PLES BALUS traces the fortunes of an aviation company conceived and established around the time of Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975. That period of the country’s aviation history involved a struggle on the part of new operators to establish themselves alongside those already in existence, and the latter were experiencing major difficulties in the changed climate. There were no ‘Queensberry Rules’ – the gloves were off.
Papua New Guinea’s history has often been one of violent and cannibalistic tribal conflict, and in the immediate post-independence period, this element penetrated the business communities, both local and expatriate, to some degree. Indeed, the ‘pay-back system’ is as alive now as ever.
Mountain flying requires considerable training, and nowhere is this more the case than in P.N.G. Tropical weather and commercial pressures place most pilots in very stressful situations at times. And because of P.N.G.’s remoteness, a free house, furniture and health-care were all parts of a normal employment contract in those days. Consequently, a company manager ended up as trainer, employer, parent, confidant and marriage counsellor to members of his or her staff, and to their respective families.
This is the story of Independent Aviation Transport, the first one- hundred-percent locally-owned aviation company in Papua New Guinea. It was also the first commercial purchaser of the Australian-built, gas turbine-powered, Nomad aeroplane. The rapid development of the IAT Company created a lot of resentment and jealousy... and that is just a part of the story.