8-Aug-2013 Source: HeliHub.com
A helicopter operator in Papua New Guinea has suspended all flights in a particular area after a pilot and crew were held up and robbed by a gang. Heli Solutions will no longer fly in the Kagua district in PNG’s Southern Highlands after the incident which happned while they were on a task supporting the local Electoral Commission. The contract involves transporting electoral officials and the completed voting papers.
The pilot, company CEO Phil Emeck and a colleague were held up by around thirty gunmen last Wednesday at the remote Katiloma Bible Mission station. He had stopped for fuel en route from Sembirigi and Marorogo to base at Mount Hagen after dropping off officials, ballot papers and boxes.
The gang demanded K10,000 (approx US$4,200) or they threatened to damage – or even burn – the 407. On offering them K1,000 the gang said that was insufficient and suggested they hold his colleague while he flew to Mount Hagen to get the rest of the money. Emeck gave them another K5,000 (US$2,100) which he had brought with him to buy timber. The gang considered this for some time and them left with the money and allowed the helicopter to leave.
Heli Solutions is a relatively new operator, receiving its Air Operators Certificate in early December 2011. Since then they have grown their fleet to the current size of three Bell 407s. The company was started by two ex PNG military pilots, Phil Emeck and James Pima.
Graham Stevens – HeliHub.com Australasia correspondent