Crash pilot hailed as top pianist

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North Coast Aviation pilot David Tong, who lost his life in the rugged Saruwaged Range of Morobe in the Dec 23 plane crash, was not just an ordinary aviator.
He was one of the top pianists in Australia and the world. He could have chosen to remain in the top music halls of the world but opted to fly in Papua New Guinea.
That fact about Tong’s was only revealed after his death.
His body remains at the funeral home in Lae until funeral arrangements can be made this week.
His mother flew in from Australian to see her son’s body and was moved to tears after seeing the display of emotions shown by NCA staff and the people of Morobe.
According to the Greater Geraldton Regional Library website of Australia: “Born in Macao in 1983, David Tong migrated to Australia in 1988 and soon began taking piano lessons. Following an extensive period of study, he went on to study at the prominent Juilliard School of Music in New York and was awarded the Vladimir Horowitz scholarship.
“In addition to having been a frequent guest artist with all Australian symphony orchestras, David was regularly invited to appear with many of today’s top orchestras including the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra in Budapest, New York Philharmonic, as well as with the philharmonic orchestras of Rochester, Naples (Florida) and Hong Kong.
“A significant moment in David’s career was a performance with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the 2002 Sydney Festival’s Gala Domain Concert, where he performed to an audience of more than 90,000 people.”
Tong had worked as a commercial pilot since 2014. He was based in Geraldton and worked as a line pilot for Geraldton Air Charter before moving to PNG in 2016 to join North Coast Aviation.
Tong, 34, survived the crash and made calls on his mobile but bad weather prevented rescuers from reaching him for three days.
Pianist Zsolt Bognar writes: “It is with great sadness that I learn my old friend David Tong was found dead last Tuesday from injuries sustained in a plane crash.
“I remember first meeting him in Texas in 2001 and being struck by his sunshine-filled spirit, his strong Australian accent, and vivacious temperament.
“What devastating news.”
He was an incredible pianist with a breathtaking technique – and as a friend he will be missed.