The day Lucas flew a plane

Weekender

By MALUM NALU
THE Boluminski Highway in New Ireland is unarguably the best road in the country, with picturesque scenes of coconut palms, unspoiled villages and unbelievable coastline.
There’s a lovely village along the highway called Fatmilak.
It’s just beside the turquoise sea where the children run, jump, play and swim.
It’s bilas peles (paradise) indeed, to use a term coined by New Irelanders themselves about their beautiful province.
Fatmilak is the home of a 16-year-old boy named Lucas Sabutan, who suffers from down syndrome, a lifelong condition in which a person is born with distinct physical features and some degree of cognitive disability.
He is popularly known in the village as “Kake”.
His aunt, Tina, lives in Brisbane, Australia, and whenever she visits, Lucas is always there at Kavieng Airport to wait for her.
He is always excited about planes, despite never having travelled in one, and being confined to Fatmilak for all his life.
“I told myself that one day, I’d like to make it possible for him to get on a plane, just to have a look inside and see what it’s like,” Tina says.
“This is because it’s unlikely that he’ll ever be able to get a plane ride.”
That dream came true on Sept 27, when Tina arrived in Kavieng on Air Niugini flight PX 274, for holidays with her children.
Standing outside, invariably – as he’d done for years – was young Lucas.
Tina asked the captain of the F100 if Lucas could be allowed into the cockpit.
He had no hesitation.
Lucas walked into the cockpit, sat on the captain’s seat, and marveled in his own world about how planes flew.
“The captain sat with him in the front and Lucas had the opportunity to hold onto the plane steers,” Tina says.
“The captain was encouraging him to move sideways, push it forward and back, and he was very excited.
“It was something that I always wanted to make possible for him.
“He was so excited, and when we went home to the village that night, he was telling everyone in the village that he had driven a plane.
“Everyone was so excited as well after I showed them the photos of Lucas in the cockpit of the plane.
“They were all laughing and telling Lucas that they’d never had the chance to get in a plane, and he’s beaten them all.”
“He’s a very happy boy in the family and everybody loves him.”
Lucas accompanied Tina to the local elementary school the next day, where he joined in with them, as she read to them.
“We had a great morning with the children,” she says.
“I read to them, we sang, danced, and played musical chairs.
“The children enjoyed everything and Lucas was part of all of that.
“Lucas and I had a wonderful time at Fatmilak.”
So there you are.
Next time you’re driving along the Boluminski Highway, between Kavieng and Namatanai, make it a point to stop at Fatmilak.
You might just see a down sydrome boy named Lucas along the road.

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