By MALUM NALU
As Papua New Guinea celebrated 35 years of independence on September 16, the small Papua New Guinea community in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, also got together for a mumu for their motherland.
They included the small group of PNG pilots and their families based in UAE, as well as PNG women married to expatriates and now living there.
Among this small group of nationalists was Captain Timothy Narara, who only three days earlier, had made history by being the first Papua New Guinean to be licensed to fly the Airbus A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world, for Emirates Airlines.
|Captain Timothy Narara in the cockpit of the Airbus A380|
Ironically, his elder brother Granger, who is vice president of flight operations with another UAE airline Etihad, was the first Papua New Guinean to fly the A380 – which pilots call ‘The Beast’ – a couple of years ago but that was only a trial test flight with Airbus.
Timothy Narara has gone a step further than big brother by being licensed to fly passengers on the A380 to anywhere in the world.
|An Emirates Airlines A380 which Captain Timothy Narara is flying|
“The first flight I did was on the 13th of September,” he tells me on Skype from Abu Dhabi on Wednesday evening.
“I went to Heathrow Airport in London.
“I started the conversion course for the A380 on the 15th of August this year.
“Because I’ve been flying Airbuses for the last 12 years, the conversion to the A380 only took me about a month and a half.
“If you’ve flown an Airbus before, the philosophy is pretty much the same.
“I started the conversion course on August 15th and finished on September 10th.
“On the first flight which I did, there was an instructor with me.
“I went to Bangkok on September 20th and on the 29th of September 29th, did my final ‘check’ flight to Toronto.
“Once you complete your ‘check’ flights, you are by yourself and can fly anywhere in the world with a first officer.
“I went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, yesterday (Tuesday, October 5).
“My next flight in a couple of days is when I go to Beijing.”
The boy from Dobu, Milne Bay province, now aged 45, tells me that he should never have become a pilot in the first place, as he graduated as a second lieutenant from the PNG Defence Force Academy in Lae in November 1984 as an infantry officer.
|Timothy Narara (right) with fellow PNGDF pilot Eddie Nigea beside an Arava|
“I graduated from the Defence Academy as an infantry officer,” he laughs.
“Later on, I changed course, because there was an opportunity to become a pilot.
“I went to Melbourne for a course, I was lucky, I passed, and I stuck to that.
“There was an opportunity and I took it!”
Timothy Narara was born in Madang Hospital in November 1964, when his father was working there at the power station.
The family then moved to Kudjip in the Western Highlands shortly after as the father got a job with the Nazarene mission hydro station and Narara went to school in Banz until 1973 when the family moved back to Esa’ala in Milne Bay province.
“I completed primary School at Esa’ala primary school and continued grade 7 to 10 at Wesley High School on Fergusson Island, completing year 10 in 1980, then did year 11 and 12 at Sogeri National High School.
“I joined the PNGDF after completing year 12 in 1982.
“I was moved to Igam Barracks in Lae to do officers’ training at the PNG Defence Academy and successfully obtained a commission as a second lieutenant in November 1984.
“ I then was fortunate enough to get selected to attend a pilots’ course sponsored by the defence cooperation programme with Australia, and was sent down to Melbourne in 1985 for 12 months, returning to PNG rated on the Nomad aircraft in December 1986, and shortly after that started flying the IAI Arava.
“In 1987, I attended an instructor’s course in Australia which was completed and followed by a year of instructing at the RAAF Flight Training School in Point Cook, Australia.
“The Bougainville crisis was in full swing by this time so I returned to PNG in December 1990 and was deployed to Bougainville in early 1991 with my RATS comrades.
“Flying in Bougainville was one of the most-challenging times as we were often fatigued and under extreme pressure from all the elements, be it environmental, human or combat-orientated.
|Timothy Narara (left) and Paul Boga in an Iroquois helicopter in PNGDF flying days|
“The guys flew extremely well and we all came out pretty much intact.
“I left the comforts of the military as a major in June 1994 and joined Air Niugini as a first officer on the F28 and later on got my command on the Dash 8.
“In June 1998, I left Air Niugini and moved to the United Arab Emirates and joined my brother Granger, at Emirates Airline, in the United Arab Emirates.
“ I started on the Airbus A 310/A 300 as a first officer and at that time the airline only had about 30 airplanes, all wide bodies, and flew to about 40 or 50 destinations.
“I got my command two and a half years later on the A330 and also flew the A 340.
“To date Emirates has a fleet of 150 airplanes and growing, comprising of B777-200, B777-200LR, B777-300, B777-300ER, A330-200, A340-300, A340-500 and the A380-800.
“In September of 2010, I moved across to the A380-800 as a captain.
“The aircraft operates with a crew of two pilots and a total of 24 cabin crew and can carry up to 517 passengers seating 14 first class, 76 business class and 427 economy class.
“It is the largest passenger aircraft in the world.
“To date Emirates has 12 A 80-800 aircraft and should have 15 by the end of the year.
“Deliveries will begin again towards the end of next year until there are over 90 A380s.”
The good news for Papua New Guinea is that another PNG pilot at Emirates Airlines, Goroka boy Captain Locklyn Sabumei, will next month do the conversion to the A380.
Timothy’s elder brother, Granger, leads two other PNG pilots at the other UAE airline company, Etihad, who are Captain Hans Pederson of Bougainville (ex Air Niugini who flies the Boeing 777) and Captain Terry Togumagoma of Milne Bay (ex PNGDF who flies the Airbus A330/340).
But for now, life of good for Timothy Narara and his wife and Sogeri sweetheart Nellie, from Tufi in Nothern province, and their three sons.
|Batman...Captain Timothy 'Tico' Narara and wife Nellie in UAE|
“I want to do this for a couple of years and see how it goes.
“I can never tell the future, however, I’d like to come back to PNG someday, as I’m a citizen and I hold a PNG passport.”