Rural Airstrip Agency (RAA) is a agency responsible for all rural airstrips across rural PNG.
How effective and efficient this Agency works is outside the context of this article (and blog) for now.
Knowing the current status of all airstrips across Goilala District, Goilala District Development Authority under the leadership of Honourable William Samb, prioritising on Transportation as one of the areas to focus on in its District’s 5YDP, appropriated funding to be used by Rural Airstrips Agency to inspect, scope out and do up costings for all the airstrips for repair, maintainence and re-opening works.
During one of its DDA meetings in 2015, Goilala DDA approved funding for RAA for this work.
RAA subsequently signed up a MOA to bind the two parties together late 2015.
After sorting out the funding constraints and other technicalities, this long await project got underway on Friday 10th June – Saturday 11th June 2016.
RAA officers and experts flew into Ononge, Woitape and Fane on Friday. Then Sopu and Guari airstrips were done on Saturday 11th June 2016.
Getting into Yongai was made impossible by cloud cover. Yongai airstrip inspection will be rescheduled for a later date.
Goilala District has a mountainous and rugged landscape. Getting into and out of Goilala is effective only via air transport.
Land transport is a cheap form of transportation but building a road network interconnecting all Goilala’s 3LLGs will take more than 20 years and will require a steady and uninterrupted flow of funding from the Government and other donor/funding agencies.
Faced with such obstacles, Goilala DDA opted to engaged RAA to help open up all closed airstrips across Goilala.
In the past these airstrips used to be opened and used by PNG Air (previously known as Milne Bay Air, which later changed their operating name to Airlines PNG) twin otter aircrafts and other light aircraft operators like Talair, Douglas Air, TNA, Goilala Kekeni and North Coast Aviation.
Sunbird Aviation and Air Sanga Aviation are latest operators who have scaled down on their operations primarily because of unsafe airstrip status.
Lack of interest from political leadership and Civil Aviation Authority resulted in the once well kept airstrips to deteriorate to a state where it was deemed unsafe to be used by planes.
Back in the day when all this airstrips where open and operating, transport services was functioning effectively.
That resulted in basic services such as health, education and socio-economic activities to be operational and functioning.
With the engagement of RAA by the Goilala DDA, let’s hope, the once effective and efficient air transport from the 1980s and early 1990s returns and transport service in and out of the rural population of Goilala restored.