SYNOPSIS: Almost everything goes by air. In Papua and New Guinea, drums of kerosene, or?
SYNOPSIS: Almost everything goes by air. In Papua and New Guinea, drums of kerosene, or a sewing machine for a patrol officer's wife; or cartons of bread for some place where they have no bakery... all are carried by aeroplane.
In a territory where there are no railways and few roads, the sky becomes the highway... the aircraft is the goods train, and the taxi.
Jackson's strip, a wartime bomber base which is now Port Moresby's airport, is one of Australia's busiest aerodromes. Aircraft are on the move from dawn till dark. This is a Piaggio, originally designed as a flying boat, and now a valuable workhorse in the hands of the territory's pilots...
The pilots heads north-west, out over the coastal swamps of the Gulf of Papua. The Piaggio is one of many light aircraft adapted for service on the limited runways which dot the mountains and valleys of Papua and New Guinea.
Mountains now.. below, the Owen Stanleys, and somewhere down there, the Kokoda trail.
Cec Sly has also flown Meteor jet fighters and international airliners.
Dwarfed against 8-thousand feet of mountain, the Piaggio approaches Tapini.. it's tricky... a steep bank to the left between two mountains, and a drop towards a cliff edge.
To add to the complications, the trip runs uphill....
You've got to land once you start the approach. Towering mountains all around make it dangerous - maybe impossible - to climb away again.
An outpost - Tapini has a patrol office, trading store and a handful of houses. The aeroplane is the line of communication. Cec Sly is pilot, first officer, steward, cargo officer, everything...
There's no control tower. There are no navigational aids. And because of the limitations of the airstrips, take off weight has to be calculated to the last pound. In these mountains, you're not allowed one mistake.
The take off is downhill. The runway ends at a 12 hundred foot cliff edge. You don't waste time getting airborne.
This is how they fly the skyway highway in Papua and New Guinea. The pilots like flying here because they feel they're doing a job that really matters for the little outposts like Tapini.