Unveiling the Mist, Opening Up Access to the Outside World
An update of Aroanop airstrip development
The yellow Bell chopper flew with one door wide open. It repeatedly flew low and circled above the wide, level expanse of land. A video cameraman was occupied with taking shots from the chopper’s door. Below – as seen from the open chopper door – the view was that of a nearly completed airstrip on land stretching from east to west.
This commendable project initiated by PTFI’s Community Affairs Department is construction of the Arwanop airstrip. That morning we had traveled to the village of Kampung Aroanop to observe progress in the airstrip’s development. On our journey we were personally accompanied by PTFI’s VP for Corporate Infrastructure Development, Geoffrey Hocking.
After flying for 7 minutes from Tembagapura, we continued with a flyover above the airstrip to take aerial shots, and then landed on the Aroanop helipad. This was still unchanged from our last visit. A crowd still surrounded the terminal that is the heart of activity, to watch helicopters coming and going.
The difference we found was in the airstrip, where work had progressed so that we could now discern its form taking shape, extending lengthwise from east to west.
Geoff Hocking introduced us to Yessy Yulia Putri, the Aroanop airstrip project’s site engineer. Yes, the project to build an airstrip in a remote corner of Indonesia is being overseen by a female professional. Remarkable, indeed!
”Airstrip construction progress has achieved 60 percent completion. We have had to cut out a little of that cliff and leveled the ground for the runway,” Yessy explained, pointing to a small hill before us.
As we looked around the site, we immediately understood how challenging it must have been to build a facility for the landing and takeoff of aircraft – if only an airstrip – in that location. As far as the eye could see, to its left and right the village is surrounded by hills, with hardly any level space available.
”The greatest difficulty was to design the landscape to accommodate an airstrip. To overcome site constraints, the runway is built with a 7% gradient,” Yessy explained.
”In addition to the airstrip, other ancillary infrastructure will be built such as a ring road to connect the four hamlets around the airstrip to provide integrated and easy access for residents.”
The locals’ longing for an easier and more comfortable mode of transport had been conveyed by an Aroanop community leader, Yosias Bukaleng. He said, ”I thank Freeport and the government for building an airstrip for easier access to transportation. The goal is only to allow the community to live better lives and to advance together,” Yosias said.
The Aroanop airstrip project is a collaboration between PTFI, by way of its CID (Corporate Infrastructure Development) Department and the local government. When construction of all ancillary infrastructure is completed, they will be handed over by PTFI to the local government for operation by its Transportation Office.
The Aroanop airstrip has only 40 percent of work to completion, which is expected in 6 months time. A maiden test flight has been planned for mid-2016, and by the end of 2016, full operation will be in place. (Miko Sularso)
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