Flying above Mati

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Sunday, May 4, 2014


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

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 get 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.

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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 F. Bangoy International Airport, also known as Davao International Airport in Davao City. With the consent, MSFC has built a hangar and club facilities in the area.

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

Ideally, flights are scheduled from 5 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.

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.

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.

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 motorcycles or tricycles. The city is a three-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.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 05, 2014.

Lifestyle

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