Rural airstrips important for development, says Steven

Main Stories, National

The National, Monday 3rd June 2013

 THE importance of rural airstrips cannot be underestimated, Civil Aviation Minister Davis Steven says.

He said this yesterday when announcing new board members for the National Airports Corporation (NAC). One of the members is Michael Jelliffe, representing third-level operator Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF).

Steven said the national government had given high priority to the development of rural airstrips with K6 million allocated in this year’s budget.

“I have taken that on personally to make sure that it does happen,” he said.

“That was one reason why we had this collaboration between the private sector operators like MAF, SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistists), SDA (Seventh Day Adventiststs) Aviation, and the rest of them at the March (aviation) forum in Mt Hagen.

“The national government did allocate in its 2013 budget a sum of K6 million just to start that process.

“In the past, airstrips were left to provinces to manage with their recurrent budgets.

“Prior to independence, we had in the range of 1,400 airstrips operational.

“At the height of Talair, when Talair was operational, Papua New Guinea had one of the biggest airstrip networks in the whole world, but we all know that we’ve fallen from these achievements.”

  Steven said one of the issues to be discussed at the aviation leaders’ meeting would be a white paper touching on how to make rural airstrips operational again, rebuild and develop rural airstrips.