By CLARISSA MOI
CAPTAIN Paul Kodor, 65, ‘hung his wings’ with pride and satisfaction on a Wednesday (Feb 3), after serving 44 and a half years in the aviation industry.
He walked out with pride and satisfaction knowing that he not only had fulfilled his dream of becoming a pilot but he had also trained pilots and first officers who are now flying the aeroplanes.
Kodor, from Awar village in Bogia, Madang interest in flying started when he was about four-years-old.
“There was a small airstrip near my place, the Awar airstrip. When single aeroplanes comes in, we would run up and have a peak at the aeroplanes.
“One of the things that challenged me at that time was that one of the old man would see us running to and from the airstrip and said: seeing those aeroplanes, will you be able to fly one?
“That inspired me.
“So when I left my village for school, I decided to look outside. I thought to myself, I cannot stay here or I’ll never get anywhere.”
He did his grades three to six at Bogia Administration School and was selected to Bogia Catholic High School.
Through his determined attitude, Kodor got into SVD High School (now Divine Word University) and completed grades 7-10 from 1967 to 1970.
After grade 10, he went back to the village and waited for an offer from the institutions he had applied to. That did not happen.
His headmaster from SVD High School secured a space for him at Sogeri National High school and he did his grades 11 and 12 from 1971 to 1972. While doing at Sogeri, a government scholarship team visited the school to recruit interested students for the flying school.
With the dream of becoming a pilot, Kodor applied.
He was listed along with two other students from his school for medical checks.
Preliminary preparations were done and Kodor was among a group 12 which included Captain Lekwa Gure (now Rigo MP) were sent to Sydney.
However due to funding issues, Kodor and six students were sent back.
He was frustrated, but there were arrangements in place where he went to the PNG University of Technology to study civil engineering.
Kodor discontinued his course and came to Port Moresby because he still wanted to be a pilot.
“I stayed with my cousin brother at Konedobu and was doing odd jobs like selling cinema tickets to support myself.”
He was told one day that the flying scholarship for the PNG Defence Force was out so off he went to Murray Barracks.
“ Nothing comes easy, life is not meant to be easy and you must have a vision, look beyond, not here, plan ahead and work towards it. If one way doesn’t work for you to get a job or anything in life, there’s always another way.”
“When I walked into the interview room, the doctor who conducted the interview for the government scholarship was there. I was accepted the same instant without any interviews.
“I was then sent up to Goldie military training depot for initial officer training cadets.”
Kodor did his basic officers training for six months and was posted to Melbourne to do flying training at Point Cook Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) training school in 1976, for 18 months.
He moved closer to his dream….he got his wings in 1977.
He came back and operated the military air wing from 1977 to 1980 in Lae.
He went on to do his flying instructors course at Royal Australian Air Force at East Sale, Victoria, in 1981.
Kodor was with the PNGDF air wing for another four years.
In 1986, he decided to go into commercial flying because all his comrades from government scholarship like Captain Gure and others were flying for Air Niugini.
“But then I decided that with my instructors’ background from military, I would go to CASA instead, at that time it was Civil Aviation Agency (CAA).
“I was told that I was too young with no experience and couldn’t work there. I was in my mid-30s then.
Gordon Howe from CAA called Air Niugini and told Captain Ian Philips that I was looking for a flying job. Captain Philips told him to send me over to Air Niugini.
“I walked into Air Niugini in August 1986, no interviews, straight into flying.” A dream come true.
Kodor started off with Dash 7, then went onto Fokker (F28). He successfully completed both engineering courses.
He was trained by Captain Granger Narara.
He was a first officer until 1994 and moved up to being a pilot for only a year. He then started to train first officers and captains.
In 1999, he was promoted to Airbus A310.
In January 2002, he was put to command the aeroplane and got his command for Airbus A310.
Kodor was made Boeing fleet manager twice in his flying journey.
He then got into the checking and training department, however, the airline company encountered funding issue and had cut down training for the pilots.
“So I was asked to design an in-house course and engage outside people.”
Kodor had trained 14 pilots who are currently with Air Niugini, he also trained first officers on Boeing 767.
“But we all know that all this has to end someday.
“I am happy, going out with pride serving 44 years: 10 years with military and 34 and a half years with Air Niugini.
“I’ve trained a lot of younger ones and now I can sit back and fly as a passenger knowing that the one flying the aeroplane was trained by me and I am safe.
“The greatest motivation that pushed me to fulfilling my flying dream was my late maternal uncle, Adolf Boh.
“He was the village counsellor, he was a top leader. He was not educated but he had a vision. He always tell me that good things will happen to me.
“When I was leaving for Sogeri National High School, he rode on his motorbike to the airstrip and saw me off.
“His last words to me were ‘you will get a good job.’
“That was the pushing factor for me and I concentrated on my dream of becoming a pilot.”
His advice to the upcoming pilots was becoming a pilot involves a lot of hard work.
“Nothing comes easy, life is not meant to be easy and you must have a vision, look beyond, not here, plan ahead and work towards it.
“If one way doesn’t work for you to get a job or anything in life, there’s always another way.
“And lastly, we can be higher in ranks or our position at work. I can be a captain and be called boss but there’s someone higher than me, the good Lord.
“There’s time to work, and there’s time to worship, you just have to balance your work and spiritual life.”
Kodor, father of seven and grandfather of nine said he would go back to his village and enjoy fishing.