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27 March 2016

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I agree with the description of Tapini's scary airstrip.

It's the closest thing to involuntary wetting-of-the-pants take-offs and landings I've ever experienced.

And that includes Damascus airport in early May 2011 - 5-6 weeks into the Syrian 'revolt' against Bashar al-Assad with machine guns pointing every which way.

As Bill describes, pilots had to make a steep turn between mountains just to align the aircraft with the Tapini landing strip on the way in.

Departure was just as fraught. There we were huddled in this little twin-engined light plane - I don't think it was a push me-pull you Piaggio, but it might have been - as the pilot gunned the motors to full throttle.

Off down the bumpy strip we roared and just cleared the end of the runway to make the reverse sweeping turn into the valley for the flight home. Not for the faint-hearted or those with a fear of flying.

I think it was 1966 or 1967 when we were in Tapini. A bloke called Anderson was the kiap in charge at the time. He was super keen on a cold drink at the end of the day, and well into the evening as well.

Good day Bill - I was reading about rural airstrips still operating in Goilala today and came across the following website which has some very good colour pics of events in the area and plenty of isolated airstrips etc.

You may already be aware of it but well worth visit at https://goilala.wordpress.com/archives/

Any other folk interested in their old stamping ground may also be interested.

Bill - What incredible experiences you are sharing with us and providing meat for historians at the same time.
Enjoyable reads all of them. Already waiting for the next episode.

45 years ago, when I was a very junior kiap, I was posted to Baimuru in the Gulf of Papua.

There I made the acquaintance of a couple of "old timers", Col Ryman and Adrian Van Pelt, who jointly ran the splendidly named but distinctly down market Gulf Hotel. Naturally, this was the favoured destination for a well deserved after work or after patrol beer.

It was from Col that I first learned of the infamous Clarry Healy. Col evidently knew Clarry from the time when he was ADO at Beara, by then a long abandoned patrol post.

Despite my close interrogation, Col would never tell me why Clarry, obviously a very experienced kiap, had been consigned to a place like Beara, buried as it was in the vast sago swamps of the Gulf.

Now, Bill has revealed the truth about Clarry's demotion. It seems to me a rather minor offence to give alcohol to someone so I suspect that Clarry's own heavy drinking may have played no small part in the thinking of those who decided to demote him.

While heavy drinking amongst Europeans was common in PNG (and probably still is), a kiap with a serious drinking problem may have been judged to constitute an unacceptable risk to good order and governance in remote areas.

Trying to divine what the powers that be were thinking 65 years ago is, of course, mere speculation on my part. But I reckon my surmising is at least plausible.

In any event, Clarry Healy's various doings while under the influence of alcohol have long since entered the realms of legend, so divining what the truth may be is probably a task beyond even the most diligent historian.

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