Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Return to the fatal sky

Watch ABC’s Foreign Correspondent tonight for a programme which will blow 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 http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2009/s2655403.htm

Return to the Fatal Sky

Broadcast: 18/08/2009

Reporter: Trevor Bormann

To travel any distance in PNG, air travel is often the only viable option.

At Mount Hagen in the PNG Highlands a mother and father grieve the loss of bright and ambitious son who yearned to take the helm of an international airliner. Their commercial pilot son perished in a light-plane crash 2 years earlier and yet PNG’s aviation regulators had failed to examine why the crash had occurred. Glen and Veronica Kundun wanted answers and there were none.

“This is a life we are talking about! There must be an investigation. We must get to the bottom of it. Whether it is a technical fault, whether it is pilot error, these things have got to be known.” GLEN KUNDUN, FATHER OF PILOT PATRICK

Foreign Correspondent exposed a litany of failures and witnessed sloppy standards and seat-of-the-pants procedures. Some of the aviation outfits flying the PNG skies were plain dangerous others were largely unregulated and then there were questions about the requisite skills of pilots.

Perhaps most alarming of all was the inability or unwillingness of authorities to investigate what happened after things did go wrong. Insiders - frustrated and disheartened - spoke out.

“If we have a major prang here we can’t do a damned thing. Nobody can do anything. Now that is very serious.” SIDNEY O’TOOLE

Aviation insiders like Sidney O’Toole told us that over the past two decades airline safety standards had ‘fallen over the edge‘and some were predicting disaster. That disaster has come to pass with the loss of 13 lives in the crash of a Twin Otter plane enroute to Kokoda.

Foreign Correspondent revisits some of the glaring problems exposed in our 2008 report and importantly speaks again with some of the key identities who participated. Others in our story continue to mourn – including an Australian family who lost a loved one and who await vainly for answers.

New accounts and perspectives about a deeply troubled and dangerous industry – this time against the heart-breaking backdrop of the Kokoda tragedy.



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