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Flying in Papua New Guinea


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I was sent some really interesting photos today taken in the 60s of flying in Papua New Guinea.   They say that a pilot is not a pilot unless they've flown and survived in PNG.  I thought I'd share one or two and the information about each photo 

Hopefully they will appear in the correct order :


Photo 1 - The famous Wau airstrip. 1966.    This airfield was built by gold mining pioneer Cecil Levien in 1927.   The first landing was by “Pard” Mustar in a de Havilland 37 belonging to Guinea Gold Airways, Lae.   Shortly thereafter many aircraft types, including the giant Junkers G-31 tri-motors were landing huge loads at Wau in support of the mining operation here and up at Edie Creek (centre above the cloud base).  At 3475 feet above sea level and with almost a 10% slope, it was an ideal New Guinea airfield.   During January 1942,  Japanese forces from Salamaua and via the Black Cat Gap attacked Wau and were defeated by the Australian Kanga Force.    The Japs got to the bottom boundary of the drome and Australian soldiers, landing in DC-3s with artillery,  pushed them back. 

Photo 2 - Talair C/185 VH-GKC near Omkalai. 1966.  That’s the Wahgi River down below.  

Photo 3 - The Asaloka Gap- near Goroka- 1966.  A minimum altitude of 7600 feet was advisable to comfortably get through, using correct New Guinea bush flying technique.    Always use the oblique approach when crossing a gap. 
With a downdraught, engine failure or misjudgment you can more easily turn away, a shallow turn rather than a full 180 degree turn.   Such gaps, when almost clouded in (imagine only the sharp V being open here) could be very tempting to try to fly through. 
Many fatal crashes happened because pilots took the chance.     There are some big mountains around here, nearby Mt Wilhelm is 14,793 feet high. 
  Photo 4 - Rough country.   Cessna 185 landing at Marawaka.    Like Wonenara, it is the land of the Kukukukus.  The most feared tribes in New Guinea.    
Wonenara airstrip.  North of Marawaka and north of the Kratke Range.   Poison arrow country. 


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We all stay away from the Kukukukus .. they are a very short race and very fierce .. they are fantastic security guards too 

My favourite photo is the second one of the pilot looking up to the aircraft with the cameraman on board.   I love the detail and the river down below, very typical of what we saw when we were flying to and from in PNG 

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Koach that gap is the one we all flew through to get home to Goroka where we were living in the 70s and 80s .. if the gap was clouded in, the planes turned back.  

They say that if a pilot has flown and survived in Papua New Guinea, they can fly anywhere in the world.  

There is one airport that was, at one time, the busiest airport in the world, due to the discovery of gold and the flights in and out with equipment.  Some say it was Wau (the strip in the top photo) but I believe it was a different one but still in the same timeframe.  With mineral discoveries and wars and the only way to get around New Guinea being by air, there's a lot of flying in often hazardous conditions. 


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