FIRST LANDING AT SOPU AIRSTRIP AFTER 30 YEARS – RURAL AIRSTRIP AGENCY.


First Landing at Sopu After 30 years

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The people of Sopu in the Goilala district of central province are celebrating the re-opening of their airstrip after 30 years of isolation.

Last Wednesday, Aug 2, Fixed-Wing Chief Pilot of SIL Aviation, Jonathan Aederwitz, landed a small Cesna much to the jubilation and excitement of the local community who had gathered to watch the event.

The Sopu airstrip is 6,000 feet above sea level in the Owen Stanley Mountain range. It is 535 meters (1,750 ft) long and has an average slope of 11%.

It has not seen an aeroplane land in thirty years as it has been closed.
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In mid 2016, the local Goilala MP Hon William Samb and his government partnered with the Rural Airstrip Agency to re-open several airstrips in his electorate. This included Ononge, Woitape, Yongai, Fane, Guari and Sopu.

Work on Sopu started in February this year. An initial drone survey was done on the day that the two men crew moved in. Work included cutting of the elephant grass, digging of drains, smoothing out undulating surfaces and widening the airstrip by cutting into the slope. A windsock pole and cone markers were also installed.

The community was very involved in the project, providing constant support to the crew.

Mr Aederwitz was estactic to be part of the occasion.

“On Wednesday I had the privilege of making the first landing to re-open Sopu airstrip in Central Province, Papua New Guinea. Sopu serves the Tauade language group and has been closed for 30 years. This past year, the Rural Airstrip Authority of PNG has been working with the local community to fix up the airstrip so that it could be opened again.
Sopu is 6,000 feet above sea level in the Owen Stanley Mountain range. As you look down the runway it looks like a ski jump because it starts down at 16% slope and “levels off” to about 1% slope at the bottom.” He said.
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RAA CEO John Bromley commended the RAA team and the Sopu community on the successful completion of work to re-open the airstrip and the test landing. He also thanked SIL for its contribution.

Mr Bromley said the involvement of the local MP William Samb has meant that more communities in Goilala are enjoying the services of a maintained airstrip again.

Rural airstrips are a significant transport linkage for rural communities and island communities in PNG. There are around 650 rural airstrips in PNG, according to PNG Airstrip Guide 2013. However ninety (90) percent of these airstrips are currently closed and others that are open are maintained by agencies such as RAA and private operators and the missions and the churches.
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While the responsibility of rural airstrips lies with the Provincial Government, DDAs, LLGs and respected Open members, only few Provinces have taken up initiative to maintain the airstrips. It is an important challenge for RAA to maintain and increase dialogue with all these levels of Government to financially support the implementation of the airstrip maintenance or restoration programs in their Province, District or Electorate.

RAA’s work to restore these closed airstrips, significantly improves the standard of living for isolated communities by facilitating the connectivity of the communities to Government, economic and development services. The restoration program is conducted on the airstrips that have deteriotated due to neglect and natural causes and are closed. After identifying and prioritizing of the airstrips that need restoration, an initial survey on the airstrip is conducted to determine the scope of work, what equipment is needed to fly in then the restoration work commence. When the restoration is completed, the airstrip is recommissioned and added to the RAA maintenance program.

Rural Airstrips Agency Ltd was established with the sole purpose of facilitating and conducting maintenance and restoration of rural airstrips in PNG. The RAA is a private- public partnership initiative with the Papua New Guinea Government.
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Two people from Sopu have been identified for further training as Airstrip Maintenance Officers. They will look after the airstrip with RAA and represent the local community involvement.

Captions:

The members of the local community, RAA and SIL Aviation representatives posing for a photo to commemorate the event at the Sopu airstrip.

Pic 2: View of the airstrip from a slope at Sopu.

Source: Rural Airstrip Agency Facebook Page.

SOPU AIRSTRIP IS READY FOR USE -RAA.


Today, Thanks to Rural Airstrips Agency, Sopu airstrip is completed and ready for use.

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After completing Yongai airstrip a week ago, Rural Airstrip Agency Technical team spent the weekend and a few days this week in Sopu supervising the works on the Sopu airstrip.
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This morning, Goilala MP flew in to be shown the final stages of works done before opening.
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The opening of this airstrip will coincide with the potato seeds that will be dropped off this weekend (most likely).

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SOPU Airstrip and all other Airstrips so far worked on by RAA is a classic example of people taking ownership of change. Most of the labor force worked on their airstrips for FREE.

Except for Woitape station where locals demanded they should and must be paid before work commenced.

Photo and story credit: Kovei Leo from Sopu.

YONGAI AIRSTRIP DONE, SOPU AIRSTRIP BEGINS – RURAL AIRSTRIP AGENCY.


 Rural Airstrip Agency has been engaged by Goilala District Development Authority to help reopen all its airstrips across the District.
Yongai Airstrip

After PNG Air Limited, formerly MBA [Milne Bay Air] pulled out its services to focus major clients like the LNG operation charters in Gulf Province and the PNG LNG Project in Southern Highland, Goilala District and her people got starved of any genuine airline operators.

Air transport in Goilala died a natural death. resulting in all its airstrips closing down all across Goilala.

RAA Team at Sopu Airstrip
RAA Team touches down at Sopu to work on the airstrip

When Goilala William Samb got elected in 2015 By-Election, Samb promised the people of Goilala to revive the transport service in Goilala.

This assurance has seen Goilala Highway getting some attention, with another road project known as the Dubuy Road Project getting off the ground.

Locals at Yongai Airstrip
RAA Team Departs Yongai Airstrip for Sopu to continue work on Sopu Airstrip

Rural Airstrips was another area that needed to be revived and so Ononge and Fane airstrips were opened up. Yongai airstrip just got opened and RAA Team has moved into Sopu to start completion works on that airstrip before moving to Guari Airstrip.

Photos and brief courtesy of RAA Team.

RAA COMPLETES FANE & MOVES ONTO YONGAI AIRSTRIP.


Rural Airstrips Agency is a not for profit company whose primary purpose is to facilitate and conduct maintenance and restoration of rural airstrips in Papua New Guinea.

These activities are aimed at improving aviation safety and proving greater access by remote communities to essential services.

Fane Dancers - Welcomes Sam Basil and William Samb
Fane Dancers – Welcomes Sam Basil and William Samb

After completing Ononge and Woiyape airstrips, RAA moved into Fane.

Fane Airstrip - After Rural Airstrip Completes cleaning it.
Fane Airstrip – After Rural Airstrip Completes cleaning it.

Fane waa completed last week and according to the information I have, work on Yongai airstrip is currently underway.

Airborne Logistic Chopper - Fane
Airborne Logistic Chopper – Fane

Sopu would follow Yongai and Guari airstrip thereafter.

Photos courtesy: Team Pangu from Fane

ELEPHANT GRASS WAITS FOR NO ONE – FANE AIRSTRIP


They say “Time Waits for No Man” The same can be said for Elephant Grass!!

It has been 3 months since we had the relevant authority/department/officials/etc… for Airstrips in Goilala; spend a stack of money to fly all over the place in helicopters and make some very bold statements.

Some Free Advice:
If limited budget is a constraint; then simple research & tangible delivery prioritisation founded on that research should be paramount…. An obvious question to ask initially; would be, Where are planes landing presently? That might be a very good place to start?

Note for Mr Bromley:
And again I am repeating myself; Fane Airstrip is the feeder airstrip to the heavily populated surrounding communities of Tolukuma Gold Mine and we have a “Tractor & Slasher” available (requires diesel & some parts, which the list of, was provided to you by TGM Heavy Diesel Mechanic, Mr. Hasu Gebob, whom additionally has donated his time to carry out the labour required; free of charge)… You did tell me at 7 Mile (Jackson’s Airport) that RAA wanted to maintain a standard across the board and use lawnmowers… I strongly suggest for this instance (Fane); that you raise your standard and utilise the assets already available on the ground.

P.S. To whom it may concern:
The Petrol & Diesel Drums that I bring up from POM costs an arm & leg; and is for retailing; not for doing your job!! (Next time you will get the Bill)

Note:
The dozens of times we have done this same job previously (many times without a lawn mower) we have never made a mention. But only posted these images because of the “Hot Air” that some are blowing recently relating to the topic of Goilala Airstrips & service delivery.

Admin note: Bruce’s mention of hot air refers the following articles.

1. Rural Airstrip Agency Project
2. Rural Airstrip Agency Project
3. Rural Airstrip Agency Project

 

Source: Bruce Mamando’s Facebook Profile

KAILAPE AIRSTRIP – FROM PAST TO PRESENT DAY


INTRO
Kailape Airstrip is a community initiated project located at the boarder of Auga Ward 5 [Woitape LLG] and Ivani Ward 1 [Tapini LLG]. This proposed airstrip aims to service the people of Fuyuge speaking tribes in Kailape, Kone, Garime and parts of Belavista and Popore (Ward 5 in WoitapeLLG) and Minaru (Ivani 1 W in Tapini LLG)  and Tanipai, and Tokyo (Ward 6, Woitape LLG) people.

Kailape - Google Map
Kailape Village – Google Map – Photo credit: Bruce Mamando

INITIAL WORKS
Under the reign of then Representative for Goilala people Honourable John Gaibi in 1981, people mobilised and cleared forest and began digging the land for the airstrip. From 1981 to 2015, progress on this airstrip has been pain stakingly slow.
Local Leaders or Councillors asked people to work but usually stop primarily due to payment issues.

Although slow, during these 34 long years [1981 – 2015] by using locally improvised tools, they overed a distance of 350 meters.

A civil Aviation requirement for an airstrip is 600 meters. So  another 250 meters is need to satisfy that requirement – 600meters.

THEY TOOK OWNERSHIP OF THE PROJECT.

Realizing no one w coming to th aid . People ventured into raising funds to help them finance tools to help them speed up this Project.

Kailape people’s contributed K4000.00 and bought wheelbarrows, spades, knives and earth clearing tools from Brian Bell & Co in Port Moresby.

They were faced with another problem.

And that was to airlift these tools bought to Kailape via Fane mission station – airfreighting of these tools.

These Kailape people went to Tolukuma Gold Mine site and pushed wheelbarrows asking for donations of cash. They ended up making K2000.00 from this wheelbarrow push.


Using this money they airfreighted the tools into Fane airstrip and then carried that to Kailape to work on their airstrip.

LATEST DEVELOPMENTS
Open MP Honourable William Samb, been a local, heard of the plight of his Kailape people in this section of Goilala and flew into Kailape, accompanied by Tapini LLG President Honorable Keleto Kope and Woitape LLG President Honorable Joe Geru and Engineers, to see how he can help make their dream come true. This was Honorable Samb’s 3rd time to visit Kailape

On the first two attempts, Honorable Samb did initial scope, cost estimate and documentation for Submission to Goilala District Development Authority to get endorsement and funding.

On the 3rd trip on Wednesday, 24th August 2016 , MP Goilala spent the whole day with his people at Kailape and slept with his people.

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will fund earthmoving works and other related outstanding tasks.

Once that’s completed, the airstrip will be handed over to Rural Airstrip Agency.
Kailape Airstrip - Auda Dilava area - Woitape LLG (5)

Kailape people told Honourable MP, their reasons for choosing to have their own airstrip are:

  1. Distance from Fane to Kaliape – Fane airstrip is too far.
  2. Unsafe – Law and order at Fane airstrip is out of control.
  • Weight – Too far for carry load and walk to Fane from Kaliape and vice versa.

NEXT COURSE OF ACTION.
A D4 dozer has been organised and will be airlifted using the big heavy chopper into Kailape from Port Moresby to speed up the earth moving next week.

Kailape Airstrip - Auda Dilava area - Woitape LLG (1)

POTENTIAL.
Just like any other Goilala land, with a huge agricultural potential, Kailape has fertile soil which rich for fresh vegetable farming. And there is huge potential for commercial coffee farming with alluvial gold mining  another attractive factor about Kailape.

CAUTION TO THE WIND.
While assuring the people of Kailape of the support from his Office, local Member of Parliament, Honourable William Samb reminded his people that, his government is “helping those who are not sitting around for help but helping those who are working to help themselves.”