Flying a Piper Warrior for durians in Segamat

Piper Warrior tackles the laterite strip at Segamat Country Club

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By Paul Jansen
Pilots looking for interesting landings may want to try the short runway of WMAZ

Flying a Piper Warrior for durians

After repeated landings on runways in big airports, it is nice to put your aircraft down on one with more similarities to what the pioneers in aviation faced.

The 1,200 by 75 feet strip in Segamat, northern Johore in Malaysia would not qualify as rough, but it is quite different from the airports in most of the parts of the peninsular.

About an hour’s flight in our Piper Warrior II from either of the big aerodromes of Subang and Senai, it is untowered and bordered by trees. That and the laterite surface adds to the challenges for newly-minted pilots. But those with more hours under their belt will find it a pleasant stop.

The approach is over rural areas. Then, on approaching Segamat town, you will see a tower block. Draw an imaginary line from the tower to the threshold of WMAZ and you will head straight in to the unsealed surface of the runway.

The usual caveat applies: the short length of the runway will give you the impression you are coming in high for a landing. If you are unfamiliar with the airport, as I was, it is best to make a low pass to acquaint yourself with any obstacles or unusual features.

I did and landed without incident. What will strike you on parking is the proximity of the Segamat Country Club to the runway. It is probably one of the few country clubs in the world where you can fly in, roll up to the clubhouse, and get into your golf buggy in just a few steps. The folks at the golfing club are quite friendly and you can drop in for refreshments.

The quiet charm of the place also means there are no taxis standing by so make sure you have some cab company numbers you can call for a quick pick up when you touch down.

Before taking off, you will have to call Kluang Tower by phone to seek clearance for your return flight.

Apart from the chance to add one more airport to your logbook, a visit to WMAZ is recommended as the town is known for the quality of its durians, a fruit native to Southeast Asia. The thorny husk shields a creamy custard-like flesh that has earned it the nickname “King of fruits”. But its pungent odor has also seen it banned from public transport vehicles, hotels, and airplanes.

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once warned those attempting to try it: “Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.”

He should know. He ate it, and is now a fan.

Our trip to Segamat met all our expectations, except one. We had arrived during the off-season for durians, making our visit literally “fruitless”.

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