Foxbat and the Philippines – 2

Sleeping dinosaurI arrived at Mati Airport on Monday afternoon, after the 2-3 hour drive from Davao City with Capt Sam, one of the club instructors. This is a beautiful part of the Philippines, with lush tropical vegetation and temperatures in the mid-30’s with very high humidity. A bit of a shock my thick blood of the mid-20’s dry heat of Melbourne!

On the way, we passed ‘the sleeping dinosaur’ (photo above) which is an optical illusion which makes the island look like a dinosaur lying down – head on its side to the left, with a humped back and what look like front and rear legs splayed out in a recumbent position.

This morning I met Sam Afdal, chairman and founder of the Mindanao Saga Flying Club (MSFC) and Capt Sam. We had breakfast at the hotel where I spent the first night, before visiting Sam’s hangar at Davao Airport. Here he keeps a couple of Jetranger helicopters and a collection of motorcycles – most of which belong to friends and relatives.

At Mati, there is a 1.6 kilometre long, 30 metre wide runway, orientated 14-32 – enough room for even the most timid of Foxbat pilots!

The MSFC Club House and accommodation is situated on the north east side of the runway. Most of the building has only just been completed and a formal opening is planned for early in 2015. All the rooms are air conditioned (phew!), with ensuite showers and toilets. What luxury in a flying club.

Although the hangars are currently large marquees, there are plans to build more substantial hangars in the future.

The main club aircraft have, until now, been mainly ‘rag and tube’ ultralights: a Kolb Mk 3 Xtra (a single engine tail dragger) in which Sam Afdal solo’d for the first time in December 2013, as well as a bevy of Quicksilvers, Drifters, and others. As well as the two Foxbats, the club has recently acquired some other Light Sport Aircraft, the names of which I find myself strangely unable to recall!

I will be setting up an album in FoxbatPilot Flickr so that you can see some of the photos – ultimately including (I hope) some taken from an airborne Foxbat. Watch this space…

Foxbat and the Philippines – 1

MSFC FBAs mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m shortly departing Melbourne to go to Davao City in the Philippines for a week or so. More specifically, to visit the Mindanao Saga Flying Club (MSFC) to help them re-assemble the two identical new A22LS Foxbats they have acquired.

Getting to Davao wasn’t quite as simple as I had hoped. There are no direct flights from Melbourne, some going via Singapore and other far flung places. Only Philippine Airways has reasonable flights, but via Manila. Which means passing over Davao on the way to Manila and then flying back on an internal connecting flight. The whole journey takes about 16 hours, including waiting for the connection.

A precautionary visit to my local GP resulted in inoculations against typhoid and hepatitis, as well as a box full of malaria prevention tablets. And don’t look too closely at the Australia travel advisory website, as they are not very complimentary about the island of Mindanao, where I’m headed…

However, my contacts at MSFC couldn’t have been more helpful and reassuring, including advice on the arrival and departure terminals at Manila, as well as organising to meet me on arrival in Davao Airport and a hotel for the first night. The following day, we are going to their airfield and they have arranged a night accommodation at their club during the rest of my stay.

Their airfield – Mati National Airport – is about  a 150 kilometre drive south east from Davao. My first look at Mati on google earth suggested a very small airfield with only a couple of hangars. However, on closer inspection, the satellite image was taken in 2002 and a lot has happened since then – as evidenced by the pictures on the MSFC Facebook pages.

Interesting facts: in terms of land area, Davao City is the largest in the Philippines, with a population between 1.5 and 2 million, which (for Australian readers) puts it roughly on a par with the Perth metropolitan area.

I’ll aim to post more information as I go along but I’m not sure how certain my internet connections will be – although MSFC has wifi in the club rooms. And we all know about NOT activating international roaming with Telstra!