Feature

Fijian Pilot Leaves For PNG Job After Being Stranded For Four Months

He is a first officer on a HeavyLift Cargo Airlines aircraft that operates in Papua New Guinea gold mines.
06 Jun 2020 09:57
Fijian Pilot Leaves For PNG Job After Being Stranded For Four Months
Alipate Vasutoga and wife, Veronica Turaga, at the Nadi International Airport on June 5, 2020. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

Alipate Vasutoga returned to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea yesterday to resume work there after being stranded here for four months because of COVID-19.

The Nadroga lad was among 107 passengers onboard the Air Niugini Boeing 737 repatriation flight.

He is a first officer on a HeavyLift Cargo Airlines aircraft that services Papua New Guinea mines.

Mr Vasutoga was among the 26 non-PNG nationals who were on the flight.

They are pilots, engineers, cabin crews, and those who work in the financial sector there.

“I have been here for four months now in Fiji and I have gotten used to waking up late and sleeping in late,” he laughed.

His wife, Veronica Turaga, who had spent 17 years with the Fiji Airways was among the cabin crew who were terminated.

Mr Vasutoga said: “I have been looking forward to returning to work, as it means a lot to my family.

“My wife has been laid off and I am the sole breadwinner.

“I have to look after the family now. I am not sure for how long my work will continue.”

The father of four added that he normally gets 28 days off after working 28 days and returns to Fiji but with the COVID-19 pandemic his vacation was extended.

“It might change from four weeks to four months but we just have to work,” said Mr Vasutoga who has 17 years of experience as a pilot.

Experience

He worked for Air Fiji until it closed in 2009 and then moved on to Pacific Sun doing a three-year stint and got a job in PNG in 2012.

“I enjoy PNG a lot and it is more challenging,” he said.

He thanked the Fijian Government and PNG for allowing the flight to go ahead.

Meanwhile, 26 Fijians came onboard the flight to Nadi.

They are all under self-quarantine in Government-funded facilities.

Another repatriation flight by a Nauru Airlines Boeing 737-300 also left for Nauru yesterday carrying 68 passengers.

Fiji Airways with an Airbus A350-900 freighter and Air New Zealand with an Airbus A321 also operated international flights at Nadi yesterday.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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