Thursday, April 14, 2011


That's a place, not a person, thing, or idea.  I had never been there before today so I was a little excited about going to a "new" place.  It's a class III airstrip, which simply means if you don't know what you're doing you could seriously hurt yourself.  I brought my camera to take all kinds of photos for you, but alas, I forgot my SD card in the computer at home, so I guess I'll have to describe it for you.

It's 600 meters long (about half of most of our airstrips around here), but it still sits up around 4,200' elevation.  It's made of grass and large gravel, and slopes up 1 degree to the middle, where it levels off, and then goes back down 1 degree for the second half.  I circle overhead and study the airstrip a little before I make my approach.  It has white markers on either side every 100 meters, so I count 1...2...3...4.  If I haven't touched down and started braking by that one, I'll go around and give it another try.  I'm also looking for things like obstructions on either end, any indications of surface wind, and general condition of the strip.  It looks good to me, so I decide to make an approach with the option of going around so I can gather more information.  If things look good, I can land.

As I get lower, I also notice that the strip is fenced, a nice touch to keep animals and children off the runway.  Turning final, I automatically go into check mode.  Airstrip clear, checklist done, airspeed 55 knots, 500 feet per minute descent, and glidepath looks right.  I'm aiming for the first 100 meters of airstrip, so I can actually touch down around the 200 meter mark and get stopped in the remaining 400 meters.

I notice I have a 3 knot tailwind as I "ride" the bumps all the way down to my spot.  Add power, reduce power, lower nose, idle, raise nose and add power again, all the way to touch down.  For a short field landing, my touch down is actually quite soft and as soon as I feel the wheels hit the ground, I squeeze on the brakes...harder...harder, until I am leaning forward in my seatbelt and we have come to a crawl.  I'm just coming up over the crest in the airstrip, so I figured I used about half of the total distance available.  Not bad!

MAF has three different classifications for the airstrip it uses:  I, II, and III.  Class I airstrips are nice and long, and if you hold a commercial pilot's certificate, you should have no problem operating in and out of these strips.  Class II airstrips require some additional training and are a little more technical.  They may have a non-standard approach or some slope to them.  Class III airstrips are the most difficult and technical airstrips we operate in and out of.  They require individual checkouts, usually are really short, have a lot of slope, and may have an airborne abort point.

On the ground, I take a little time to look at the airstrip, measure slopes and distances, and talk with some of the people.  I decide it's probably a good idea to do one takeoff here with no passengers, just so I can see what it looks like, and it would give me a better idea of how much weight I can take.

There's a hill right at the end of the airstrip with a bunch of grass huts on top and I want to pay particular attention to this.  As I liftoff and accelerate, I pitch the nose up and clear the hill by about 50 feet, and I'm empty!  There is room to make a right hand turn after liftoff and go around the hill.  Back on the ground, I go a little conservative and tell them I can only take 400 kilos total.  I'm light on fuel, but they have 454 kilos they want to take.  They decide to leave one passenger behind, so that puts me a little under 400; I'm happy about that.  This time, I add full power while holding the brakes, check all my instruments, and then start my roll.

I get my speed check right where I expected, and lift off a little before I thought I would, but there's not much in the way of climbing power, and I realize real quick that, indeed, I will have to go around the hill.  I gently bank a little to the right and everything is good.  30 minutes back to Bunia and I'm home before lunch!  I love days like today!

P.S.  Dear mom, there's a little brown jumpy spider somewhere in the cockpit, he like to hang around the airspeed indicator.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi there, nice story about Aungba. I'm jim, a pilot in Kajjansi working for Jeremy McKelvie's aeroclub. I might be taking our islander to Aungba in early december. Do you have, or can you direct me to anyone who has info- coordinates, condition, contacts, etc? email is Thanks, happy flying