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PNG North Coast Aviation 2

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2022-11-05_PNG North Coast Aviation 2
For November 5, 2022
Michael MacKuen

We return to Papua New Guinea’s Huon Peninsula to focus on the Sarawaged and Cromwell ranges. We shall visit small village strips which will engage our mountain flying skills. In addition, we’ll take a “nostalgic look” at the airfields at Finschhafen and Lae Aerodrome for a taste of the region’s aviation history. And finally, we’ll climb Mount Sarawaget itself.

Again, this is part of the territory flown by the small independent airline
North Coast Aviation, based in Lae. They are currently flying the PAC P-750. Hats off to these people for maintaining links between rural villagers and the larger commercial, medical, educational, and cultural centers. While serving the community and pursuing a true love of aviation, this can be a dangerous enterprise.

North Coast Aviation PAC P-750 descending from Mount Sarawaget

We begin with an early morning departure from Wasu [AYWS] and climb vigorously up a long ravine and then drop down to Derim [DER]. (This is not the fastest but instead the prettiest route.) Then through the passes to Konge Airstrip [AYDE] which serves a local Cooperative as well as two schools. Then over to Satwat [SWG], perched on a dramatic ridgetop. There is some terrain in the area which will ask for careful flying while not being distracted by the visual beauty. We continue a distance along the mountainside to Siwea [SWE] and then maneuver around the ridgetops to the hilltop Masa [AYSX]. Quite a view here. And then a long descent to Finschhafen [AYFI]. This town was the original German settlement on the island (though quickly abandoned due to malaria). It was later revitalized during the mid-twentieth century and the town now includes a market and a regional hospital. (We shall visit a “1970s” version of the airfield when the RAAF had a small helicopter unit based here. The current field looks to be in decay with the asphalt runway being poorly-maintained.)

After a break, we then ascend the mountains to Mikini [MPG], quickly recognizable by the red dirt of its strip. Then around some terrain to land at Pindiu [PDI], a larger village. Next is an entertainingly precarious ridgetop stop at Ogeranang Airstrip [OGE] which requires a little attention. Good vistas, to be enjoyed once safely landed. We circle around to skirt some high ground of Mount Sarawaget to Samanzing [AYSZ]. The strip is above the village, nestled into the side of a small narrow valley with elevated terrain that makes for a challenging landing. (One possibility is to approach from the east, to slip over a ridge [7300], and then descend to the short strip on the other side of the beautiful valley.
 If there are gusting winds on the ridgeline, this could be fascinating.)

We turn upward and climb to the heights of Mount Sarawaget. This may take some effort to reach 14,000ft [13800]. After reaching the top [SARA], we can admire the expansive vistas in all directions. And then [13900], descend carefully 9,000ft down the correct ravine to Bandoung [BDZ]. Some speed control is advised as the approach requires a quick turn in the close terrain to execute the uphill landing. (
Rather than climbing to the mountaintop, some pilots may prefer a more “level-headed” approach around Bangdap [BANG] to reach Bandoung.) And then optionally a visit to Bawan Airstrip [BWJ], a classic one-way hillside strip made especially interesting by its modest 755 ft length.

Our work completed, we head down the mountainside to Lae Aerodrome [NGLA]. In the 1920s there was only a modest mission here when Australians built an airport and dock to service the heavy-equipment gold mining up in Bulolo and Wau (south of here). Given the unmanageable mountainous terrain, for a decade everything (including food supplies, building materials, cranes, some massive dredges ... and a piano) had to be airlifted – most notably in 3 specially-built Junkers G.31 Trimotors. This was the world’s largest airlift until WWII, a great story in aviation (see here and here). The city grew up around the airport. (This is the field from which Amelia Earhart left on her final flight while attempting to circumnavigate the world in 1937.)

After WWII, the city and regional economy continued to grow and the airfield became even more busy. Lae Aerodrome was the main operational field of the legendary local airline TAL. More investment in the infrastructure was required. And an alternative was the old military field in the Markham Valley at Nadzab (although some 25 miles to the northwest, it could handle jets). By the early 1980s, each airport had a group of supporters and a decision had to be made. Then, “in an unsolved mystery” the terminal at Lae Aerodrome burned down. The Nadzab site was chosen as a replacement. (The old airport was used until the early 1990s but it is now gone.) We see the 1970s version of the airport with its Dakotas, a fleet of TAL aircraft, and plenty of General Aviation. This model is crafted by “Mountainair” who lived and worked here during that time. So this will be a pleasant diversion for our pilots.

Nowadays, Lae is a growing urban area of about 200,000. It has a busy market, active manufacturing industries, a hospital, PNG’s University of Technology, and plenty of businesses. It also has all the typical problems of a growing urban area in a developing country. Add the PNG “raskols” to the mix and sustained development appears to be a daunting challenge.

We finish by flying out to Nadzab [AYNZ] which is the current regional airport. We get some sense of the current developments as a new terminal building is being completed.

The flightplan can be found
here. Note that you will have two flight plans, one named with an appendage “_FULL” the second with ”_SPARE”. The first flight plan includes additional waypoints that indicate the correct runway for landing at the one-way strips as well as other waypoints that give a general plan for getting around the mountains. The second provides only the airports and a few waypoints. The first incorporates more information, might be suitable for overall planning, and is best displayed on a second screen or device. The second eliminates much of this detail, is less cluttered, and might be better for in-cockpit GPS usage. (This second one is translated to the Garmin waypoint-only format for use in the TDS GPS.) These are NOT designed for “set and fly the magenta” aviation. In addition, there is a short list of the airfields with the preferred runways, nominal altitudes, and brief notes.

Today’s schedule includes a number of high altitude village airstrips. You will probably want a STOL aircraft capable of operating at elevated fields. Popular alternatives include the Pilatus PC‑6 Porter, Daher Kodiak, the Cessna 208 Caravan, the PAC P-750 XSTOL and the DHC-6 Twin Otter. You can surely fly this route with any short-field capable aircraft (say the RV-14) as long as it can handle the altitudes. (BN Islanders have been used in this area, but their normally-aspirated engines are not ideal for today’s mountaintop locations.) I shall fly the PAC P-750 in the North Coast Aviation P2-BJD stock cargo livery. As ever, fly what you like.

Additional Scenery

While most of the airports are in the default simulator, many are indifferently depicted. I recommend the following scenery packages for a better experience. (These scenery packages will serve the earlier flight and today’s second follow-up flight in the Sarawaged and Cromwell Ranges further east on the Huon Peninsula.)

Mega Mod for PNG and Western New Guinea. Wantok. This is a “must have” as it fixes terrain anomalies, cleans up current airports, and adds a number of new ones. Required. 258kb
Morobe Province 14 Challenging Bushstrips. Rudolf Friedli (cebros). This set includes a number of airports that we use for these flights. Required. 95kb [Rename (and disable) two files as follows: AYFI.bgl.OFF; FinischhafenShapes.bgl.OFF ]
Aiyura [AYU]. David Hansen (Johndoe).
Bambui [BCP], Bawan [BWJ], Dinangat [AYDN], Owena [AYWW], Simogu [AYQM]. Photosbykev.
Finschhafen (historic) [AYFI], Nadzab (current) [AYNZ]. Mountainair.
Lae (historic) [NGLA] Required. Mountainair.
Sindeni [AYDY]. Milosanx.

Thanks to these fine authors for their talent and efforts.

Temporarily, you can download a
package that includes all the sceneries here. (1.0gb). [In this package, the two bgl files are appropriately disabled.]

Time and Weather
For takeoff on Saturday, set the simulator at 7:00 am local for November 5, 2022.
We typically prefer real weather. Flying into unprepared mountain strips is often prohibited by PNG flying organizations when the winds and visibility are limited. The Huon Peninsula can be very wet. We shall adjust accordingly.

Multiplayer Particulars
Date and time: Saturday, November 5, 2022. 1900 UTC [North Americans note 1900 UTC]
Where: AVSIM RTWR Teamspeak - Casual Flights Channel
Teamspeak Server Address: ts.teamavsim.com
Microsoft Flight Simulator Multiplayer: United States East server.

If you want to help others enjoy the multiplayer experience, don't forget to enter your aircraft details on the multiplayer spreadsheet (linked
 here). Your courtesy will save others a lot of time and effort. Thanks!

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--Mike MacKuen


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Nice one Mike. 👍



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How long does it take for 'smug' to wear off after buying an EV?

"It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled". Whoever said it wasn't wrong!


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Indeed a very good flight - interesting scenery and challenging landings. The flight plan with lead-in course was a good idea.

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i7-6700k Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD5 32GB DDR4 2666 EVGA FTW ULTRA RTX3080 12GB

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1 hour ago, somiller said:

Indeed a very good flight - interesting scenery and challenging landings. The flight plan with lead-in course was a good idea.

Not to mention great conversation. 😁

How long does it take for 'smug' to wear off after buying an EV?

"It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled". Whoever said it wasn't wrong!


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