Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Papua New Guinea's 'deeply-troubled and dangerous' civil aviation exposed

Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Foreign Correspondent tonight blew the lid off Papua New Guinea’s Civil Aviation Agency, with another expose about a deeply-troubled and dangerous industry, at a time when Australia and PNG are mourning the loss of lives from last week’s Kokoda tragedy.

Perhaps most alarming of all was the inability or unwillingness of authorities to investigate what happened after things did go wrong.

Foreign Correspondent revisited some of the glaring problems exposed in its 2008 report on the pathetic state of PNG aviation.

Papua New Guinea's only air crash investigator says last week's fatal Kokoda plane crash was an accident waiting to happen, and he cannot even visit every crash site because money is so tight.

Australian Sidney O'Toole, who runs PNG's Air Crash Investigation branch, told  Foreign Correspondent last night he runs a ludicrously lean operation, with a staffing situation which is "beyond critical".

He says he has an office, but no computer or dedicated fax; even now he has to use his own mobile phone on the job.

In the last year alone there have been another 12 air crashes and Mr O'Toole says he has not been able to make it to them all.

"Our staffing situation is beyond critical,” he said.

“When I use the word desperate, I mean how desperate is desperate - it's just ludicrous having one man."

Life was beginning to turn around for Mr O'Toole, with a new Accident Investigation Commission set up to get funds flowing.

He was dispatched to Canada to take an engine from a crashed aircraft back to the manufacturer for examination, which is where he was when the Twin Otter crashed near Kokoda.

"I can't be in two places at the same time," he said.

"I look at the resources and everything that have been provided by the Australian Government and there was absolutely, positively no way that our commission or the government of Papua New Guinea could respond in that manner."


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