August 24 ’03
Sixteen Airplanes flew-in to the first Buleleng fly-in. Nine airplanes from various flying clubs of Malaysia trickled in starting August 22nd to the 24th. Six airplanes from the different islands of Indonesia participated and all made it to the opening in the morning of the 24th. An Australian Navajo tested his long-range cruise performance and made it on time. Unfortunately, this year, the lone Philippine entry, RP-C1158 did not make it. I was the only person ready to go despite the sad state of the economy of our country. As always, fun and adventure has been my priority over making money. It would have been fun to fly the Baron all the way by myself but first class tickets on SQ were still a quarter of what I’ll be spending if I took the Baron up.
Buleleng is one of the eight regencies of Bali whose capital is Singaraja. Most of the night activities and hotels that we stayed in were located in the Lovina area, which was very close to Singaraja. The Fly-in was organized to inaugurate the new airstrip that was opened in the district of Gerokgak, Gerokgak is 65 kilometers west of Singaraja. The airstrip was named after LetKol Wisnu, an independence hero killed during the struggle of the Indonesians with the Dutch troops.
The airstrip is only 750 meters long and is a little over 40 nautical miles north west of Denpasar. A quick flight even on a C172 but about 3.5 hours drive from Denpasar. I would be a nice scenic drive over the mountains if you were doing it for the first time but gets boring on the second run. This is the reason why the Regent of Buleleng, Drs. Ketut Wirata Sindhu, decided that the community needs an airstrip. How I wish our local government people had the same wisdom and foresight. The value of property near the airstrip has increased ten times since they constructed the strip.
Yes, it was a very successful Fly-In. All of the community’s objectives were achieved and all the pilots enjoyed themselves tremendously. The whole community, from the highest political figure to the resort owners and even school children has all contributed their time, talent, and efforts in making the Fly-In a success. The whole community worked on the project for the past seven months and as I observed, almost every detail was patterned after our Philippine Hot Air Balloon Fiesta minus the Balloons. Even our “bayong” goody and souvenir bag was exactly the same. A good friend and over all Fly-In coordinator, Chepy Nasution, flew to Clark last February for the Balloon Fiesta and liked the idea. I was very happy for him and envied him because all the government officials appreciated what he was doing for the whole regency and supported him all the way. This was never our case in Clark. We did not get any support from the Department of Tourism or the local government. If I was a doctor, I would have cloned the Bali officials and let them thrive in Pampanga.
It was very amusing seeing locals dancing and partying in the airstrip, with airplanes as background, amidst their very colorful native outfits. This is definitely not the Singapore Airshow or Farnborough but certainly more enjoyable. The school children and even grandmothers participated in the cultural shows that were all very educational and entertaining. I really felt that I was in Bali.
Couldn’t stop the Malaysian pilots in showing off their airplanes. ZamZam did some low passes and aerobatic maneuvers with the homebuilt RV6A. The Indonesians had to show their skills in their turf. Azzy Zikir, who is an aeronautical engineer for Indonesian Aerospace flew the Decathlon together with Alex Supelli in the Yak 52. They both gave a wonderful performance doing well-choreographed loops, rolls and inverted flights. Everyone on the ground, I think, had stiff neck that evening from looking up. I did the narration and announcement and enjoyed playing with the Balinese gongs and drums near the stage for sound effect while doing the announcements. Luckily, I did not have to use the gong seriously for any untoward incident the whole day. Malaysia’s Johor Flying Club and Selangor Flying club gave the locals their first airplane rides. It was even more fun because it was for free. There was a new R44 based in Bali and offered introduction flights. All the pilots did a lot fun flying in the airfield (similar to what we do at the Tanauan Airstrip of Mannie Barradas) and the skydivers and radio control modelers entertained the audience when the planes were refueling.
The evenings were kept busy with sumptuous Balinese dinners and cultural shows. My personal favorite was the Kecak (monkey) Dance for the shows and Kropook crackers for my meals. The Kecak was derived from the famous epic “Ramayana”. I was lucky to have good interpreters, as it was difficult to understand. Three university students were designated by the organizers to be my host, interpreter, and local guide. I had three; fine-looking gentlemen called Arta and two very charming ladies, Putri, and Yanti who looked like Balinese princesses and were both excellent hosts.
I was introduced to their families and was invited to their homes. This gave me the opportunity of knowing what Balinese family life was all about. It was still not common for them to meet private pilots especially a foreign one. We were all treated well and felt very important.
The hotels were all by the beach. It will be tough for them to beat our Boracay and Amanpulo though but their prices were very reasonable. The organizers provided a vehicle and driver for me and I took advantage and abused it and went around the island. The temples were exotic and interesting, went hiking in the mountains and Lake Batur and visited market places in small villages. The whole island of Bali is very interesting. Flying around in a helicopter and making stops in small temples and villages should be my next ambition.
The event will be held same time next year. Since I can not afford to buy a helicopter at the moment, my projected flight plan for the Baron will be Manila-Kota Kinabalu. Refuel and socialize with the Sabah Flying Club. Then, Kota Kinabalu-Balikpapan. This will be the last refueling stop. Balikpapan direct to Wisnu should be easy. August to October is a good time to fly in their area. We had clear blue skies the whole time we were there. Even a no good VFR pilot like me can make it. Most of the other planes were just C172s and single engine Pipers.
It should be a very easy route for us to fly. Aircraft with shorter range can do more stopovers and I am willing to stop with you. Those who are interested should let me know as early as possible.
They gave us a big farewell party. Almost everyone was given an award or a souvenir including me who did not even bring an airplane. A popular Indonesian band and lady singer took care of entertainment. Almost all the male pilots were forced to dance the “Joged” dance. I knew it was coming and was very quick to hide. Everyone was caught except my French friend JJ and myself. Everyone thought that all Filipinos could sing and dance. Gee Whiz, I can only fly!