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Today's quote:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Flying high

Air Niugini tee-shirt, Port Moresby, 1974
still with laundry mark "15" for my room in the Pilots' Mess at Six-Mile


On November 1, 1973, AIR NIUGINI commenced operations as the national airline of Papua New Guinea, taking over the internal services of Ansett Airlines of Papua New Guinea and TAA.


Vale, Ralph Conley


AIR NIUGINI's first general manager, Ralph Conley, hired me in May 1974 to set up the airline's internal audit department, located at ANG House on a hill overlooking the city of Port Moresby and its harbour. I was billetted in the former TAA Mess at Six-Mile which accommodated AIR NIUGINI's pilots and also provided the in-flight catering, all supervised by a young Swiss chef who became my neighbour and friend ("Grüezi!" - if you read this, please contact me at riverbendnelligen@mail.com).



Papua New Guinea in those pre-Independence days was full of expatriates who under the immigration law had to be in possession of an open return air ticket at all times. Those tickets had been bought from AIR NIUGINI and in most cases would not be used for several years. AIR NIUGINI, being a member of IATA, also sold tickets to any destination in the world without flying to any overseas port other than Cairns and Honiara. They collected the money and only had to part with it after the overseas airlines had presented them with the used ticket coupon through what is known as the Interline Billing System which in those pre-computer days could take months. In the meantime, AIR NIUGINI "sat" on all that money from open return tickets and uncollected overseas fares and earned good interest on it! A very good business indeed! But imagine my surprise when during an audit I discovered that AIR NIUGINI's accountants at Six-Mile were routinely including all that unearned money as INCOME in their current Profit & Loss Statement! My report caused quite a flurry (and red faces) in the accounts department!


My office was in Port Moresby's imposing ANG House but I was seldom there,
with my work taking me all over Port Moresby and indeed all over the country


AIR NIUGINI had absorbed many of the previous staff from Ansett and TAA and there were many internal conflicts. One day, for example, an ex-Ansett flight attendant was assigned to an ex-TAA F27 and obstinately refused to open the door after a landing at Wewak. According to the regulations of her previous company, this was the responsibility of the traffic officer on board. The traffic officer, an ex-TAA man, had been trained differently and, in any case, had other things to do. He refused to open the door. The argument pretty well covered the subject of responsibility and competence. Fortunately, it remained at the verbal level, but it is reported to have lasted more than 15 minutes while the passengers roasted in the cabin under the sizzling sun.


Post-Courier, 5 March 1975



The politics and jockeying for positions permeated most departments, including finance and administration, and internal auditing under those circumstances was not a pleasant task. I left before I could explore the deepest depths of the human character and just after Christmas 1974 (which I spent on a beach in Lae, blissfully unaware that Cyclone Tracy had just wiped out Darwin) flew out to Rangoon in Burma to take up the position of Chief Accountant with the French oil company TOTAL - Compagnie Française des Pétroles who had begun drilling for oil in the Arakan Sea. I stopped over in Hong Kong where the company had booked me into the swank PENINSULA Hotel who met me at the airport with a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce. I hadn't expected this nor had they expected to meet a young chap straight out of New Guinea, in shorts and tee-shirt, carrying a swag over his shoulder. But that's a story for another time!



Googlemap Riverbend


P.S. To read old issues of AIR NIUGINI's In-flight magazine PARADISE, click here. For the latest issue in pdf format, click here.