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.


As of 2pm today 2nd of July 2017, polling across Goilala’s 3 LLGs – Tapini, Guari and Woitape are either underway, or has winded down or will be concluding tomorrow -3rd July 2017.

Tapini LLG.
Chopper at Tapini

Tapini LLG’s 10 wards has completed 98% of its polling as of 2pm today. Pilitu 1 and Pilitu2, Jova Loloipa, Tapini urban, Ivani Ward 1 has completed their polling as of yesterday. This also include Ward 5 which is Kerau and Lavavai villages. Ivani Ward 2 and Ward 3 completed their polling today. Polling team extraction is expected to start for outter wards like Ward 2, 3 and 4. While Jova Loloipa and Pilitu 1 & 2 should have had their team returning into Tapini station today via road.

Guari LLG.

Guari Station
Guari Station

Guari LLG’s 4 Wards is believed to have completed their polling as of yesterday. Most of the teams have started moving towards Guari station where the extraction if expected to happen. Calling into Omu and Rupila ran out unanswered. We will continue to follow up to ensure this is confirmed and if polling teams has been extracted.

Woitape LLG

Woitape - From Hiri Moare Mountain
Woitape Station

Woitape LLG’s 9 wards got their teams dropped off as of Thursday 29th June 2017. Only ward 1 and ward 2 which is in Chirime got dropped off today – 2nd July 2017. The reason for the delay in dropped chirime teams off was primarily due to bad weather. With the drop of Chirime teams done, most of the teams according to Sources in Kosipe, Woitape, Tolokuma and Ononge, Kambisea and Yongai are slowing making their way back towards Woitape station or towards extraction points.

TGM polling team is at Mondo today. They should reach TGM this afternoon. Fane polling team is also in Belavista today. They make their way into Fane and conduct polling tomorow. Kodige also confirmed their team will be winding down end of tomorrow.

Kosipe source confirmed polling team is in Tanipai today. Team will reach Kosipe today and tomorrow should see polling conducted in Kosipe. And walk over to Yeme.

Ward 7 and Ward 8 also had their teams dropped off last week so polling teams should be heading back towards Ononge station and Kambisea respectively for extraction hopefully starting tomorrow.

Ward 1 and 2 in Chirime hopefully will complete their polling before Wednesday 5th July 2017. Should any changes happen inbetweeen, we will keep all updated.

One o the major frustrations out of this 2017 NGE in Goilala is that most eligible voters were turned away because they did not have their names listed on the common roll.

It is unknown whose fault is it that such is the case. Is this the fault of PNG Electoral Commission and their Update teams? Or is this the fault of the people who are supposed to check on the common roll to ensure their names are registered?

Either way, lets hope some solution is drawn out for this chaos and that solution is implemented by concern stakeholders and State Agencies.



Tapini Station
Goilalas participating on the game of Criticism on social media these day has brought about some pattern that is visibly obvious amongst us Goilalas who are actively using this platform to air our opinions online.

For example One.
Those of us who in the course of our individual history spent some stage of our life in Tapini station are forever vocal and active on social media raising issues and/or addressing issues both Goilala, Provincial and National issues. Putting that in percentages, it would be 90% of so called keyboard warriors.

Is that such a healthy trend?

Example Two.
Locals (those online) from Tapini and surrounding villages like Kovetapa, Lamina, Tatupit, Jova Loloipa villages and Pilitu village including Kone bridge always think the name Goilala District refers to them and them only.

Anything and everything that happens in Goilala must be centered on them and in Tapini.
Doing that elsewhere is legally illegal.

Example Three.
Tapini Highway is the only road that links up Goilala District, confirming Example 2.

I am calling Goilala Highway, Tapini Highway because its just what the name states. This road stops at Tapini station and extends to say Tororo and Lavavai villages. Not further than that.

And to those I referred to in Example 2, road transport is the only mode of transport service used by Goilala District people – reaffirming example 2 mentality (90% population).

I was born in Tapini hospital. Grew up in Tapini station. Was given land there which is still there been taken care of by relatives.
I also see this issue as explained in the 3 examples above.

But is such a healthy mindset, I ask myself.

Common sense tells me and facts support this, Tapini (station) is never, ever Goilala District and Goilala District is never ever going to be Tapini (station).

Let’s be mindful of that as we keep doing our thing for Goilala in our respective means and ways.

All in all, we Tapstone citizens will call a spade, a spade and a fork, a fork. And still, stand unmoved. We won’t deviate from that.

And am proud to be one of them.


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.



With the declaration for WOITAPE LLG President Election done, we now have reached the end of the long tiring road.

Every eligible Goilala voter who casted their votes during this National Council Election 2013 must be compliment for exercising their Democratic right as stipulated by the Constitution of this Nation – Papua New Guinea.

In every game, which obviously included politics, there is always one winner. And a looser. In this case, out of the many that contested in the respective Wards and Presidential Seat in Goilala District, we now have our winners – ward councilors and President elects.

Majority have spoken and so the minority have no choice but to go with what the majority have to say.

We hereby take this time out to congratulate all the winners – 23 Ward Councilors, and 3 LLG Presidents – for and on behalf of the Members of Goilala District Development Forum and Goilala Foundation Inc, on their Victory. You are leaders. Elected leaders. And we look forward to seeing some major improvements in the livelihoods of the people of Goilala, which will obviously be a direct result of the decisions you make.

We would like to also take this time out to thank those that tirelessly help us get updates coming through to me for posting here. They are…

Tapini Station.

1. Casmiro Maia.
2. Tony Avault
3. Solomon Aita
4. Francis Aia
5. Daniel Riolo

Woitape Station

1. Philip Kio – ARO
2. Jimmy Gulolo
3. Charles Anama
4. Kaita Linus
5. Allan Keno
6. Allan Fasi
7. Peter Yaria
And any one that feels they deserve a mention here for helping to get updates posted here and on our Blog and Forums.

We would like to thank all those kind GFI members who help especially our Tapini sources with flex top ups. You money was worth the expense.


So long as we are prepared to work together, we will get things done. And changes implemented.