There's something about flying that brings on that adrenaline rush and, surprisingly, calm. This is how I felt when flying on an ultralight plane of the Mindanao Saga Flying Club.
Jimmy Gomez, an old friend and one of the club's members, told me that the women are the ones who are relaxed and who just enjoy the ride. The men are the ones who get nervous.
Coming from Jimmy, who’s a daredevil on wheels and now on air, I was determined not to get nervous and just let things be.
He introduced me to the members of the club and gave me a backgrounder on the ultralight planes. He made me choose which pilot I'd ride with: Terry Hockenhull, Peter Heilveil, and Iñaki Sievert, all seasoned pilots. Also present were the club's chairperson, Col. Sam G. Afdal, Tjder Regis, Doc Vic Salvado, Atty. Martin Heje, and Christine Afdal who for now is the only female member of the club.
After seeing Peter make a dive on his open plane with Mel, I chose him. I might as well throw caution to the wind and fly!
Briefed on safety and signals, strapped, helmeted, and communication with the pilot checked, I prepared myself and my camera for taking the aerial photos. Peter asked if I was fond of roller coaster rides. I said, not really, but I can try.
The take-off was smooth and the wind rushed in. Everything felt right. The clear blue sky and the calm blue waters of Pujada Bay were a sight to behold. Greens and blues blended in the beautiful seascape and landscape of Mati City.
Peter and I were chatting non-stop. He said that he finds refuge in the sky. Indeed, it was calming and relaxing just taking in the fresh air and the silence -- except when we were talking, of coursw.
I was also busy taking photos of Mati’s landscape.
I requested to see the famous stop-over of Mati City, the sleeping dinosaur, and so we flew over it. Jutting out to the sea, it didn't look like a dinosaur from this perspective. It's best to look at it from the side and not from above.
Then came a realization -- that seeing from different perspectives make you appreciate things and scenes in another way.
A second realization was that flying isn't scary, it's exhilarating! You just have to trust your pilot to keep you both safe.
What would normally be a 15-minute ride for a Trial Introductory Flight (TIF) turned to more than 30 minutes. I experienced banking both left and right (the aircraft inclines to the left or right side), going round in a circle, and the heart-stopping stall where the aircraft is tilted on an angle and just rights itself.
At one point both Peter and I went hands free and flapped like birds.
Sorry that I have no photos of these moments as I was just enjoying the ride.
It was thrilling, fun, cool, and way awesome!
The Mindanao Saga Flying Club is based in Mati City, Davao Oriental and one Trial Introductory Flight is Php 1,600 for 15 minutes.
Safety is the top priority of the club, and so everything is secured; no untied/unstrapped cell phones for selfies, and only DSLRs with straps are allowed. It's also required to wear the full helmet and to strap on the seat belt.
Waivers are to be read then signed before takeoff. All the pilots are seasoned and licensed for this sport. Our group was lucky to have witnessed the first solo flight of Doc Vic Salvado who got a good dunking from the club members.
The club aims to produce pilots for Mindanao at a minimal cost.
For now, there are 5 aircraft that are fully operational, with 5 more coming. The planes run on unleaded gasoline and the best time to fly is between 5:30am to 8:30am. The sight of the sun as it dawns is simply breathtaking.
So, are you ready to fly?
How to Get There:
Mati City is a 3-hour road trip from Davao City. Take the bus from the Davao Overland Terminal in Ecoland to Mati City. Vans plying the Mati route also have their terminals at Gaisano Mall, Abreeza, NCCC, and SM Ecoland.
Single motorcycles or habal-habals can be rented at the Mati City proper to get to the Mindanao Saga Flying Club (MSFC) air strip in Dahican.
Contact Mel of the City Mayor’s Office at 0929-3118554 or the MSFC at 0915-4901977.
PAL and other major airlines fly daily to Davao City from Manila and Cebu.
NOTE: Thank you Mati City Mayor Carlo Rabat, Ms. Candice, Ms. Rochelle Rabat-del Rosario, Yon, Mel and Mel, Albert, Jona, Ryan, Ian, Rudolph, Neil, Jomz and Michael. Thank you Rudolph Ian Alama for the dunking photo and to the Mindanao Saga Flying Club (Col. Sam Afdal, Jimmy, Tjader, Peter, Iñaki, Christine, Terry, Atty. and Doc Vic) thank you for a truly exhilarating ride! MORE flights for me!