Monday, June 23, 2008

Sky is the limit for Regional Aviation Academy

Amidst the ruins of the once-thriving and famous Civil Aviation Agency (CAA) Training College at Six-Mile, Port Moresby, lies the fast-rising Regional Aviation Academy.

This ramshackle collection of buildings is only a fa├žade, however, because within is the first 100% nationally-owned private school in Papua New Guinea to train licensed aircraft maintenance engineers.

It also offers flight theory lessons for aspiring aviators because it does not have a plane of its own to give practical flying lessons.

Regional Aviation Academy – officially recognised by the National Training Council - began operations in 2001 and offers aircraft maintenance courses and imparts training through lessons where students sit for Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)-prepared examinations.

It uses the Queensland aerospace engineering syllabus.

From humble beginnings, more than 100 students have passed through the Regional Aviation Academy, and are now working all over the aviation industry in PNG as well as overseas.

Two of the most-qualified aircraft engineers in the country, Nick Kuiaha and Simm Kangadab, are at the helm of engineering courses at the academy while academy pioneer and qualified pilot and physics/mathematics instructor John Paui heads flight theory.

Mr Paui recalls that around the 1997-1998 periods, he and another pilot James Yanda saw that there was an urgent need to train PNG pilots.

“We saw a lot of people who wanted to be pilots but there was no training facility, no training school, no avenues around,” he says.

“The Aero Club used to run a flying school but they closed.

“There was also training at the Missionary Aviation Fellowship in Mount Hagen but they were not running theory classes at that time.

“What me and Captain James Yanda decided was to do something to help these unfortunate guys, who had the heart to do something, but there were no training facilities available.

“That was when we decided to start up something that we called National Aviation Training Institute.

“We talked to the guys at CAA and they allowed us to use their classrooms.

“We were teaching private pilot’s theory classes.

“The people from the Department (Civil Aviation) came around, observed our classes, and made recommendations for improvement.

“We needed improvements in course contents at that time.

“At that time, about 80% of the students went through, then the next step was the technical bit, which was real flying.

“We recommended that they go to Mt Hagen and join up with MAF, but by then, MAF were not doing much.

“We couldn’t continue, because there was no point getting students, and there was nothing for them to continue their studies.”

Enter Mr Kuiaha, a dual-licensed aircraft maintenance engineer, former PNG Defence Force Air Transport Squadron aircraft engineer, and lecturer in aircraft engineering at Port Moresby Technical College, amongst others in a distinguished career.

Mr Kangadab, a former PNGDF ATS aircraft engineer colleague of Mr Kuiaha, was a distinguished Air Niugini engineer and trainer before joining Regional Aviation Academy.

“I was retrenched from Airlines PNG in 2000,” Mr Kuiaha remembers.

“That was when I came in and joined them.

“There was a need for Papua New Guineans to train their own people.

“That’s how we came to be.

“We started from humble beginnings and went from strength to strength.

“Having to see our once-proud institutions like CAA College, which was a state-of-the-art school, running down was a real heartbreak and spurred us on to start Regional Aviation Academy.

“We are in our eighth year now and there’s no turning back.

“Over 100 students have passed out and all are employed.

“Two have gone on for further studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute to Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

“We have a former student employed in New Zealand.

“Another one has just returned from Hawaii.

“In Air Niugini we’ve got about 11 former students, while at Airlines PNG we’ve got about 15, HeviLift have got three, MAF have got six, NationAir have got five, National Air Services have got five, Helifix have got two, South West Airlines have got two, so they are scattered all over the aviation industry in the country.

“We are also proud that we are currently training five aircraft engineers from the PNG Defence Force.

“We are also proud that we have female students on board, which shows that there’s no discrimination.”

Mr Kuiaha said Regional Aviation Academy had been the target of a hate campaign, especially among the PNG aircraft engineering and pilot fraternities, but had persisted and the sky was no the limit.

“Critics are basically our own colleagues, who are pilots and engineers,” Mr Kanganab injects.

“They can talk from their comfort zone.

“To be honest, you have to be in there to see the difficulties.

“We (Messrs Kuiaha and Kanganab) are the only two Papua New Guinean instructors in aircraft engineering at the moment.

“We are we getting recycled expatriates in as aircraft engineering trainers at major airlines like Air Niugini?

“Another question we should be asking is that why are we spectators on our own land?”

Mr Kuiaha said there was an urgent need to train aircraft engineers, pilots, air traffic controllers, and other vacations within the civil aviation as there were not enough new people being churned out to meet the rising demand.

Aviation technology was also fast-changing.

“We have approached CAA about these matters, but these approaches have fallen upon deaf ears,” he said.

“”Regional Aviation Academy is a national institution.

“We’ve already secured a piece of land behind the ATS, at None-Mile, and we’re looking at funding to build a state-of-the-art institution.

“Nothing is impossible.

“We have to push on from here.

“Air Niugini has done very well, but why do they bring in foreign instructors to come and train Papua New Guineans?

“Defence Force did the same thing and it failed.

“We (Regional Aviation Academy) have contributed what we can.

“Air Niugini must seriously give us the chance to prove ourselves.

“We’ve done well.

“Why bring in foreigners to run courses when we can do it ourselves.”


  1. Anonymous12:57 PM

    I think national based Training Centers be recognized and supported, besides why not train our own pilots and engineers on our on soil?

    Btw, is Regional Aviation Academy still operating?

  2. Dear Malum;

    After reading your article I feel that I would like to speak to the good captain himself. Would you be kind enough to email me his email address.

    My email;


  3. Can you please contact me through this contact details?
    3277856 or