Nomad traces the fortunes of an aviation company conceived and established around the time of Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975. That period of the country’s aviation history involved a struggle on the part of new operators to establish themselves alongside those already in existence, and the latter were experiencing major difficulties in the changed climate. There were no ‘Queensberry Rules’ – the gloves were off.
Papua New Guinea’s history has often been one of violent and cannibalistic tribal conflict, and in the immediate post-independence period, this element penetrated the business communities, both local and expatriate, to some degree. Indeed, the ‘pay-back system’ is as alive now as ever.
Mountain flying requires considerable training, and nowhere is this more the case than in P.N.G. Tropical weather and commercial pressures place most pilots in very stressful situations at times. And because of P.N.G.’s remoteness, a free house, furniture and health-care were all parts of a normal employment contract in those days. So, a company manager often ended up as trainer, employer, parent, confidant and marriage counsellor to members of his or her staff, and to their respective families.
This is the story of Independent Aviation Transport, the first one-hundred-percent locally-owned aviation company in Papua New Guinea. It was also the first commercial purchaser of the Australian-built, gas turbine-powered, Nomad aeroplane. The rapid development of the IAT Company created a lot of resentment and jealousy… and that is just a part of the story.
The arrow took Hairy high in the left shoulder, throwing him hard against the wall of his servant’s quarters. Along with a sharp stab of pain he felt the cassowary-bone barbs settling into his flesh. The metre-long cane shaft aggravated the wound with his every movement and, with teeth tightly clenched, he snapped it off. Another arrow just missed his head. It shattered the fibre-cement panel behind him. His mind was working overtime.
‘This isn’t a burglary. It’s a bloody set up… Please! A gun! Or at least a baseball bat… Shit, an arrow – the low bastards.’
Be buggered, he thought, they weren’t going to take control away from him. He’d started this company and by God he wasn’t letting go.
As the plane slipped through the last gap in the rugged mountains on descent into Hagen, Hairy thought how much he loved flying. Mount Hagen lay just ahead bathed in brilliant sunlight, which was unusual for this time of day. The weather had rained itself out west of the town but to the east the thunderstorms were black and ominous, giving the sunlit valley a spectacular backdrop. Hairy loved this descent, with 170 knots on the clock, staying just a couple of hundred feet above the sloping ground as it fell away in front of him. It reminded him of his skiing days, zipping in and out of the moguls, back home in New Zealand. The approach into Hagen he knew like the back of his hand.