Back in the 1970s, two boys from Mendi, Southern Highlands province, started their primary school, little knowing that fate had already bound their destinies together.
Their names were James Pima and Philip Emeck, and their story is just like that told in the song Two Little Boys – made famous by Australian entertainer Rolf Harris - as they played together, went to school together, and went to war together.
Often, while playing together in those far-off days, they’d look at planes flying high up in the skies over Mendi, and dream of being pilots.
Pima and Emeck grew up together, went to primary school together, Mendi High School together, Sogeri National High School together, and then went on to the PNG Defence Force Academy at Igam Barracks outside Lae.
At Igam, they completed military training together, went on for pilot training in Australia, and upon return started active service as airmen for the PNGDF during the Bougainville Crisis.
Then they went their separate ways, Pima leaving military service in 1994, Emeck in 2002, and they served in various jobs within civil aviation.
In 2007, their paths crossed again at Helifix, where they were pioneer pilots for PNG’s first 100% nationally-owned helicopter company.
Pima, until his resignation from Helifix two months ago with Emeck, was chief pilot and flight operations manager with the now fully-fledged company.
Last Friday, those two little Mendi boys, Capt James Pima and Capt Philip Emeck, now veteran PNG airmen at 42 years of age, created another proud moment in PNG aviation history when they arrived from Sydney, Australia, with their new Bell 407 helicopter at Jackson International Airport.
|The two little boys from Mendi Capt James Pima (left) and Capt Philip Emeck.-Pictures by MALUM NALU|
Champagne was sprayed and there were hugs and congratulations all around as the all PNG crew of captains Pima and Emeck, together with chief engineer Stanley Joe, arrived with the K7 million helicopter after a 16-hour flight from Sydney, Australia.
Friends and relatives of the three PNG airmen spray the Bell 407 with champagne after its arrival last Friday
Former PNGDF pilots Pima and Emeck are proud owners of the VIP-configured seven-seater, that can carry 1.5 tonnes and has a cruising speed of 130 knots.
It has telephone, stereo, air-conditioning, tinted glass and refrigerator for its anticipated VIP clientele, and had only clocked up 400 hours when bought by Heli Solutions.
|Capt James Pima is all smiles after bringing in the Bell 407 helicopter from Sydney, Australia|
“We bought it from a private owner, a property developer in Sydney, who was using it for his own business.
“This is the only one in the country with a full glass cockpit.
“It has a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), which is an aircraft collision avoidance system designed to reduce the incidence of mid-air collisions between aircraft.
“It’s fully instrument flight rules (IFR), which means you can fly through bad weather.
“The cockpit instrumentation is basically what you get on a Dash 8 or F100.
|The Bell 407 lands in Port Moresby after a 16-hour flight from Sydney|
“It travels at about the same speed as a Twin Otter, which is 130 knots.
“It can fly up to a ceiling of 20,000 feet.”
Pima says there’ll be no shortage of customers once the new Bell 407 gets airborne.
“Customers are just waiting for us to kick off,” he adds.
“Once we kick off, we can’t have rest.
“Once we kick off, however, the fear is that we won’t have enough helicopters to meet all our customer demands.
“If this happens, the only thing we can do is to get another helicopter, and get it fast!
“There is so much exploration work and LNG work in the country that there aren’t enough helicopters.
“It’s also worth noting that while it’s good to have more helicopters, you have to worry about the manpower to service these helicopters.
“The government should be stepping in to create training courses for our young people because, obviously, we don’t produce enough graduates in the field of aviation.”
Pima adds Heli Solutions already has assured customers, given contacts Emeck and he have established over the years.
“Our client base will include Telikom, government departments like education and health, as well as provincial governments,” he says.
“We are also assured of business from statutory organisations like National Fisheries Authority, National Forest Authority and National Disaster and Emergency Services.
“Then, of course, there are the mining and exploration companies.”
Emeck thanked all their family members and friends for their support, and especially Westpac Bank for its financial support in helping them to buy the helicopter.
They anticipate buying another one or two more helicopters in the very near future to boost up their fleet.
Because Heli Solutions does not have an air-operating certificate from Civil Aviation Safety Authority, it will in the interim operate under another nationally-owned aviation firm, National Aviation Services, until such time that it obtains its own.
Acting CEO of NAS, former PNGDF Squadron Leader Capt John Imaka, said aviation was booming in PNG with the mining, oil and gas projects, however, only a few nationals were direct participants in it.
Imaka said NAS was only too pleased to help Heli Solutions because it was an all-PNG company helping another all-PNG company in the highly-regulated aviation industry.
|From left are Capt Philip Emeck, chief engineer Stanley Joe and Capt James Pima being welcomed by National Aviation Services acting CEO Capt James Imaka at the NAS hangar last Friday|