Mukah: Part 1

Since I had a few days to spare in Kuching before celebrating Chinese New Year, I dropped by Mukah to visit a good friend. This will also be the second time that I’ll be flying on the Twin Otter, previously during my trip to Mulu a decade ago.

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I bought a standby ticket to Mukah after lunch and was on standby for the 3:45pm flight. Bookings for that flight was full, but after I packed and went back to the airport, they managed to get me a seat on that flight.

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It was raining so umbrellas were provided. No aerobridge to get you to the cabin.

I almost forgot how small the aircraft was. There are no seat numbers so it’s free seating. No cabin crew to serve drinks either. There was no requirement since the aircraft seats 19 people or less. There were 11 passengers on my flight.

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Small cabin.

Getting to Mukah was an adventure itself. Flying in a small plane means you’re pretty much at the mercy of the weather. The takeoff roll was very brief. It was raining in Kuching and visibility was not very good. But once we broke through the rain clouds, it was all clear and sunny. And soon we were climbing to 7500 feet. The aircraft is unpressurized so it cannot fly too high. So there’s plenty to see if you look out from the window.

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The many rivers of Sarawak snaking inland.

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Flying at about 7500 feet at 300km/h.

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Houses can be seen as we approached Mukah.

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Sharp right turn as we approached Mukah. Flaps down in this photo.

The plane came down very fast during landing. The pilot then made a U-turn and headed back to the terminal. After the passengers left I talked to the captain and pilot. I asked them how they navigate the route and they say mainly VFR (visual) and GPS. They had about 15 minutes before taking off again to head back to Kuching.

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Very simple flight instruments.

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Very small cabin.

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Admittedly, I got lost in this airport when I arrived because they had closed the front doors by the time I got down from the aircraft.

More to come. Stay tuned!

Aerial Photos from Extra 260

Here are some aerial photos we took from the Extra 260. These are screenshots from the video but I won’t post the video because I got nauseous after watching it for a few minutes. It was moving and turning too fast.

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That’s where I parked my car (middle right, black sedan) near the guard post.

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Sewage treatment plant nearby. Doesn’t look very pleasant with the green algae filled pond.

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Some houses near the main road.

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If you look carefully on the right of the photo above, you can see the Subang Airport runway! Unfortunately air traffic control won’t allow us to land there. No I didn’t ask.

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Someone on a bike and someone walking on the walkway.

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Deforestation. I think.

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Still a lot of green here :D

I would love to put a small compact camera on board to get some better shots. But we need to sort out the weight issue to do that.

On other news, we have ordered a FPV video unit. This means that very soon we will be able to stream live video from the cockpit and fly the plane as if we are in the cockpit. It will be like flying a real plane, minus the cost, risks and G-forces. If the plane crashes, you won’t die. Reminds me of the movie Surrogates. Stay tuned for that.

Red Book

Last year on 30th of December, I sat for my Airframe written examination. After passing that, 3 weeks ago on Friday the 13th, I sat for my oral examination at the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia. 4 years of knowledge was evaluated in about 40 minutes. And today, I am pleased to say I have passed and have been issued the coveted “red book”:

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As you can see it is obvious why it’s called a “red book”.

The red book contains the license to maintain planes. However, having this book does not give me any certifying privileges, i.e. I still can’t work on planes. I have to go through the company’s Quality Assurance oral to get my company approval before I can start signing off planes. This is merely the first step in achieving that. It’s a prerequisite for the company approval.

I have a lot of people to thank for this. Couldn’t have done it without all the support, guidance and motivation. You all know who you are ;)

Next: QA. The last hurdle.

Landing at Kai Tak Airport

Ask any aviation enthusiast and they will tell you that Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong is famous for its crosswinds and dramatic landings. Here’s one involving a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 747-400:

It’s a pity they switched to a new airport while I was there a few years back. Would have loved a rollercoaster-like landing.

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The reason for such a maneuver at the final approach is clearly shown on the approach chart above in the area circled in red. It was a modified ILS approach, named IGS 13 (Instrument Guidance System, Runway 13), or unofficially known as the Checkerboard Approach. This approach is known as the checkerboard approach because there is a checkerboard painted on the side of the hill to guide pilots in.

Basically planes will approach from the west (left of chart) at heading 088 and intercept the ILS. The ILS will then guide the plane to the checkerboard and right before the checkerboard the pilots will have to make a right turn to runway 13.

The video below is shot from the checkerboard, showing the approach of a Thai Airways Boeing 777:

This video was shot from the cockpit of a Boeing 747 during approach to Kai Tak Runway 13. From the video you can see the pilots flying towards the checkboard before turning sharply to the right to runway 13:

You can see the checkerboard if you go to the top of Kowloon Tsai Park. Here’s a photo at the top: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/17944521. If you have Flight Simulator X you can purchase an add-on to fly the checkerboard approach: http://www.avsim.com/pages/0808/FlyTampa/KaiTak.htm.