Flying has been a very key feature in the development of Papua New Guinea over the past few decades. The typography of the country severely restricts the construction of an extensive road network. The geological age of the region renders it to frequent “settling-down” earth tremors which are serious factors in the road construction programme. Thus an amazing network of airstrips and airports has been developed which is the life-line for rural populations.
There are three levels of airlines in the country:
(a) the national carrier, Air Niugini, which has some of the latest aircraft such as the Airbus, the BAe “Whisper Jet” and the Fokker Fellowship 100 and is constantly seeking to purchase models best suited to the country,
(b) the second level operators such as Airlink (formerly known as Milne Bay Airlines)
(c) third level airlines – community service operations – small aircraft bringing humanitarian help and spiritual hope into remote villages.
In the early days, the faithful Dakota was very active in the air transport business. Friends of mine in the highlands market town of Goroka were planning a Conference in Madang – a popular coastal tropical resort. The challenge was to fly all the delegates to and from the Conference with the minimum of cost. An entrepreneur soon came up with a creative idea – use a Dakota aircraft and the two empty sectors for freight.
It soon became clear that the best main freight option on the Madang to Goroka sector was coconuts as they do not grow in the highlands regions only on the coast. Thus such a cargo would bring good profit returns. On the flight sector from Goroka to Madang the best freight would be fresh vegetables. A missing delicacy in the coastal resorts. These two lucrative cargoes enabled the delegates’ airfares to be well subsidized and enable many individuals to enjoy affordable fruit and vegetables too. A very good win-win situation.
Image courtesy Royal Air Force