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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Flying above Mati



In the 1970s President Marcos built an airport in Mati complete with a 1.6-kilometer concrete runway and a small terminal building. 

Mati Airport runway

The Marcos-era  Mati Airport Terminal

The airport never realized its commercial viability and is barely used for what it is intended to be. It has become sort of a park where people come to jog during early mornings and late afternoons, sometimes during fiestas the runway hosts drag racing events.


But in 2012, Ret. Col. Sammy Afdal aka Saga  established the Mindanao Saga Flying Club. Using ultralight planes, club members gets the chance to fly these lightweight recreational aircraft based at their hangar in the Mati Airport, nowadays the airport is humming with the sound of ultralight propellers.

The CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines) has given permission to the club to utilize the seldom-used airport, one of the conditions is that the ultralights will not stray into the airspace of the Davao International Airport in Davao City. With the consent MSFC has built a hangar and club facilities in the area.

MSFC hangar


Together with a group of photographers and bloggers we got the chance to ride one of those ultralights up above the skies of Mati.

Ultralights makes up the bulk of aviation activities in the Mati Airport


I was the first one among the group to fly, piloting the ultralight is Peter Heilveil who is also a member of the Angeles Flying Club in Pampanga. 

Peter Heilveil piloting the aircraft

Ideally flights are scheduled from 5:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. the time of the day when winds are not that strong, a perfect time to fly over the coast and plains of Mati 

As a precaution before flying, a rider must divest all his belongings in his pocket, phone cameras are discouraged, your cameras must be secured to your body by a strap. Objects flying off from your pockets can hit the propeller at the rear of the aircraft.

In ultralight planes there is really no enclosed canopy and the pilot and passenger are exposed to natural elements particularly winds. One has to really fasten or secure his belongings, bring only what is really needed.

Iñaki piloting the ulralight with the Mayor's son Sito at the
back

The flight takes you to the lush coconut plains over Dahican, above the coast, the famed eight-kilometer white-sand beaches. Some pilots will take you over the edges of the mountains, the Pujada Bay and even reaching the famous small peninsula locals and visitors call the Sleeping Dinosaur.


Flying above Dahican coast


Coconuts all over, Davao Oriental is a top coconut-producing province in the country






The City Government-developed Dahican Beach Strip.

The airport is surrounded by coconut and mango plantations


Iñaki Sievert, MSFC president says that Mati is a scenic area to fly, with mountains and the sea forming a very panoramic vista. 

The MSFC is a membership flying club, annual fees costs around P9,000. There is a trial introductory flight of P1,600 which is a 15-minute flight around Mati. 

The MSFC has five aircrafts in the Mati hangar, according to Iñaki, they are expecting four ultralight more to come. An ultralight kit costs at a range of P600,000 to a million pesos. These planes use unleaded gasoline as fuel. 

The ultralights are safe planes to fly with a 100% safety record and each plane is equipped with a BRS or Ballistic Recovery System, a parachute which can be deployed during emergencies. 

A pilot trainee undergoes theoretical instructions and flight simulation in Davao City, the actual flying is conducted in Mati. During our visit, Doc Vic Salvado made his first solo flight.

Doc Vic Salvado is dunked with a pail of water by Peter, a rite of passage for those who just went solo flying for the first time.

The blogger/photographer/media group with Iñaki

The ultraflight club is slowly gaining popularity,  Iñaki says that weekends are starting to get busy for the club. Mati City Mayor Carlo Rabat  says that they would want ultralight flying to be included in their itinerary for visitors coming to Mati but first he would ask permission from MSFC.

How to Get There:

The Mati Airport is located a few minutes ahead from the Subangan Provincial Museum. From the poblacion you can hire habal-habal motorycycles or tricycles. The City is a 3-hour ride from Davao City. There are buses and commercial vans that regularly ply the route.

For inquiries about the ultralight flights you can contact the City Mayor's Office at 0929-3118554 and look for Mel or you can directly contact the Mindanao Saga Flying Club at 0915-4901977.

Special thanks to Mayor Carlo Rabat, Ms. Candice Protacio, our guide Yon, Mel and Mel of the City Tourism Office, the MSFC (Col. Sam Afdal, Christine, Tjader, Jimmy, Peter, Iñaki, Atty. Heje and the staff of the MSFC Hangar)

4 comments:

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  3. large parts of the area is owned by the Rabat and Rocamora families
    http://www.cab.gov.ph/news/1363-revival-of-mati-airport-studied

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