison; Betcha your PNG PPL Navs never took you here!! :D
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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#2 Post by Alisoncc » Sat Oct 15, 2016 12:09 pm

Pinky the pilot wrote:It was literally cut out of the side of a Mountain, built almost single-handedly by a French born Catholic Priest named Father Abel, who used several tons of Gelignite and a small bulldozer...

Alison; Betcha your PNG PPL Navs never took you here!! :D

Used to land there often Pinky before the Frog got there and messed it up. :-bd

You know you are doing it rough when you need to circle a few times whilst they finish clearing a runway, and the locals (SLF) decide to disembark mid-air.

Here's Jacksons twenty years before you arrived on the scene Pinky.

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Alpha Tango Zulu won her class in the 1968 London to Sydney air race. When Dennis Douglas ran Malarial Tours.

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#3 Post by Pinky the pilot » Tue Oct 18, 2016 4:40 am

Heard about ATZ when I worked for Douglas Airways. Believe it was pranged about 2 years before I arrived in the country. :(

ATS was still in existence and I flew it on numerous occasions.
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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#4 Post by Alisoncc » Tue Oct 18, 2016 5:35 am

Pinky the pilot wrote:Believe it was pranged about 2 years before I arrived in the country. :(

Wasn't my fault. I always left her in an airworthy condition - well almost airworthy. To the best of my knowledge she was still flyable when I had finished with her. Well perhaps just. :YMPARTY:


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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#5 Post by More Aviation » Wed Oct 19, 2016 8:49 pm

It was literally cut out of the side of a Mountain, built almost single-handedly by a French born Catholic Priest named Father Abel, who used several tons of Gelignite and a small bulldozer that had been gas-axed into bits small enough to be carried into the area by Human Porters, then rewelded into a usable dozer.

It was universally acknowledged as the most dangerous and difficult strip in the Central province of PNG.

Thought I was going to die on several occasions when attempting to land there and having to go around!!


Truly a case of "build it and they will come"...

Certainly not a place where you would want to go around, even in optimal weather conditions as you say...

African strips throw up challenges sometimes including wayward giraffe and the like but reading the tales of you PNG veterans makes all that look rather tame by comparison.

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#6 Post by Alisoncc » Wed Oct 19, 2016 9:54 pm

Pinky the pilot wrote:Heard about ATZ when I worked for Douglas Airways. Believe it was pranged about 2 years before I arrived in the country. :(

ATS was still in existence and I flew it on numerous occasions.

IT - IT. Wash your mouth out immediately. Aeroplanes are she and her always have been and always will be. They need to be treated with respect and caressed as if your life depends on it, as often it does. People have been banned at the other place for less. Bloody younger generation - know nuffink. :-h

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#7 Post by Pinky the pilot » Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:36 am

IT - IT. Wash your mouth out immediately


Yes Ma'am. Immediately! (Clicks heels)
Currently doing so with a large mug of Coffee but will repeat with a glass or three of a good Red after 1700hrs local.
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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#8 Post by Pinky the pilot » Thu Oct 20, 2016 4:24 am

Another one which could occasionally scare the bejaysus out of the unwary, but for different reasons!
Fane


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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#9 Post by Alisoncc » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:27 am

Here's one for your Pinky. Tapen about half way between Madang and Lae

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I also heard that this airey got bent - badly. That wasn't me either. I is dead proud. I didn't get to bend any.

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#10 Post by Alisoncc » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:41 am

Agotu.

Agotu.jpg


Them hills go up an awfully long way. Goroka, Kundiawa and Mount Hagen are atop the mountains in the background. Known as the Western Highlands.

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#11 Post by Pinky the pilot » Thu Oct 20, 2016 6:06 am

Another one, this time in the Gulf province. Incidentally the very first strip I was endorsed into.
From the Dz 'One way strip book'; Elev 2,000' Slope 13.3% 16/34 length 450M Committed from 2,400 on final.
What was not mentioned was that if you lost an engine airborne just after T/O in a BN2......You would not be able to outclimb the terrain.


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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#12 Post by More Aviation » Thu Oct 20, 2016 12:01 pm

What was not mentioned was that if you lost an engine airborne just after T/O in a BN2......You would not be able to outclimb the terrain.


And looking at that clag (on that day) you would likely be IMC before you hit the first ridge as well. Is/was there a decent network of Navaids in PNG or is it all down to GPS approaches and departures these days when the clag hits the deck with the occasional ILS/VOR/NDB scattered around the larger airfields for the sake of form?

Do the natives still eat the occasional pilot? :)

"Smithers as Captain I demand that you as FO are eaten first to placate the volcano God".... =))

What has happened to Mr Solid Rust Twotter who always had a good word or anecdote on flying in extremis?

Talking of the BN2 did any of the cognoscenti here ever read Island Pilot, the story of the trials and tribulations of flying around the Shetlands in the venerable Islander?

Seems a similar book is required highlighting the pleasure of PNG. Pinky, Alison, scribble scribble?

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#13 Post by Alisoncc » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:07 pm

More Aviation wrote:And looking at that clag (on that day) you would likely be IMC before you hit the first ridge as well. Is/was there a decent network of Navaids in PNG or is it all down to GPS approaches and departures these days when the clag hits the deck with the occasional ILS/VOR/NDB scattered around the larger airfields for the sake of form?

Do the natives still eat the occasional pilot? :)

We don't seem to have a "You must be joking" smilie. If we had I would be using it.

Forty plus years ago when I was swanning my way around PNG all we had was NDB. When they worked. We did have a computer to assist us. It was known as an E6B. That and a compass was all that was necessary, or available.

Papua was one side of the mountains and New Guinea the other. The Kokoda Gap was the way you got from one to the other, and it was a real fun place to transit. The mountains each side went up to 13,000 ft, and with a 10k ceiling for unpressurised meant you couldn't go over the clag, and being surrounded by granite made it unwise to fly through, and as the valley narrowed opportunities to turn around would diminish. Late afternoon the pass would become unpassable. If you didn't get through in time you were history. Used to lose a lot of aeroplanes there.

In 1971 the boss Kiap made an official announcement in the Moresby Post that the last area of Papua at that time unchecked was designated as being free of cannibalism. Unfortunately no one told the cannibals this, so they happily continued eating people.

Are happy dazes.

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#14 Post by More Aviation » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:24 pm

Alisoncc wrote:
More Aviation wrote:And looking at that clag (on that day) you would likely be IMC before you hit the first ridge as well. Is/was there a decent network of Navaids in PNG or is it all down to GPS approaches and departures these days when the clag hits the deck with the occasional ILS/VOR/NDB scattered around the larger airfields for the sake of form?

Do the natives still eat the occasional pilot? :)

We don't seem to have a "You must be joking" smilie. If we had I would be using it.

Forty plus years ago when I was swanning my way around PNG all we had was NDB. When they worked. We did have a computer to assist us. It was known as an E6B. That and a compass was all that was necessary, or available.

Papua was one side of the mountains and New Guinea the other. The Kokoda Gap was the way you got from one to the other, and it was a real fun place to transit. The mountains each side went up to 13,000 ft, and with a 10k ceiling for unpressurised meant you couldn't go over the clag, and being surrounded by granite made it unwise to fly through, and as the valley narrowed opportunities to turn around would diminish. Late afternoon the pass would become unpassable. If you didn't get through in time you were history. Used to lose a lot of aeroplanes there.

In 1971 the boss Kiap made an official announcement in the Moresby Post that the last area of Papua at that time unchecked was designated as being free of cannibalism. Unfortunately no one told the cannibals this, so they happily continued eating people.

Are happy dazes.

Alison


Yes, I figured that PGN might have been somewhat bereft of electronic navaids in the 70s. I still own a metal E6B although I tend to use the Pooley's CRP-5, a chart and a chinograph pencil, when appropriate, these days (yes, I still use the old whiz wheel alongside all the new gizmos which have the bad habit of letting you down when the batteries or power fails).... I am starting to feel a little like an antique myself these days if the truth be told... :)

Granite, clag and cannibals... (there's the title for your new book Alison)...

Thoroughly enjoyable thread by the way. The photos are fascinating..

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#15 Post by Alisoncc » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:48 pm

Here's another photo for you MA. Nasty hard lumps that hang about in the clouds to catch the unwary pilot. I actually took this myself whilst transiting the Gap. We used to have a "marker" with a stipulated condition, "This is your last chance to turn around if you cannot SEE a way through". "Do not kid yourself that it might improve. It never does". Those who survived PNG followed it to the "T". Many chose not to and paid the price.

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#16 Post by More Aviation » Thu Oct 20, 2016 5:57 pm

Alisoncc wrote:Here's another photo for you MA. Nasty hard lumps that hang about in the clouds to catch the unwary pilot. I actually took this myself whilst transiting the Gap. We used to have a "marker" with a stipulated condition, "This is your last chance to turn around if you cannot SEE a way through". "Do not kid yourself that it might improve. It never does". Those who survived PNG followed it to the "T". Many chose not to and paid the price.



I see what you mean about strato and cumulo granite. ADF and NDB would have been pretty much useless to you in the valley anyway so Mark 1 eyeball all the way eh!

Gutsy stuff, I give you guys that... the VRP not being a visual reporting point as much as a visual rock procedure...

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#17 Post by Pinky the pilot » Fri Oct 21, 2016 10:30 am

Re the photo in your post #15 Alison; Most odd! When I saw that photo I suddenly got that old feeling, and the old phrase sprung to mind;
Been there; Seen/done that! lived to talk about it!

That photo is exactly how I on occasion saw it. Oh yes, and other gaps/ridge crossings etc just like it!

The Tapini Gap, The Guari Gap, the Woitape/Fane Gap etc etc etc..... :-?
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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#18 Post by Pinky the pilot » Sat Oct 22, 2016 11:11 am

Upon further reading of previous posts in this thread I noted the following;

The mountains each side went up to 13,000 ft, and with a 10k ceiling for unpressurised meant you couldn't go over the clag,


Oh c'mon now...... :D :ymdevil: :ymsick:

For the record; I once spent two and a half hours above 16,000' in an 'A' model C402 with an empty O2 bottle.
Upon landing back at Port Morbid, with a raging altitude headache btw, I asked the CP if we could have the bottle refilled as I had another identical long flight the following day.

His reply was illuminating;

Nahh, what do ya need oxygen for??

I will never forget that! :-?

A qualifier; In my taim bilong PNG, it was just a done thing. Never mind what altitude you had to climb to get to wherever you had to go; You just did it!! But the abovementioned incident did not impress me in the slightest! X( And I still remember the name of the CP! [-X X(
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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#19 Post by Alisoncc » Sat Oct 22, 2016 12:09 pm

Pinky I was there before they got independence, when the Australian DCA ran the show. You went above 10k unpressurised and you were grounded. No ifs no buts. Do it twice and your licence was forfeit. Somehow I doubt there were any regulations when the locals got to run everything. Probably explains why there have been more aircraft losses per annum since.

All flights required a flight plan, and you were required to call ops-normal on HF within minutes of your planned ETA, once overhead the strip. One guy failed to call ops-normal on arrival later claiming his HF went inop. When he called for clearance to his next destination after take-off, he was instructed to land immediately and wait for techies to come out and check his HF. He was there for three days. Sleeping in the aircraft, with minimal food and water.

Typically when on finals at Moresby the Tower would request you visit them once everything was cleared away. That was when the brown stuff would hit the fan if you had done anything "wrong". On one occasion Malarial Tours CP heard said request being issued and commented "Looks like we have a vacancy coming up".

Twenty years before you showed up Pinky, Nav aids were non-existent. Comms was rudimentary solely HF. The only strips that had tarmac were Moresby, Madang and Lae. Never got out to Rabaul or Honiara so can't say about them. IIRC even semi-major towns like Mt Hagen and Goroka were dirt. Most of the strips out in the Sepic - Telefomin. Kiunga, Ningerum and Vanimo were still work-in-progress. And very slow progress, if any. But we used them anyway. :YMAPPLAUSE:

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Re: Airstrips; Interesting, Scary or otherwise

#20 Post by Pinky the pilot » Sun Oct 23, 2016 6:57 am

Alison; Nothing of what you said there surprises me as I had heard a few stories from some of the old hands. But when I was there, if your destination airstrip was the other side of the Owen Stanleys and you didn't go above 10,000 in the BN2 most times you would never get there. Or if trying to return to Moresby you would not get back!

I did numerous trips to a strip on the north coast called IIRC Wanigela and it was company Policy to adhere to LSALTS even when in VMC. And yes, we sometimes had to go IMC but only above lowest safe. From memory the LSALT on that route was 12,100' I did that route in both BN2s and a C402.

Most BN2s that I flew had no navaids, or if they did it was generally an ADF or in one case a Van X DME. Neither of which worked....reliably! There was an NDB at Kerema which was not considered reliable, as the local raskols kept breaking into the facility and stealing any copper wire they could lay their hands on. X( I think Nadzab, Mt Hagen, Wewak and Madang all had NDBs at least and they were kept reasonably serviceable. Can't remember what Kundiawa had.

At least all aircraft I ever flew there had good HF radios. Rarely had a problem, and if one went u/s it was fixed pronto.

Somehow I doubt there were any regulations when the locals got to run everything


Not all that far from the truth! :((
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