13 Aug 2009

Poor airstrips seen as factor in PNG plane crash

5:32 pm on 13 August 2009

A lack of investment in rural airstrips in Papua New Guinea may have been a factor in the crash which killed 13 people on Tuesday.

Nine Australians were among those killed when the Airlines PNG charter flight crashed in the Owen Stanley Ranges.

Warren Bartlett, the former executive officer of the Kokoda Track Authority, says the Civil Aviation Authority should be doing more to maintain rural airstrips like Kokoda, which currently have no cone markers or radio navigation beacons.

He says that could have contributed to the accident which reportedly occurred after the Twin Otter aircraft, circled overhead and headed back.

"Papua New Guinea Civil Aviation Authority needs a kick up the backside and tell them to get their act together and sort all these rural airstrips out. They completely neglect the rural airstrips, if they are not up to standard they should be closed down. Kokoda is satisfactory provided the grass is cut and provided we get some cone markers in there to make it easier for the aircraft to be able to identify it, if it is slightly misty."

Warren Bartlett says the Civil Aviation Authority and provincial and national governments all deny the rural airstrips are their responsibility.