Ugh: Protestors Torch Air Niugini Plane

Filed Under: Other Airlines

There are many reasons we see airlines get into a situation where they have to write off a plane. The worst case scenario is that the plane has a major accident with passengers onboard. Other times there are instances where the plane has an accident on the ground without any passengers onboard.

And then you have this situation that occurred in Papua New Guinea today, which sure doesn’t happen often. Protestors in the town of Mendi torched a Dash 8 operated by Link PNG, a subsidiary of Air Niugini. The plane in question had the tail number P2-ANX, and started flying in 1997. Fortunately no one was onboard the plane when this happened.

The crazy thing is that the police were guarding the plane while all of this happened. According to RNZ:

Earlier the local police station commander Gideon Kauke had said police were guarding the aircraft to ensure there was no further damage after its tyres had been flattened.

But he said his team of about ten police couldn’t contain a mob of uncountable numbers, particularly after missiles were thrown, forcing them to retreat; “we were guarding the plane but compared to them we were outnumbered and they came in all directions, all corners. Missiles were thrown, bush knives were thrown.”

Mr Kauke said some of the protestors, who continue to behave menacingly in Mendi as their numbers build up, were carrying guns.

These protests were in response to a controversial political court ruling, with protestors alleging that there was foul play.

Air Niugini has been at the top of the list of airlines I want to fly, and I still hope to fly them through Port Moresby soon, enroute from Hong Kong or Singapore to Australia.

I’ve gotta be honest, prior to a few weeks ago, I wasn’t fully aware of just how dangerous Papua New Guinea is. Originally I had considered actually spending some time there because visiting Papua New Guinea sounds like it would be interesting, and at least in this part of the world you don’t often hear about the problems there. Once I found out how dangerous it apparently it is, I spent several hours reading articles about the things that have happened there.

Unrelated and totally insignificant, but doesn’t the Airways Hotel at Port Moresby Airport look pretty awesome for an avgeek?

  1. Is it dangerous? Yes, indeed it is. High crime rate, often targeting white faces. It’s interesting but most people only make it to Port Moresby ( urban AND dangerous). The more interesting places are in the interior and highlands and require significant motivation and time commitment.
    But as a taste, even 24-36 hours in Moresby is worth it; but it’s not a tourist destination by any stretch.
    You need to be on guard but probably won’t suffer the same fate as Michael Rockefeller ( Nelson’s son) .

  2. Have some friends who lived there for a few years, off the beaten path…they grew to love it there but it was rough on them. They did not want us to come visit…

  3. Having only been to the airport, I would not consider Port Morseby a “leisure” destination. The airport isn’t particularly dangerous though. Consider connecting through to Madang instead. It’s a popular destination for Japanese divers, with rather ridiculous warm waters during the summer. A lot of surfers also make it their home base for the surf north of Madang. Madang Resort probably has the best accommodations for Madang, definitely pony up for their Deluxe Rooms which were opened a year or two ago.

  4. Port Moresby is a destination with Australian prices without Australian quality or service. It’s an odd little place, which to me appears dysfunctional and out of sync. You’re so close to northern Queensland, but it’s a completely different world. It’s a kin to crossing the causeway from Singapore to Johor Bahru, and going “WTF?!”.

  5. Lucky you should totally go. I’ve been to PNG three times and spent at least a month each time and can highly recommend a few BnB in PM. Highlands are spectacular. They even have something like tiny kangaroos – it used to be connected to Australia. World class diving, volcanos…I think there is also a cruise ship these days from Oz. Yes, it is not Europe, but if you live in fear you can be killed by a car in the US. I saw sing sing in the highlands and been to 100+ countries but will always treasure this experience.

  6. Lucky, you best wait with your review for the new 787 that Air Niugini has on order, supposedly arriving this September. Current fleet for most international flights has retrofitted 767 and 737.
    PNG has its moments but in general is very safe. Big cities like Port Moresby and Lae should be visited with caution, but tourist areas like Kavieng, Rabaul and Hoskins are perfectly fine.
    The ‘don’t visit PNG’ comments come largely from people who have never set a foot into this amazing country. I’m living here since 1996, love that place.

  7. I go there a few times per year, and though the security situation is somewhat exaggerated, it is definitely not a place for novice travelers: you need to keep your wits about you.

    That said, Air Niugini is a decent airline, very safe, and many foreign pilots often contract with them for training on operations in “challenging” geography and airfields.

    POM is a rather functional airport on the international side, a disaster on the domestic side. Can be a bit boring if your connection is long, though the coffee shop is decent.

    Air Niugini often has very good fares to Australia if you can handle the connection

  8. I spent a month the on islands and inland on Sepik river and never had a problem. On islands is even safe walking by night alone. Fascinating destination. Would love go there again. Hope soon.

  9. I’m with Paolo. I have such a vivid memory back in 1994 (yes, 24 years ago) of telling my father that I was cashing in American Airlines miles to fly business class to Australia on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong and that the routing gave me the possibility for a stopover somewhere and I was considering PNG.

    It was one of the only times later in his life that my father lost his temper and immediately forbade me from stepping foot there exclaiming that his son was not going to be kidnapped by cannibals the way Rockefeller’s son had been.

  10. Just got back from Mt Hagen. We were scheduled to travel from Mt Hagen to Tari via Mendi but due to the plane burning Tari airport was closed so we changed our tickets and returned to Manila early. Never spent any time in Port Moresby but we’re told nothing to see and not to go out after dark. We went to Goroka to see local tribal people and were to travel to Tari.

    Air Nuigini is a decent airline for both long haul and domestic. We traveled in coach as their prices are high for business. I was very surprised at how new the aircraft were.

  11. PNG . White face =money=robbery.
    Better places to go in Australasia like Tahiti, Vanuatu, Cook Islands,Fiji

  12. Paolo is right. It’s a fascinating country. Go to Wewak and the Sepik River and see the fascinating civilisations. Stop off in the Highlands. As a language fan, you’ll love Pidgin (the national language: “in the unlikely event of an emergency landing” = “supos dispela balus him buggerup…”) and the 700 distinct indigenous languages. As an aviation geek, see if you can get a flight on the Missionary Aviation Fellowship ( — they do take guests (or used to: it was the most thrilling flight of my life). Is it a bit dangerous? Yes but most people are incredibly hospitable and looking after foreigners is much more common than attacking them. Definitely, go!

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