By Gerard R. Ward, Susan W. Serjeantson
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Extra resources for And Then the Engines Stopped: Flying in Papua New Guinea
Clearly this had happened before. Heavy gear was re-stacked forward, and Bob was persuaded to get in with me. The pilot wound the trim as far as it would go. The propellers were started up, so their pull would hold the tail up. The pole was removed, and the plane stayed horizontal. Right as rain. ’ So we lurched forward, raced out onto the tarmac, turned onto the runway, and roared along. Yes, we had lift-off, we climbed slowly into the sky and sailed over the Owen Stanleys on a mill-pond day, and all was well in the blue sky over this magnificent country.
In one of those ironic twists of colonial history, the mission, having cut down all the pines on Huli sacred sites in order to mill them and build the church, had planted the same trees around their own sacred site. ’ laughed Blue. I presumed he was speaking of the priest. He was coaxing every knot he could get out of the plane and at 100 knots it began to fly. Blue flipped the flaps lever up and eased back on the controls. We cleared the tops of the pines with feet to spare. I saw spiders running for cover along their dew-soaked webs, as we flashed by.
We rocketed in to land, striking the ground, bouncing, coming to earth again, and rolling to a stop just at the top of the strip. The pilot clambered down, stumbled to the rear compartment and began dragging out the cargo. ‘Enjoy your climb,’ he said. ’ After we hired guides and began our ascent to the little grass resthouse whence we would climb to the summit of Mount Wilhelm the following morning, John said: ‘I hope I never again have the joy of being piloted by a drunk. He reeked of beer. I couldn’t help but smell it, sitting next to him.
And Then the Engines Stopped: Flying in Papua New Guinea by Gerard R. Ward, Susan W. Serjeantson