From the Autumn 2004 The Storyboard by Mike Sweeney
Almost everyone is familiar with the spiel you hear at the beginning of a commercial flight, when the flight attendants stand up, point to exits, lights, “Fasten Seat Belt” signs and so on. Over here, flying on small airplanes with MAF or SIL, the “talk” is given by the pilot, and it’s often very different from what we have grown used to on the big jets. Following, please find a compilation of instructions that we have received from pilots over the years while getting ready for some bush flying:
Welcome everyone. For your own safety, please pay close attention to what I am about to tell you. There are three exits from our airplane. To open this door, pull out on this handle and then pull down. Near your seat over there, you can pull down on the lever over the window and the window will pop out. If that doesn’t work, reach under the pilot’s seat where we keep the fire extinguisher. Use the base of the extinguisher to smash any window out of the plane. I’ve tried just leaning back and kicking with my feet, but there’s not much room to maneuver and the fire extinguisher seems to be more effective.
There are supposed to be airsickness bags on board somewhere. We tend to get bucked around up there quite a bit, so if you can only find one, be prepared to share it with others.
Feel free to move around the cabin after I turn off the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign. However, since the “Fasten Seat Belt” sign is really a printed sticker up here on the dashboard, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to go out. And since the ceiling is only 4 feet high and there is absolutely no place for you to put your feet, it’s probably best to come to terms with remaining in that cramped position for the duration of the flight.
If, mid-flight, you find that you need to use the “facilities,” please assume the emergency “crossed-legs” position and maintain it until we land.
You are allowed to smoke on this flight – but only if you never exhale. All smoke must remain in your lungs until you get off the plane.
This plane does not have a pressurized cabin. If, to get around inclement weather, we need to climb above 10,000 feet, I am required to go on oxygen. Sorry, there’s not enough to share with the rest of you. If you experience some light-headedness, try to enjoy it and regard it as an ecstatic religious experience.
In order to approach our airstrip, we may need to fly out over the ocean. If something comes up and we need to ditch the plane in the water, please allow the cabin to fill with water before attempting to open the doors. Don’t be too concerned about this, since we have found that it normally only takes a few seconds for that to happen. While exiting the plane, do your best to notice the wide variety of tropical coral and fish we have here in PNG. And don’t thrash around in the water too much – it attracts sharks.
Mike was a Bible translator for the Mum language group. He also served as PBT’s Assistant Director of Language Affairs. He and his wife Linda lived in the village of Katiati. Their two boys, Christopher and Ryan went to school at the Ukarumpa International High School.