First Landing at Sopu After 30 years

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


Joel Neva, after completing the English potato demonstration and planting in Ward 1 and Ward 2 in Woitape LLG, he was extracted back into Lae on the 25th of March 2017.

He flew back into Sopu with the Sopu, Tapini and Kailape potato seeds on 27th April 2017.
Potato Farming Enters Sopu - Joel Neva (2)
Goilala District Development Authority has funded potato funding project to be distributed and planted district-wide.

Entry into Sopu signals the completion of Woitape LLG and entry into Tapini LLG. With the National Elections fast approaching, the chances of extending the project into Guari LLG is very slim.

However, it the incumbent Open MP Hon William Samb retains his seat, this project seems very definite to spread into the rest of Tapini LLG and enter Guari LLG before 2017 ends.

Sopu people had the opportunity to be taught by Joel Neva, an experienced Didiman who has spent the last 4months walking the rugged terrains of Goilala.
Potato Farming Enters Sopu - Joel Neva (1)
Sopu people distributed their potato bags across to the neighbouring Iveiava and Lole and Lamanaipo villages.

The demonstration plot used at Sopu would be used as a guide by the locals to have their seeds planted.

Potato Farming Enters Sopu - Joel Neva (3)Joel was extracted on Friday 31st of March 2017 back into Lae to prepare for the Super Talapia fingerlings to be brought into Kosipe very soon.
Potato Farming Enters Sopu - Joel Neva (4)
Keep following this Blog for more updates on the Super Talapia story and other updates and current affairs stories from Goilala District.

Photo Credit: Joel Neva


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


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.

This morning, Goilala MP flew in to be shown the final stages of works done before opening.
The opening of this airstrip will coincide with the potato seeds that will be dropped off this weekend (most likely).


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.


 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.


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


TGM area, with areas around Tapini station up to Kerau are visibly having large areas without VSAT presence.

For anyone that don’t know, TGM has Digicel coverage, so is Tapini station.

Tapini station Tower feeds Tororo, Lavavai, up to Kerau and Koruavu and down Pilitu areas.

Minaru and Lolope with ilaiap villages are in the dark spots for coverage.

TGM feeds the whole of Auga valley.
Dilava is behind the ranges after Fane so Kodige gets a VSAT to help cover these areas.


General Information.. for all… curious minds out there


Sopu, in Tapini LLG’s Ward 3 was the latest addition to the Visat Project roll out Approved and Funded by Goilala District Development Authority under the reign of Goilala MP William Samb.

Ononge, Kambise and Yongai in Woitape LLG were completed last week and Sopu had its Visat installed and completed as of yesterday evening.

Kambisea and Ononge Visats were opened by Pangu Party Leader Sam Basil on 27th July 2016.

Yongai and Sopu Visats will be opened tomorrow – Sunday 30th July 2016.


Mt Kunama is a “forward base” along the Dubuy Highway which is used as a transit point to drop off and pick up cargo from Goilala into Port Moresby or from Port Moresby into Goilala.

As of this afternoon (9th July 2016) all 5 sites VISAT equipment is been moved to Mt Kunama.

Tomorrow, Ononge and Kambisea Visat equipment will be sling in.

Due to faults in Woitape Visat, Technical team will fly into Woitape in between the Ononge and Kambisea sling to restore the NBC signal on the Woitape Visat to enable the locals to be able to watch the third State of Origin.

Monday and Tuesday (11 – 12 July 2016), all visat equipment will be sling into locations – Omu, Sopu and Yongai. Omu Visat installation will start on Wednesday 13th July

The maximum days at each site – start to finish – should be 3 at least.

Sopu will start after Omu on 16th July 2016. 3 Days after Sopu, Yongai will start and Kambisea will be 3 days after Yongai. Ononge should be 3 days after Kambisea.

Assuming all goes to plan, all Visats should be up by 26th July 2016.

Photo Credit: Visat Installation Team moving visat equipment from Telikom earth station to Mt Kunama along Dubuy Highway.


5 closed airstrips in the Goilala District are expected to be functional by September this year.

Goilala Member William Samb is confident of this given the efforts put by Rural Airstrips Agency, a company responsible for maintenance and upkeep of all rural airstrips in PNG.

RAA through partnership with the local level government has already finalised scoping out as first phase of the airstrip restoration project in the district.

“Basically all the airstrips should be open for use even before September, Christmas is too late,” member Samb said.

The District Development Authority allocated K500,000 for repair, maintenance and re-opening of the Ononge, Yongai, Woitape, Sopu, Guari and Fane airstrips.

This project has been decided to establish a transportation link into the district while awaiting the road project that may take longer.

“Airstrip is the way to go now. We are fortunate because most of our existing airstrips past their minimum length.

“Today because of security and safety and everything, most aircrafts now need minimum 600m length,” Samb said.

He furthered that local response has been really good, where locals have taken ownership of the initial clean-up of the airstrip area.

The next trip into the district is for community consultative meeting with locals before teams are deployed to finalise the project leading to their reopening.

Once finalized, the next issue is to attract airlines to come into the district with regards to customers using the service.

He said limited passengers were the main concern raised by airlines who over the years have focused more on providing charter flights.

“They need customers going up and coming back so it’s economic viable,” he explained.

Picture source: Goilala District Development Forum Blog

Source: PNG Loop

Gloria Bauai


Apart from Tapini station which is the only center connection to the outside world [Port Moresby] via Goilala Highway [which Mona recently said it was called MONA HIGHWAY], all of Goilala District out stations and Mission station are connected to the outside world by Air Tranport.

Grassy airstrips on mountain tops and in swampy plains and on hill sides, scattered across the rugged terrain on this scarcely populated land mass called Goilala, the sight and sound of an aeroplane taxing in to touch down or taking off, is the only sign of progress in Goilala.

And when that noise and sight is absent, there is deem to be zero improvement on just about anything modern. Everything just deteriorate into extinction.

We have airstrip at Tapini, Kamulai, Guari, Kerau, Gane, Sopu, Kosipe, Woitape, Ononge, Fane, and Yongai.

Getting Tapini out of the equation, only Fane is fully functional due to mine activity at TGM. Woitape is operating by the thread, with nearby creeks flooding the run way, grass over growing and fencing all run down, and drainages systems blocked, it has been warned one too many times to do something or face closure.

Sopu, Kerau, Gane, Kosipe and Guari with Kamulai are closed. Ononge and Yongai only takes in charters but only once in a month or two.

SIL Light aircraft on the ground in Sopu Airstrip

Is anyone out there aware of this closures? Is anyone working towards opening these vital ports up? Why is it taking forever for someone to even realize with have transport issues?