Burnt remains of flight CG1600
Burnt remains of flight CG1600. Image source unknown.

The recent crash in Madang has sent cold fear to potential clients of the airline. Without a doubt many people will not be looking to other alternatives given the company’s safety record. Could this be the catalyst for the company to fold?

The company was initially established as Milne Bay Airlines (MBA) and formally began operations in 1987. However, it was not long before their light aircrafts started having incidents and November 30 1991 was the first case when a crash occurred in Gurney Airport which saw five people hurt and the pilot suffered a broken leg. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.

However, December 15, 1992, proved fatal for 6 people including the expatriate pilot when the Norman Britten Islander they were travelling in struck a mountain near Alotau, Milne Bay Province. The in July 12, 1995, another disaster struck when a Twin Otter exploded and crashed shortly after takeoff from Gurney. This time the number of fatalities doubled, 15 people died and an investigation revealed a kerosene leak in the cargo section caused the explosion. However, the next year would prove more tragic.

On May 11, 1996, another Norman Britten Islander belonging to the company flew into a valley near Oumba, the pilot attempted to do 180 degree turn but it was too late, forcing the aircraft to crash into the trees. Only 1 passenger was killed. Unfortunately, a couple of months later, on July 9, a Twin Otter struck a mountain under cloudy conditions on approach to Mendi. 20 lives were lost.

3 more people died in 2004 as one of their Twin Otters crashed into the remote mountains of Goilala. The loadmaster, Nati Ario, survived. 2009 and 2010 also proved a bad year for the company as two more crashes were recorded during this period.

On August 29, 2009, flight CG4684 crashed under bad weather in the Owen Stanley Ranges near Kokoda Airstrip killing all 13 people on board. Then on January 20 a year later another accident occurs while an EMO Twin Otter tried to take off at Kikori Airstrip. There were no fatalities but the aircraft suffered extensive damage. Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come.

On Thursday October 13, flight CG1600 from Lae to Madang crashed in Marakum in the Rai Coast District. The plane, a Dash-8, carried 32 people, 28 of whom were passengers while 4 made the crew, went down and then exploded killing 28 people. The two pilots survived and so did a flight attendant and a passenger thanks to the efforts of the locals who rushed to the scene and managed to save them.

The crash not only has taken away lives but the people’s confidence and trust in the company. A good number of people have expressed openly that they will not fly with the airline again.

The chairman of the airlines, Simon Wild, has tried to reassure the public with a press statement released in the papers. However, the records paint a very scary picture and it will take time for people to regain confidence – something that may well effect the company’s operations and might become a catalyst for foreclosure.

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