THE plan to fly Julian Ronald Moti out of PNG went without a hitch, according to Lt-Col Chester F. Berobero, commanding officer of the PNGDF air transport wing.
“The direction from the acting commander, relayed to me, was that the air transport wing was tasked to transport Moti, accompanied by two other passengers, to Munda airfield in the Solomon Islands at 0100 hours on Tuesday, Oct 11, 2006.
“The task, as directed, was to be carried out under covert operations and, under such circumstances, diplomatic clearances and CAA regulations covering flight planning and flight in civil control airspace could be overlooked,” Lt-Col Berobero told the Ombudsman Commission when interviewed for the final report.
He said that the crew for the flight comprised him as the captain, Lt-Col Ron Hosea as co-pilot, a load master and a flight engineer.
At 10.30pm on Oct 9, he and Lt-Col Hosea prepared a flight plan (see map) to avoid Australian airspace, which would take them from Port Moresby to Kiriwina in Milne Bay province, and direct to Munda “on GPS track, flying at 17,000ft. The return leg would be flown following the opposite route at 18,000ft”.
“I returned to the unit at 0000 hours to receive the passengers and prepare for the scheduled departure time of 0100 hours. The three passengers, including Col Vagi Oala, arrived after 0030, boarded and we departed Port Moresby at 0110 hours. The entire flight was carried out without lights and communications.
“We arrived at Munda at 0450 hours (Solomons time) but delayed our landing until 0510 hours to allow sufficient lighting for safe landing. We carried out a military Ops Stop landing on Rwy 25, taxiing to the end of the runway to deliver the three passengers.
“Our immediate departure was prevented by a Solomon Islands police vehicle travelling towards us down the centre of the runway.”
CAA CEO Joseph Kintau was to say in an Oct 13 brief to his minister Don Polye that the Casa’s first contact with CAA was at 6.07am on Oct 10, reporting that it was leaving Kiriwina on line to 18,00ft for Port Moresby, landing at 7.14am.
“The CAA suspects that Eagle 502 may have departed Port Moresby undetected, anytime between 11.30pm and 1.40am under the cover of darkness, as the entire airfield lighting system was switched off.
“A very critical civil aviation breach, which is of a great concern as it may adversely impact on our international reputation, is the issue of intrusion of an international flight information region,” Mr Kintau told investigators.
“The mission was executed uncoordinated across an international flight information boundary and in a manner where the potential for the occurrence of a major air disaster was highly likely.
“The country would have had serious liability consequences had an air accident occurred,” he said.