NEW AIRLINE TO COMPLETE AGAINST AIR NIUGINI

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New aviation authority also proposed in PNG

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, March 18, 2009) – A group of Papua New Guineans, including a politician, plans to start a new airline in PNG using Boeing 767s and some Chinese-made aircraft, it was revealed yesterday.

Civil Aviation Authority insiders told The National yesterday that the aircraft were expected to arrive after the establishment of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Papua New Guinea (CASA PNG), which will be responsible for all aspects of safety regulations, airworthiness and licensing.

Under the proposed legislation expected to go before Parliament soon, the head of CASA PNG will report directly to the minister responsible for Civil Aviation – currently the Minister for Works, Transport and Civil Aviation, Don Polye.

The sources said the new airline would operate both passenger and freight services in direct competition to the national airline, Air Niugini.

The name of the new airline is being kept "close to the chest" of the proponents.

CAA boss Joseph Kintau confirmed in full page advertisements in the newspapers last week the proposed establishment of CASA PNG – a body similar to Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

The Australian body is renowned for its strict adherence to safety requirements and, from time to time, has recommended experts to work in PNG as safety regulators.

Meanwhile, PNG’s aviation safety procedures will come under the scrutiny of the International Civil Aviation Organistion (ICAO) beginning today.

The audit will end next Monday.

There is concern in the aviation industry that if PNG fails the test, one of the worst-case scenarios is that Air Niugini and some other airlines that fly to Australia may not be allowed to land there and to other Asian destinations like Japan and Singapore.

Amid all these, new information came to light yesterday about one of the four senior staff who was suspended from CAA last week.

Among those suspended was an information technology engineer who was penalised despite repaying K20,000 [US$7, 000] that was paid to him in error by the payroll staff.

The staff, named, realised that there was an overpayment in his account by K20, 000 and when he enquired, he found out it was supposed to be a transport allowance, so he did the right thing by returning the money.

He said yesterday he was unsure as to why he was suspended.

On another issue, it was revealed yesterday that several hundred staff of CAA were all paid out their entitlements before the organisation migrated into a company to be called PNG Airports Limited – which would be different from CASA PNG and PNG Air Services Ltd, which was set up last year to look after PNG’s airspace.

Documents made available to The National showed that many of the staff’s redundancy payments were much lower than what was originally agreed to between CAA, the staff association and signed by Mr Kintau in a deed of release.

For instance, one staff member was supposed to be paid a total take home pay of K95,847, [US$34, 500] however, he was paid only K60,174 [US$21, 600].

Another employee’s take-home pay was K76, 855 [US$27, 600] but the payroll staff only deposited K13, 853 [US$4, 900].

In another case, one staff member was supposed to collect K44, 224,[US$15,900] but he was shocked to see that only K29,804 was paid by payroll.

All the three staff members were supposed to continue working until next month when the transition takes place, like all the other 400-plus staff, however, they decided to argue on behalf of their silent colleagues as to why they were paid much less and hired a lawyer to sue CAA.

The three staff have been terminated and ordered to vacate CAA accommodation they were occupying in Port Moresby.

"We have been singled out because we decided to fight the corruption in CAA," they told The National.

"We are calling on the Government, the Om-budsman Commission and all other relevant authorities to look into our plight," they said.

Mr Kintau could not be reached for comments yesterday.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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