THE recent outburst by Morobe Governor Luther Wenge wanting aviator Richard Leahy to be charged with manslaughter following a fatal plane crash is totally outrageous and cannot go unchallenged, helicopter owner and pilot Sir Peter Barter said.
“Notwithstanding the grief and loss of those sadly killed, coupled with the relationship they had with Mr Wenge, which obviously triggered such an emotional outburst, it is inexcusable that such statements in regard to the accident were made before an investigation report.
“And that by some luck, the pilot survived, who I am sure will later be able to reveal the cause of the accident,” he said.
Sir Peter, who has flown his private helicopter all over PNG, said he was not happy with Mr Wenge’s statement.
“I speak on behalf of hundreds of pilots who have flown in PNG, especially those who have flown smaller aircraft such as the ones flown by various Christian missions, charter operators, including Kiunga Aviation that provide the only reasonable access to remote places throughout PNG.
“Some of these pilots have flown in PNG for more than 50 years.
“Each time they take off, they have done so not to make them rich, but to serve the people that remain the most isolated.
“It is perhaps time for PNG to thank the pilots who have risked their lives, for it is largely through their efforts that education, health and economic services have reached the remote areas,” Sir Peter said.
“As a former pilot, we respect the safety of our passengers as much as we respect our own lives.
“We also recognise the inherent dangers in flying in PNG and the reliance on a single engine aircraft.
Leahy would be amongst the most experienced pilots in PNG and has continued to serve the people not only as the owner of Kiunga Aviation but as a pilot and again, his age has nothing to do with the safety of the aircraft.
“All pilots are required to pass a vigorous medical examination in the same way that all aircraft must go through survey to ensure they remain airworthy,” he added.
Sir Peter said: “Many pilots and ex-pilots have been angered by Mr Wenge’s outburst.”