By Gerard R. Ward, Susan W. Serjeantson
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Extra resources for And Then the Engines Stopped: Flying in Papua New Guinea
Most of our group were in, with the gear, and Bob and I were to go in last, when the plane tipped back with the load and sat on its tail on the tarmac. It was a strange and enigmatic sight, with the nose pointing up at the clouds. Bob immediately said he had seen 71 Christmases and would take his 72nd wherever he had to, but he was not going on that plane. But the pilots up there had to be good, many had been in Vietnam, and all was to be solved. Someone brought a pole, to prop the tail and restore the plane to horizontal, not a bad attitude for a plane at all.
My geographer colleague John Street and I were flying from Kundiawa to Kegsugl, planning to climb Mount Wilhelm. It worried me a bit when we were already sitting inside a Cessna on the Kundiawa strip and the pilot, a plump young Australian, squeezed in one extra passenger beyond the usual load of the plane. ’ he mumbled. I couldn’t help but wonder about our landing on Kegsugl’s strip, at 2,600 metres, just below the limits of cultivation on the slopes of Mount Wilhelm. Could the plane, coming in fast and heavily loaded, make a safe landing?
From the Gap, far away in the distance to the east, they had seen the coronetted peaks of Giluwe, and had known how to get home. I glance at Blue. He is sitting upright in his seat, looking intensely at the mountain. This is not the time, and I am not sure he is interested in history. I too look at the mountain. How long before we reach the point of no return? I can’t turn the knots into miles per hour in my head, nor do the divisions to work out how many miles per minute we are doing. I wonder if Blue knows about the first plane to fly through the Gap.
And Then the Engines Stopped: Flying in Papua New Guinea by Gerard R. Ward, Susan W. Serjeantson