Always there

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday, May 13, 2011

THERE is more to restoring communication during a major operations failure; landowner issues, faulty aircraft, and bad weather are the common obstacles Telikom PNG’s tele-technicians face when out in the field.
It takes a few seconds for one to get all uptight when the communication lines go down. Not many stop to think about what goes on behind the scenes during a major operations failure.
Just like doctors who perform miracles to save lives and pilots who bring a faulty aircraft to safe landing, Telikom PNG technicians have done the extraordinary too, but are the unsung heroes in the telecommunication industry.
They brave the sun’s heat under umbrellas sitting in manholes and at cable pits and they soar through rough weather conditions to mountain tops to ensure communication is maintained at repeater stations around the country.
And for Pilol Iavia from Kwalimurubu village, Rigo, Central province; mountain tops and repeater stations have been part and parcel of his life since his first field experience in 1989 when he climbed a 45m tower at Mt Borigolo not far from his village to carry out maintenance work on the Teletra radio equipment.
It was a tough experience then for Pilol because he had to climb up the tower then pull the 40kg IR20 radio equipment in a sling to the building hut. “I was put to the test and at that time one had to impress his superior in getting the job done right the first time and I was eager to learn and everything went well for me on that day” recalled Pilol. But from that first field experience Pilol like his other colleagues has had numerous encounters that will get your adrenalin flowing and make you wonder why he’s enjoyed his job for the past 24 years.
“I’ve had some of the intriguing experiences like there was an instance where I had to attend to a fault at Mt Yule in Goilala, Central province, and as the chopper was ascending through the air, the pilot turned to me and asked if I could hear the unfamiliar noise from the propeller. I confirmed there was a problem so we landed at Kamulai Catholic mission station, and got advice from the aircraft engineers in Port Moresby. Upon their advice, we had to ration the load and I had to leave my colleague at the station and go up the 11,000ft mountain alone in the chopper with the pilot and my test equipment. I ran the tests restored the service and got back down” Pilol shared.
There are times when load becomes a concern and the pilot has to ration fuel to allow for a technician and equipment to be airlifted safely to the repeater stations.
Apart from aircraft mechanical faults, bad weather is an obstacle Pilol has become accustomed to. After spending years flying up to mountain tops Pilol has developed navigational skills, and has become familiar with geographical features of each mountain top.
“When I travel with a new pilot who is new to accessing a repeater site during cloud cover, I become the navigator using my own perception to access a site and it’s crucial making decisions when your airborne and beneath you is rugged terrain or dense vegetation. You have to think fast and act quickly to enter a site smoothly or return,” Pilol said.
The biggest challenge Pilol and his team face is during a major operation failure. A major operation failure is when communication is completely out affecting a region or the whole country. “It is situations like this that we have to go against tough weather conditions to get into the site and fix the problem. If it means attempting entry to the site a number of times, we do that until we get in. And once restoration is complete, we feel the utmost satisfaction of being the servant to the customer. But safety during bad weather is always paramount.”
There have been occasions where tele- technicians have played the role of mediators between land owners and Telikom PNG’s lands officers. “There are incidents when we are confronted by the land owners with grievances over land matters so we try as much as possible to deal with them – this is a risky situation. If we need to bring them with us to Telikom Rumana, we do just that.”
Pilol graduated as a tele – technician in radio and transmission from the PTC training college in 1989 before doing a yearlong practical and returning back to the college in 1990 to do a two year advance level training programme.” I had to attend other various equipment courses over the years to develop my technical skills to meet changes along the way. “I love my job and with the hiccups of technical back up, spare parts and test equipments I still make do with whatever I have on hand to cut down on down time during restoration – the bottom line, knowing how the system works, everyday is a challenge for me.”
Pilol boasts of a wonderful family who has been supportive of him since the day he took up this career. He told of his parents respecting his desires and believing in him to explore his own talents that have brought him this far.
“I acknowledge my wife’s support because behind a man’s success in a career and life is always a faithful wife. My wife and children are always with me in thought when I’m out on the field and they always pray to the good Lord for the accomplishment of my tasks on site and my trips to and from the repeater stations. “
Pilol also acknowledge his colleagues for being instrumental in his career. “Every effort cannot be done by a person alone; it is through good co-ordination of team work that helps one progress with their careers and I commend my colleagues in this regard. “
Pilol who is now team leader, southern region plans to be a vegetable farmer back in his village after his time with Telikom.