Marching into the PNGDF Air Transport Squadron in Lae as a young military pilot was beginning of an exciting flying career and lasting camaraderie with other airmen.
No experience but full of energy, we were assigned to a ‘B’ Flight which had the Nomad aircraft. The ‘A’ Flight consisted of DC-3 and the Israeli built Aravas. More like the seniors separated from the juniors.
Our job on the Nomads included border operations, VIP, courier runs and sometimes search and rescue. At times 2 co-pilots would take a Nomad for a training flight and were allowed to remain within 20nm off Lae Airport.
We would fly to Finschafen, Wau, Bulolo, Pindiu, Teptep to name a few and build our confidence.
The Squadron had Australian Defense Force personnel.
Mushroom Club, the name given to the bar at the hangar came to life every Friday and all soldiers, including officers, would leave their rank at the entrance and enter the club by their name. It was a tradition that bonded the unit and made it unique to the rest of the force.
The Air Transport Squadron had a fleet of DC-3s, Aravas and Nomads, all fixed wing aircafts and there was shortage of pilots and some, including myself, flew two different types.
I commanded a Nomad aircraft and would hop out and jump into a DC-3 as a co-pilot for another task on the same day.
Thirty four years of flying this year and there will be plenty more stories to be told.
- Paul Boga is a former PNG Defence Force pilot.