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PNG Tourist Plane crash

Papua New Guinea Air Crash underscores past failure

Aug 16, 2009

The Twin Otter that crashed into typically tough Owen Stanley mountains created a tragedy that has shocked Australians and also saddened many Papua New Guineans.

The loss of 13 lives is sad in any circumstances. The flight was aimed at bringing a life-shaping achievement for many on the plane.

Kokoda Track is a name that increasingly wrings the emotions of Australians. It draws about 6000 trekkers every year, people who are old and young, white and black, experienced walkes and rookies, who are drawn to reliving the experience of the wartime soldiers.

It is nearly as emotive to Aussies as Gallipoli, another dreadfully bloodied battleground of an earlier war. Gallipoli is a huge drawcard and almost a tourism icon, but Kokoda has become a progressively strong lure to Australians and others who are imbued with the heroism of part-time soldiers who were flung into battle with no tropical jungle experience.

Their heroism was rivalled by that of the Papua New Guinean scouts and carriers who were, largely, press-ganged into body-sapping chores up and down the mountains.

Tuesday’s plane crash will be investigated thoroughly. Australia has sent a team of four to assist our own officials in probing the accident.

Already there are queries arising in Australian minds as to the general safety of our aviation standards. There can be no blame game about Tuesday’s crash at this stage, it is far too early to blame machine, people or the elements.

But our aviation "skeleton in the cupboard’’ is the neglect by authorities of the need to do proper crash investigations of 19 aircraft crashes since the year 2000.

It appears that many of those crashes were not investigated, purely because our governments did not allow enough money for the probes to be done. A new institution was established last year with several well-credentialled members to begin the task of checking those past crashes. We have heard very little since the inception of the organisation.

We can be sure that the families and relatives of the dead passengers and crew of this week’s Twin Otter crash will want to know what happened on this occasion.

We must hope that being in the spotlight for this sombre reason will ensure that the Government will finance the investigations and ensure that such a bureaucratic lapse can never happen again. Our country is so heavily dependent on air transport that we cannot afford to let the politicians neglect our travelling safety.

We hope

Papua New Guinea Air Crash underscores past failure

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