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 Post subject: Flying in PNG
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2005 3:39 pm 
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Location: Boonah, Queensland
DOSS: 30 Jun 1969
Some may recall that Wau airstrip is on a downward slope of nearly 10% and (in 1972) at the lower end, abutted onto the main road with local houses on the other side of the strip. A sign on the road warned drivers that 'Landing Aircraft have Right of Way'.

I was told that previously, a TAA DC3 pilot forgot to put the handbrake on one day and the old aircraft nearly took out the terminal. Another aircraft ended up in the front room of a house at the bottom of the strip. Half way up on the eastern side of the strip is a stone cairn that depicts the farthest the Japanese got when they attacked Wau in the 1940's. At the time, DC 3's were landing over the heads of the Japanese and unloading troops who were then holding the strip. Any wounded were loaded back onto the aircraft and the plane then took off over the Japanese with the dead and wounded on board.

When I was at Wau, MacAir used to station a 206 there some nights to get an early takeoff to Lae.

One really stormy morning, a group of station wimmen assembled at dawn to be flown to Lae for Christmas shopping. On arrival at the strip, they were informed that Lae was closed due to bad weather and that they might land at Nadzab, if they were lucky.

The pilot checked everyone had buckled their seat beat and warmed up the engine. A big storm was brewing as they looked down the valley towards Lae and they could see lightning flashes in the distance.

As he eased off the handbrake and started to accelerate down the strip, the pilot looked over his shoulder and nonchalantly said to the group, "By the way, I suppose you're familiar with the safety features of this aircraft?"

"nooooo!" was the quavering response.

"Oh that's good," said the pilot, "cos there aren't any" and gunned the motor.

Onlookers swear they could hear the screams all the way down the airstrip as the plane took off.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2005 5:09 am 
The landing at Nambaiyufa was one of my scariest Highlands flights. That was a one-way airstrip; unless he could do a three-point turn in his Cessna 185 the pilot had only one go at it. There was no go-round, only some very hard things in very awkward positions in every visible direction: a windscreen-full of rocks is not for the feint-hearted.

The approach was not formidable: find the Anglican mission’s bright tin roofs; look southwards for a small, steep-sided blind valley heading right into the east flank of Mt Elimbari; and prepare to throw her down hard enough to stick. It was a private Category D strip, and all pilots had to be checked-out on it before soloing.

The prospect was daunting but I work on the premise that is someone else can do it, so can I; a Kiap always got the front right seat. Flying a 747 20-odd hours across the Pacific is dead-boring; flying small aircraft was always interesting; and the sudden banks of cumulo-limestone invariably deadly.

So the 185 stooged along a well-known route and hived off down the side of the huge Nambaiyufa valley. I knew the country from the ground, and from one of those match-box-sized cars leading clouds of dust way up the mountain-side there; ess-ing lower and slower and not too low over the haus-lain; wing-over right, full flaps and lots of power.

The nimble little kite flared quickly and all I could see was kunai grass, most of it above me. Lots of kunai, very close on those precipitous slopes everywhere, and visible just over the nose a different-green postage stamp with some white dots, and a very slack wind-sock; I think the pilot was aiming at a strategically placed rock just above the end-markers. In the right headwind a 185 can almost hover, but this was my first flare-out-and-flop helicopter-like landing.

This guy was GOOD: he hit paydirt right on the line, controlled the spring-steel under-cart, and with full brakes we coasted up to the big bank delineating the other end.

Going out was an easy downhill run with lots of air ahead. As usual on mision-strips there were plenty of willing hands pulling against the rev-up.

Going out of Kundiawa was like coming off an aircraft carrier: roar along for a bit without climbing, suddenly the noise-level drops dramatically and there's nothing under you for a long way

But choppers are almost as much fun as sex.


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 Post subject: One way strips
PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2005 1:09 pm 
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Location: Boonah, Queensland
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Siwea (on the Huon Peninsular) is a typical, ‘one way strip’ (read, nearly one way trip) but no better or worse than a host of others in PNG. I remember it well as I almost died there. When it came to open it up to commercial traffic, the local trader who owned the restricted licence and I had to be picked up at Sialum Patrol Post by a Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) charter and flown in to Siwea to prove it would be suitable to commercial status. The Council had decided that they wanted all planes to land there, not just the trader's charters.

Come the day, the DCA plane arrives at what I would have said was a very high approach to Sialum. Admittedly, there was a line of coconut palms of the southern approach but the 206 was still very high. When the trader and I arrived at the strip, who should be piloting the aircraft but (---- -------) the Airport Inspector himself. Another bloke was sitting next to him in the front left hand seat. The trader got in behind (----) and I sat behind the other bloke.

The take off was a bit split arsed but then so were a lot of similar ones in those days so we didn't think too much of it.

Flying down the valley and approaching Siwea, I though we were a bit high. It reminded me of the high approach you used to make in Crowley's Helio Courier, an aircraft that was able to perform a STOL approach with slots and flaps.

I can still remember what happened next as vividly as the day it happened. Siwea airstrip was below and seemed directly under our nose wheel. The 'stall warning' was screaming in our ears. Then suddenly the airstrip floated up in front of our eyes and disappeared from view above us. We were then left staring directly at the cliff face below the strip. The pilot was still sitting woodenly looking straight ahead.

"----, ----, SNAP OUT OF IT," the bloke next to him yelled, "You've stalled it!"

(----) did this funny little shake and grabbed the throttle and yanked it back. The engine roared and we swept up over the lip of the strip and came down heavily on the port wing and wheel. I can still remember in my mind's eye seeing the trader's horrified face almost directly above me until we then bounced forwards onto the nose wheel and almost flipped over. The propeller hit the ground and the aircraft came to a sudden stop.

We then found out (----) was still a trainee pilot and the bloke in the front seat was his instructor. Olaman!

I got out of that plane and even though I had given up smoking six weeks earlier, found the first bloke with cigarettes and bummed one off him.

(----) apologised but you had to be alive to appreciate it. I don't think I said much to him.

The wing was only slightly bent and the prop had fortunately not been damaged too much. We then took off again for Sialum, it being possibly the slightly lessor of two evils. As usual, we did our too high approach, with the stall warning screaming again in our ears, as if to remind us of what had nearly happened before.

When I arrived home, my wife asked me whatever had I been doing? “Your face is as white as a sheet”, she said.

(Ho hum!) Just a normal day at the Office you might say.


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 10, 2005 10:47 pm 
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Location: Skye, SA
DOSS: 03 Dec 1965
Wonenara was a seriously ugly airstrip. They did close it and build Marawaka to try and sort things but it didn't have the character. I believe it was given to the Lutheran missionaries to look after because they thought it was too much of a hassle to move over the Kratke Range like the govt.
But even God gets bored with repetition.:lol: :lol: :lol:
"Oh Jesus, what's the pilot doing? Christ, he's not going to try and land there is he? Hail Mary Mother of God be with us........I'm alive, I'm alive, Oh joy, Oh jubilation, - we're stationary - give you a big tip, I'm going to farkin WALK out of here, I don't care HOW LONG it takes."
Image
The photo shows the actual slope of the strip - somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees. The roof you can see was the storehouse - the strip also had a severe camber across it, but that was samting nating. It was strictly for 185's and push-pulls and even then with a ridiculously low weight - 300kg?
Image
On the far left is the strip and ahead is the valley. What you can't see is at the end of the strip is a 100ft cliff which drops into the river.
So what you do is barrel down the strip at maximum revs and as soon as you see no-more-strip hit the joystick and CLIMB frantically. The valley is too narrow to circle in so you have to get some elevation before you hit those ugly lumps at the end of it.
A not-so-funny day was when a pilot took off and disappeared - below the airstrip. The engine was on full power, we could hear it, and then he was seen 2 ft above the kunai - maximum revs. He finally got enough height to crawl out of the valley - and promptly landed again - not a happy camper.
After investigation it was discovered that the corporal (loading the balus) could not distinguish between volume and weight.
After loading all the outgoing he threw in a 200kg box of bridge nails which had been delivered in error some time previously - well it didn't take up much room did it?

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"What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?"


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:07 pm 
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Location: Boonah, Queensland
DOSS: 30 Jun 1969
Setting up Mindik Base Camp was a challenge. Using the direct route from Pindiu Patrol Post, Mindik was about 5 to 10 hours walk away, depending on how fit you were. It was also about 10 minutes flying time. Many an hour was therefore spent waiting on Mindik airstrip for a balus to turn up.

Early in 1970, I was directed to create the Mindik Base Camp on the crest of a hill overlooking the Kua river valley, about 10 minutes motorbike ride away from the airstrip. As was often the case, the Mission had got there first and set up the Mission ‘banis’ on the best hill directly overlooking the airstrip.

Having set up the campsite with a flag post, government rest house (with Mindik painted on the roof) cook’s quarters, police barracks and a small office, I went about making the place more homely. I had always admired the multi coloured crotons that abounded in most PNG villages and so I set out a small formal garden, using these easily grown plants. After a few months, the level ground nearby was extended and made into a soccer ground and a sport club was then constructed. A dipole radio aerial was stretched between two enormous lengths of bamboo and I was able to contact the world (or more specifically Lae and Pindiu) through my little 510 portable radio.

I give this little vignette as background for it has some bearing on the rest of the story.

Almost every morning at about 0730hrs. a plane from Lae would buzz me just as I was finishing my coffee, prior to starting work. It soon became a challenge to see how close a pilot could get to my roof as he flew over. One morning, I nearly lost my coffee over the front of my shirt as a plane snuck up on me with ‘feathered’ engine and then opened up the throttle directly over my head. Suddenly the radio reception went dead and when I went outside I noticed the plane had cut the radio aerial about two feet above the roof of my house.

As Mindik began to grow and some infrastructure was added including a vegetable garden, pigpen, poultry run and a bike shed, so people began to visit the Camp and government business was conducted where possible with a liklik kiap. In those days, the word ‘gavaman’ covered then full range of government services but usually referred to the sole government representative, i.e. the kiap.

The village of Hamerlingang, further down the Kua valley, had an affable old Councillor as its representative. After I had been there for about 9 months, vague rumours began to circulate about strange happenings and I received a clandestine visit from the Councillor who informed me about what was going on. With the connivance of the previous Council President, the local people had started to create a miniature base camp just outside the village, using bush materials to copy the Mindik site. The ‘office’ even had a kanda vine aerial stretched over it to signify where the ‘radio’ was. All around the clandestine base camp were rows and rows of crotons, or as they are known in Tokpisin, ‘tanket’. So powerful was this new secret society that very few non believers were allowed near it. Stories then started to spread about how ‘the way’ had been found to replicate the power and material goods of the white men. Spirits were reportedly able to appear when the lamps were turned off at night and one even spoke German. The ‘Tanket’ cult had begun.

This cult eventually spread all around the Pindiu area and the Huon Peninsular in various forms and I understand, may have evolved into the Pitinamu cult. Each village or cluster of villages had their own clandestine base camp with all the rows of crotons neatly laid out around it. The effect of the cult soon brought an end to government visits in many villages as the people believed they had found ‘the way’ and didn’t want to be interrupted in achieving their aims. All this was lost on me at the time as I had gone on leave in early 1971 and was then transferred to Kabwum as Patrol Officer.

In late 1974, as acting ADC Finschhafen, I received a phone call from the DC’s office in Lae that a DCA inspection was planned on various sights in the Sub District where people had been working to build airstrips. A helicopter, on charter to DCA, was to pick me up at Finschhafen and fly me around with the District Airport Inspector, to check on the various airstrip sights, then under construction. This visit was long awaited as there had apparently been some impasse between the Australian Department of Civil Aviation and the PNG equivalent after Self Government, as to who was responsible for the certifying of airstrips. The matter had now been resolved and the airstrip inspections could now resume I was told.

On the appointed day, in came the chopper with none other than my old mate (----) as passenger, (See a previous post under this subject). I had been posted to a number of stations between 1970 and 1974 and had not been back to the Pindiu/Mindik/Ogeranang area since then, while the cult had been underway.

The first site we visited was at Morago village. I had good reason to remember Morago, as my first murder investigation (an infanticide) and inspection of a dead body (a baby who had been buried in a rubbish tip for two weeks) was from the village of Morago. (I was also a split second away from dying in a landslide together with Constable 1/c Temba, coming back from the examination of the body, but that’s another story).

Given the lack of government visits, the people had themselves decided to build the airstrip near their village and owing to the cult, had chosen the site without any official involvement. As we landed, (----) said that the strip was obviously too short but he would none the less measure it. The site was a typical ridge starting from a mountainside and then sloping away to the edge of a precipice. A really good job they had done in moving a large amount of earth over the last three years and it looked really excellent. Excellent except that it was only about 800 feet long or about half the barest minimum allowed for any commercial fixed wing aircraft to land.

Out hopped (----) with a little wheel in the end of a stick and proceeded to measure up the obviously too short strip in a very business like manner. To those who have never seen the effects of a serious cult on the local village people, many seem to be in an almost trance like state and moved in a very lethargic manner with their eyes very wide. This can be very disconcerting however you had to be very nonchalant and act completely normal.

The people seemed very pleased to see us and proceeded to gather an enormous amount of billums (string bags) full of potatoes, kaukau and all manner of vegetables that grow in the mountains and not on the coast. (----) proceeded to accept these gifts with much aplomb, apparently not realising that under the principles of reciprocity, something was expected in return. I suggested that we didn’t have a great deal of space in the chopper however quite a lot ended up inside the aircraft.

Back came (----) and in a loud voice, proceeded to explain in his somewhat limited Tokpisin that the efforts of the last three years were all in vain as the strip was too short, (and as there was no way of extending it, the exercise had therefore been a total waste of time and effort). The people stared back at us as if we had lost our senses. A low grumbling started and grew in volume. I suggested to the pilot and (----) that we had better leave and leave quickly.

The time delay when a helicopter starts its engine and when it has enough revs to lift off, seemed like a bad nightmare. Time telescoped and seemed to slow down. All the while the crowd around the chopper grew and became more and more agitated. When we finally left the ground, I breathed a sigh of relief. One would think from that situation that a salient lesson had been learnt but no, the best was yet to come.

Remember the hassle between the two DCA offices? Right then, our next destination was the village of Suwetine in the Kua valley. Here I understood, the people had also been working on an airstrip for the last three years and had also not allowed any government official to conduct an initial inspection, due to the cult.

From the air, the village of Suwetine was located on the crest of a ridge as were many mountain villages. What was really interesting is that the raw, red clay they had moved in an obvious massive effort, bisected the village in the saddle of the ridge. It too, looked short however we landed and out got (----) with his ‘wiliwil’ (wheelie wheel) and proceeded to measure the full length of the surface.

Now comes the interesting part. The people had made arrangements for the big day and wanted us to go to the local school to make the long awaited announcement that they could use their airstrip. When all were assembled and after being hushed to silence, (----) was invited to speak.

“Ples balus bilong yupela emi sot tumas!” he said and sat down. A stunned hush descended on the enormous crowd of people. As at Morago, a low grumble started and began to gather pace. I looked out the where the chopper waited and saw it was about a hundred yards away and worse, the blades were stationary.

“Watpo yu no kam pastaim?” was yelled at us from the rear of th crowd.

“Psst!” I said to (----), “Say something, explain why!”

(----) got to his feet again and in a loud voice said, “Mi no kam bipo bilong wanem, gavaman istapim mi!”

1000 sets of eyeballs swiveled in the direction of the only gavaman they knew. Me.

“(----)” I hissed, “What have you done?”

“What, what, what do you mean?” he said, completely confused at the adverse reaction to his clear explanation about the intricacies of inter government departmental disputes.

I bundled him out of the school as the roar behind us commenced and we almost ran to the chopper. “Get this thing off the ground as fast as you can,” I said to the pilot. I think we broke the record for a helicopter takeoff time as the people started streaming out of the school house and environs and made towards the helicopter.

To this day, I don’t think (----) has any idea of how close things got or why. He was just doing his duty as he saw it.


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 Post subject: Nothing changes
PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 2:58 pm 
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How's this advice from the PNG CAA and today's National?

Most PNG airports not certified

By ISAAC NICHOLAS

THE government may be liable for any accident that occurs at the country’s major airports as most of them have not been certified by the International Civil Aviation Authority.
They include the Jackson’s International Airport in Port Moresby.
A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) inquiry yesterday revealed that since the airports were not certified, insurance companies might refuse liability which could be transferred to the government.
The revelation by a senior Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) official prompted PAC chairman John Hickey to ask: “Is the government aware of the possible liabilities?”
CAA chairman Paul Itiogen replied that the transport minister was made aware through minutes of the board’s meetings.
Acting CEO Joseph Kintao added that although most of the airports were not certified, they still met basic standard requirements.
In addition to Jackson’s, the other airports are Nadzab, Tokua, Buka, Momote, Kavieng, Hoskins, Kagamuga, Goroka, Madang, Wewak, Vanimo, Gurney, Girua, Mendi and Tari.
The inquiry also discovered that:
* Of the 19 non-direction beacon navigational aids, only 10 were working;
* The CAA had failed to set up an Accident Investigation Commission as required by law;
* The CAA had failed to undertake annual reviews of the Annual Performance Agreement; and
* The only reliable communication system using satellite has been terminated because of outstanding debts.
Earlier, CAA acting deputy CEO Colin Kuchel explained that airports must meet security, navigation and other requirements in order to be certified.
He said airlines flying into uncertified airports faced many risks and warned that the liability could be transferred to the state.
“If people are injured in an accident in an uncertified airport, the insurance companies may refuse to meet the costs, and liability may be transferred to the State,” he said.
Mr Kuchel assured the inquiry that an audit was being conducted and all major airports would be certified by June.
The PAC also directed Mr Itiogen to immediately set up the commission and ensure that all navigational aids were functioning.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 8:34 pm 
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Location: Cooranbong, NSW
DOSS: 26 Feb 1962
I am sure that almost everyone who served in PNG has a tale to tell about flying in New Guinea, whether bumpy chopper trips, hary landings, looney pilots, or whatever. One of my experiences fits into none of the above categories. But I remember it vividly because of a strange premonition I had. This particular flight was a brief flight over New Ireland when Bill Seale (DC at the time) and I went up in a single-engined Cessna to look over some country that I was trying to push a new road through. After tootling around for an hour or so, we landed back at Kavieng strip. As the DC and I drove off in the DC's car (obviously I was no longer a cadet, or I would have been walking!) I recall looking back at the Cessna and saw the pilot standing quietly beside it. It struck me quite forcibly that he seemed a lonely, pensive man. I said something to this effect to Bill Seale. The plane returned to Rabaul where it was based. We learned later that the very next flight (after refuelling) was to take a couple of sky-divers aloft over Rabaul. At the prescribed height the two sky-divers exited the plane and promptly fell through cloud. The plane turned to head back to the strip, entered the cloud and somehow managed to snag one of the parachutists. Locked together, the parachutist and plane plummeted to the ground. A terrible tragedy.

Laurie M

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PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2005 9:40 pm 
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Tragedy strikes in the most bizarre ways Laurie.
On a somewhat lighter note, I will recall two of my more embarrassing moments in and around Goroka airstrip. As is common with most NG strips it was built in the middle of the town (or possibly the town was built round it).
I have a faint suspicion why I got sent to outstations - it was to minimise the damage. :lol:
One fine day I was standing on (I think) the 6th tee of the Goroka Golf course. I swung a mighty swing with a 5 iron, shanked it and the ball took out the windscreen of a DC3 which was warming up on the tarmac. I quickly dropped a ball on the tee and played a gentle slice landing adjacent to the 6th green. No way I was owning up to that one!!! Wait till the following day for a replacement screen to be sent from Moresby, find o/night accommodation for 24 passengers, unload the luggage, taxi the passengers to their rooms - paying for it would make a big dent in my patrol allowance.
When I first arrived I was living in West Goroka; a suburb on the other side of the airstrip from civilization. I occasionally had a small shandy in the Goroka Club and used to get lost amongst the coffee or the golf course trying to find my way home in the dark.
One day I noticed there was a large baret running from approximately the 10th tee, across the airstrip, to the end of my street. Needless to say, when stumps were drawn at the club I wandered out and lowered myself into the 2m deep x 5m wide baret and commenced to stagger in the direction of home. Being from Adelaide I had no conception of the force of a tropical downpour but when there was a loud roaring and the water rapidly rose from my ankles to my knees I frantically scrambled up the slippery sides, to no avail, I slipped back into the maelstrom and tumbled and bumped my way down until with one despairing dive I pulled myself out on a small tree. I crawled on my hands and knees until I felt bitumen then I passed out. I was roughly awakened by a fireman who shouted that the first balus of the day had to abort his final approach because he saw a body lying in the middle of the runway.
Later that day I had an interesting discussion with Pierre Donaldson (lovely man) the ADC , who had been directed to admonish me.

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"What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?"


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 7:19 am 
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Location: Buderim, QLd
DOSS: 22 Jun 1968
Iain,
Did you ever get that slice corrected.

Harry


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 9:22 am 
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Now you mention it Harry, I can't hit it far enough these days to be sure whether I've sliced it or hooked it.
My second shot is normally from the ladies tee.
Just a thought; what about a golf day at the Qld reunion?
If I'm going to travel the breadth of the continent a one-day pissup somehow isn't enough :lol: :lol: :lol:

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"What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?"


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 10:05 am 
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Location: Buderim, QLd
DOSS: 22 Jun 1968
The dangers of walking in barets.
Iain,
That custom of using barets as traffic routes got me thinking about a story I heard about Daru.
Apparently a lot of club patrons used the same mode of transport routes when defongerating their way home.
I heard a story that one gentleman en route home from the Daru waterhole wound his way along his regular baret path rounded a corner and stepped on what he thought was a log.
The log moved and accordingly he moved vertically.
He figured it must have been a pukpuk lying in wait for him so changed his transport route to a more conventional path.
I think that story was most probably true as it is too real in life to have been invented.
Has anyone else heard that yarn?

Whilst on the subject of pukpuks.
Several years ago whilst in Cape York, I was trying to retrieve my cast net which was snagged.
I wandered into the muddy lagoon and while attempting to get around a snagged tree stood on what I thought was a log.
The log suddenly moved away.
My mates reckoned it was like the second coming and I was virtually trying to walk on water as I escaped.
Needless to say that cast net remained there for several more days till recovered in a dingy.


Harry

PS Lawn bowls is more my forte at my advanced age


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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2005 4:56 pm 
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Most of the land surrounding Goodenough Bay is a relatively narrow flat floodplain with pretty high mountains at the back. A particular patrol which I did a couple of times had an easy track from the beach to the high country - up a river bed. It was a choice of 4 hours walking or 3/4 hour. Problem was the quick route was a sandy river bed with vertical 100ft cliffs on either side; if it rained you were dead. I always walked that route with my buttocks firmly clasped together in case of sudden rumblings.

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"What is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine?"


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 Post subject: DC3's
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 5:22 pm 
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Ah! The tales of the old DC3,
That good old workhorse of TPNG,
Our memories may dim, but they're still flying yet,
Tho' not often used, by the current jet set.

Those incredible survivors of World War 2,
Guaranteed to produce, a sore bum or two,
With seats of webbing, aluminium and steel,
Do you remember just how hard they feel?

With that terrible noise and inevitable vibration,
T'was enough to negate, any previous libation,
Nervously consumed, just to help with the trip,
Or partaken to give, apprehension the slip.

And those freebies we know, of today's modern flying,
Were not then on offer, with conditions quite trying,
So consign them we must, to PNG's proud history,
But of how they kept flying, it’s really a mystery.

POPO
_________________________________________________

DC3's

Journey No.1

Do you remember how you entered the rear door and climbed up the passageway by clinging to the backs of the seats or grabbing any unlucky passengers that happened to be handy if you unfortunate to slip? It seemed as if there was about a 25 degree incline in the passage way when the aircraft was sitting on the tarmac.

At the end of our field training at Kwikila in 1969, we were ‘bussed’ into Moresby for our dispersal to the four corners on the Territory. Four of us were going to Morobe and we were issued with Ansett tickets. As we walked out onto Jackson’s airstrip I noticed what appeared to be a collection of historical aircraft, predominantly DC3’s. Obviously, someone was showing some enthusiasm for collecting old wartime aircraft. As we got closer however, we observed that the old DC3’s had TAA and Ansett markings. Novel, we thought but then we were directed to our aircraft. There it stood in all its glory and elderly Ansett colours. A DC3.

Climbing up the metal ladder, we were welcomed to a new world. Territory flying. Directly opposite the door was a cargo section, clearly identified by a cargo net. The cargo section was unlike anything we had seen before however. The net continually heaved and undulated like some amorphous creature and made all sorts of noises from squeaks, grunts, quacks and clucks. Occasionally a strange part of the creature (usually an indignant looking head) would erupt through the net and let out a weird cry. The smell emanating from the cargo area was atrocious.

Our tickets were for the seats at the top left hand side so we climbed up the 25 degree slope and sank down onto the non existent padding. No air conditioning of course or soothing music so we sat and sweated and tried not to gag on the smell coming from the cargo section below and behind us.

After a while, the passengers all arrived and added to the general atmosphere. Then the pilot and co pilot climbed up into the cockpit and took their seats. This we could clearly see because the door between the cabin and the cockpit was hanging off on one hinge and obviously had not been shut for some time.

The pilot yelled something out of the window and twiddled a couple of switches. Suddenly this almighty roar started and we discovered that the aircraft was actually made up of thousands of small parts, apparently not held together very well. Each integral part of the aircraft seemed to have a life of its own. The windows slowly rotated in their housings. Parts of the seat seemed to grab and pinch you in places you didn’t expect. There was a gap of about two inches under the external door and I guess that passed for airconditioning. The internal coverings of the cabin were peeling off and we could see the control wires pulling backwards and forwards over our heads as the pilot tried out the flaps, rudder and ailerons, presumably to see if they were still attached.

Then the second engine started up and the noise increased twofold. The pilot and co pilot kept pulling the throttle back to rev up the engines and seemed quite oblivious to the whole affair. They of course had haedphones on. With a final roar of the engines and some yelling into the microphones, our aircraft started to move forwards. After what seemed an age, we finally reached the end on the strip and turned for our take off. We could see the co pilot having trouble with the throttles that appeared to be stuck half way so he got his foot up on them and pushed them forward. The aircraft started to move forwards and we finally came up level as we built up speed to take off.

The DC3 not being pressurised, we had to fly between the Owen Stanley mountains (not over them), and on to Lae. The flight took a little over an hour and we were glad to get out into the fresh but humid air of Lae.

Journey No.2.

In 1971, I was granted some local leave and my then girlfriend came up to visit me. I decided we would take a tour bus from Lae to Goroka to let her ‘see the sights’. The trip up through the Kassam Pass was advertised in the local tourist brochures and I thought it might be a good idea for my girlfriend to get an impression of what the country was like. It must have had some effect as we were eventually married. The trip up the Markham Valley was an experience. We started our ‘tour’ off in a small travel bus. It left from the centre of town, opposite the Chemist. Holding our cut lunches in our laps we roared off with only three passengers on board. My girlfriend, me and a Finnish tourist named Heinke. The trip cost $13 a head all inclusive. This is great I thought, we can really spread out and relax. Wrong!

On reaching the outskirts of Lae, the driver stopped alongside a huge group of local people and a mountain of cargo. He then started bargain with the people on the price for a trip up the highway. $2 seemed to be the going rate unless there was a lot of cargo that had to be put on to the top of the bus. More and more people squeezed onto the bus and it seemed like the sides of the bus started to expand. I went up the front and queried the driver about how come we paid $13 when people were now getting on for $2?

“Oh!” he said, “you get a lunch provided and you can ask me to stop the bus anywhere you like for photos.” Right!

Off we start for the second time to Goroka but this time we had at least 60 local people on board plus easily three tons of cargo. The small bus swayed around every corner. We opened our window to get some fresh air and proceeded to get a face full of dust. Heinke, our Finnish friend then became rather garrulous and kept up a constant banter about his current world trip. He had been all over the world and he told us all about his adventures. At one point, he started to tell us about his hobby of collecting money from every country he’d visited. “Look, I vill show you,” he said and produced his wallet and pulled out all these different coloured notes.

“Put it away!” I said as suddenly the bus seemed full of interested eyes. But no, he had started on his story and wouldn’t be persuaded. Russian Roubles, German Marks, French Francs, etc. were flashed around with gay abandon. I cringed. If this bloke ever got to where he was going with his collection intact, I would sure be surprised.

When we got to Goroka, we discovered that the local Burns Philp store employees had chartered a plane to take a day trip to the Hagen Show. We were fortunate to get on the flight and that turned out to be a TAA DC3 cargo plane that had been adapted for the day. Webbing seats had been set up along the sides of the plane and we all sat on these ‘no give’ seats all the way to Hagen. Sore backsides.

Hagen airstrip was packed with every known type of balus and we were lucky to get in. The parking bay had been extended and a local bloke with table tennis bats appeared and guided our aircraft along to the temporary parking area in a paddock.

I looked out the window and saw we were going to taxi straight into an Ansett DC3 already parked nearby. Before I could say something, our starboard wing smashed into the engine of the other plane. Boom! Our aircraft gave a sudden shudder and abruptly stopped. Our pilot came back down into the cargo bay and was muttering dire threats about the standard of the ground staff.

We had a great day at Hagen and needless to say, took off for Goroka in the same plane with a bent wing. I assume the other plane also took off as well. Perhaps no one was any the wiser about the incident? I’ll bet the engine on the other plane ran a bit rough though.

Ahh! Territory flying.


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 Post subject: Some stats
PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 4:50 am 
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Ex-Kiap
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Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2003 9:33 pm
Posts: 657
Location: Cardiff Wales
DOSS: 24 Aug 1970
Hi
MAF in Papua New Guinea
Just found some stats on Missionary Aviation Fellowship:

There are 760 airstrips in PNG & MAF lands at 550 of them.

MAF uses upto 350 every week.

In 2001 the mission airline made 36000 landings.

87% of those landings were on ‘Bush’ strips.

Their pilots flew 16700 hoursin 2001

And throughout the world a MAF plane is landing or taking off every few seconds.

Arthur


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PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2005 8:33 pm 
Thank you Paul. Your ability as a translator is remarkable.
In your post dated April 13.. above, you so rightly wrote (or is that 'so wrotely right??') ... billum (string bag).
As we are all a bunch of aging kiaps, I am certain, as you must have been, that none of us would know what a bilum is. Incidentally, bilum has one 'L'.
Of course, I am not being sarcastic, just difficult! Frank Haviland often complained that if I could be just a little more difficult, he might make a kiap out of me yet! Sorry Paul, I couldn't help myself!!!!
Cheers, 'Big Steve'.


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