Pilot concerned over airstrips

National

A VETERAN airline pilot says the demise of third-level airlines Talair and Douglas Airways had contributed to the disappearance of rural airstrips around the country.
Captain Lekwa Gure, one of Air Niugini’s most experienced pilots, was looking back at the past 40 years on aviation after receiving a Logohu award for services to aviation and the community last Thursday.
He will retire on Thursday.
“When we started in 1976-1977, the (aviation) industry in PNG was very vibrant – at airline level but more so at general aviation level,” he told The National.
“We had those big operators like Talair and Douglas Airways. At that point in time, especially in the 70s and 80s, Talair was the biggest general aviation operator in the southern hemisphere, believe it or not. The industry was very vibrant.
“It showed in the rural airstrips being maintained by whatever authority was responsible for it.”
He said people could fly into a lot of airstrips around the country because of the two big operators and smaller airlines operating.
“Over the past few years, the Civil Aviation Department has been talking about reviving a lot of those airstrips,” he said.
“After the demise of these two big operators, for whatever reason, a lot of those airstrips have not been maintained to the point where many of them were closed.
“We have allowed a lot of those infrastructure – airstrips, communications facilities, navigation facilities – to deteriorate.
“I know departments such as the National Airports Corporation and Air Services Limited are trying their best to get them back up to an acceptable standard, given their limited resources.”

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