It was in May 2017.
I was with some members of Lae media on our way back from Finschaffen after the coverage of Sir Michael Somare’s visit his to old school, Dregahaffen.
Upon boarding a North Coast Aviation single engine plane, I was seated next to Late Captain Thomas Kendip. I pretended to be his co-pilot.
Our conversation that morning was unlike other trip we had together. He spoke with authority instructing me of what to touch and what not to touch or step on.
It reminded me of mid 90s at the Lutheran Mission along Malahang Road in Lae where Thomas used to ply the role of big brother. He had commanded respect whether it was soccer or anything to do with Lutheran Church.
I recall as the plane ascended into the air, the experience I had in flight with late Thomas.
It was on the maiden trip of NCA’s P2-Sam “Spirit of Bulolo. ” He slowed the plane and landed at Sim Airstrip in Garaina, Bulolo District.
The other time was on a trip to Lae from Yus LLG of Kabwum District he took a short cut between the mountains right on top of a river during a cloudy day. This experience prompt me to ask: “Captain Kendip what made you a good pilot and are you afraid of taking the risk of flying everyday?”
With a big smile on his face he replied; “Small Bro, you from the south coast of Morobe you and your people deal with sea in good times and bad times. So do I.
“I’m from the rugged mountains of Kabwum, I know how to deal with mountains, clouds and even thunder storms.”
He concluded by saying; “The job I’m doing is my service to my people that’s why I decided not to fly big airlines. I shall be called by the Lord peacefully and not by a plane crash and I’m not afraid of death when flying.”
Few months later while in Madang filming a documentary I was shocked with the news of his passing. I knew it was not a plane crash, as I trusted Thomas more than any pilots.
It was confirmed that his health has failed.
God gave us life and he takes back his life in his own timing. The life of Late Captain Thomas Kendip to me was like “a simple star.” He grew up as settlement boy with a strong Christian faith.
He flew over some of the most dangerous terrain. He was a “ stunt bush pilot.” He maintained his Lutheran faith till his death.
Rest In eternal peace Awong!