I happened to be at work, 5 minutes walk from the little airport when a plane made a bad landing. As the passengers came off the plane I wondered up and took some photos.
Goroka, Papua New Guinea
PX162 from Port Moresby to Goroka on Tuesday afternoon experienced a rough landing in Goroka.
The F28 twin-engine jet came in for landing as per usual. On hitting the tarmac a loud noise was heard and the left wing dipped down as the plane fishtailed down the runway, and off to the left side. All passengers sat dumbfounded as it happened. There was no panic, apart from one missionary who was shouting at people not to panic. Despite the regular pre-flight drill no-one got into the advised ‘crash-position’.
The plane slid to a halt in the grass. The pilots were flustered and counted their blessings, as they apologised to the passengers and advised them to evacuate the plane in an orderly fashion. The 3 stewardesses professionally and calmly explained the procedure and got the plane evacuated within minutes of ‘touch-down’.
According to passenger Watson (see picture below) from Goroka the entire procedure went smoothly and he had nothing but praise for the air-crew. He also noted the emergency vehicles including the airport’s Fire-truck were there as they got off the plane. Mr. Watson was sorry this had happened because Air Niugini was plagued with enough problems and did not need this type of mishap.
Ex-pats sitting in the Aero Club sat and watched the plane being tended to from a safe distance across the runway. They expressed their concern that this would be disastrous for Easter traffic, and were glad there were no human casualties. At least one of the men sitting on the terrace was not aware of the afternoon’s crash.
After everything was individually weighed for the record the passengers received their luggage. The plane was filled to capacity. Air Niugini advises that some delays may be experienced in the coming weeks.
The ill fated F28 jet that landed in Goroka yesterday is still 'parked' in the grass (pic. 893) one hundred meters from the tarmac.
Emergency vehicles and Air Safety investigators are still on site. Speculation abounds that the plane was overloaded. As part of standard procedures the unloaded cargo of PQ162 was individually weighed.
Logistics of moving a plane this size out of the wet grass will not happen overnight, and will almost certainly cause major disruptions to Air Niugini’s Easter flight schedules.
Reports that the plane was 'just taxiing' to the terminal seems unlikely as the runway runs off to the right (pic 897), the terminal is also off to the right, and the plane shot off at least one hundred meters to the left-hand side. If this is just taxiing, then it must taxi at very high speed.
If this mishap is comparable to the incidents in Rabaul, Kimbe and Lae, as was reported by the Air Niugini Spokesperson, then Air Niugini has some serious structural/corrosion problems with their fleet. To brush it off as an almost routine event by saying this has happened before, then that would make them negligent to keep the F28’s in the air.
Air Niugini has been plagued with maintenance and industrial problems. The future of the airline is doubtful, an event such as this could be the final straw on the camel's back. The disruption this will cause to their Easter schedule is very unfortunate.
The end result:
The plane stood there for many weeks before being moved into a hangar. It then took months and months before the Fokker engineers and technicians came over to repair the plane in Goroka.
As the Fokker engineers were from Holland I enjoyed entertaining them. They would take me dutch groceries from Albert Heijn and Jamin, including drop and bitterkoekjes, stroopwafels and pepernoten... I would take them in the local 'jungle', visit villages and take them off the beaten track. Some were fit enough to join the (late) BornAgain (Goroka) Hash House Harriers. The two who ran regularly were christened as 'Chalk' and 'Cheese' by 'Titanic' - the RA.
Almost a year later the plane left the airport and we all held our breath when we got onto any of the Air Niugini's F28s.
The plane crashes in PNG were a regular occurrence. Many people I knew were killed in them in seperate crashes. One fellow squash player broke his back in a helicopter crash but was playing (a little) squash again in Port Moresby just over a year later - he was very lucky!
Excuses for planes not to leave Port Moresby would include comments like: "The Goroka runway is broken". In this case it referred to pot-holes that 'suddenly' needed to be repaired. Of course this was not revealed till all passengers had boarded the plane!
Other times implement weather would delay flights, or landings! Flying laps above Goroka in white/grey clouds is a bit of a harrowing experience. The pilot of the often unreliable planes would update us regularly... 'The tower tells me there is a break in the clouds, we will do a few more laps...'. Eventually with the last drop of fuel the plane would divert to Lae to fill up before returning to Port Moresby again. What if the weather won't allow a landing at Lae??? These situations often left the passengers white faced for hours as Goroka is surrounded by Mountains, it being the Gateway to the Highlands.
Flying from Goroka to Mount Hagen for instance requires the non-pressurised planes (often the Brazillian made Banterantis) to fly to its legal altitude limit and pass through a mountain pass with granite on either side of the plane with often high winds blowing.
Safety in PNG planes has improved considerably since the 1990s.
But if it wasn't the plane crashes that would get the ex-pats in PNG it was violent crime, or their own drink-driving stupidity... If you like to read about ex-pat views in PNG the best in my opinion is www.pnggossip.com.