Granger Narara: My father, my ‘Man of Honour’

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Granger Narara: My father, my ‘Man of Honour’

In the first part of Granger Narara’s speech to recipients, family friends and sponsors of Digicel Foundation’s Men of Honour gala night, he acknowledged the invitation to be guest speaker at the event.

During the gala ‘black bowtie only’ event, held at Stanley Hotel in Port Moresby on the night of Saturday April 29, he also spoke about his “most memorable moment” when he highlighted his 41 year flying career.

The memorable moment occurred on March 30th, 2013 and was the flight He conducted on an A330 from Abu Dhabi to Brussels, Belgium with his son Nigel as my co-pilot.

“It is the most surreal experience when you have to operate at a very high technical level that requires strict professional protocols, with your little boy, who you saw being born, and in fact he was born not far from here in Moresby General Hospital in July, 1983.

Nigel flew the aircraft to Brussels, it was very cloudy and the winter weather was still around Brussels, the cloud base was quite low with calm winds and freezing temperatures. We were in cloud and being vectored by the radar controller at about 5000 feet with a speed of about 250 knots.

In my estimation I felt we were a starting to get a bit high and fast, so I said “ I think you’re getting a bit high”… The reply I got from Nigel was classic, I have never heard it in an airplane before in my life and probably will never hear it again, he looked at me and said “ It’s OK Dad, don’t worry, I have it under control’ …  I usually hear something like “yes captain” or see the other pilot making a correction action, but “It’s OK Dad”  this was totally non-aviation phraseology.  … I was caught off guard, but smiled and watched the show. Needless to say he did a magnificent job and we rolled out on final approach still in cloud, but on speed and on profile. We broke out of the cloud at about 600 feet, runway straight ahead of us and continued for a perfect landing.

Reflecting back, I realised that I would have probably had the same reaction and done exactly the same thing had I been questioned, Nigel was a confident pilot, had good handling skills and understood the aircraft well, he must have had a good role model!! “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”

In this second part of his speech Granger Narara acknowledges his late father as his ‘Man of Honour’, and how he became and “Oz-tranaut” which started his flying career.

Captain Granger continues …

Now, we can see that it may have been relatively easy for Nigel to follow my footsteps as I am a pilot, so his progression was natural. In my case, it was totally different as my father was a humble carpenter, with a Grade 3 education, what could I have learnt from him you may ask … Well, my late father, who has always been my Man of Honour, gave me the confidence, the tools and a life template that I have worked with to achieve what I have.

I was born in 1959 in Salamo, Milne Bay, and yes I used to be a Size 28 once.   My father, is from Fergusson Island and my mother is from Dobu Island, right next door, so as they would say in Texas, I am 100% Certified Milne Bay meat!! Anybody here from Milne Bay??

We lived in Samarai and my father moved to Madang in 1963 to work in the power house. This was quite a few years before Air Niugini, so we went by boat on a two-day trip on the steamer “Bulolo”. In the early 60’s, a major move like this for a Dobuan family would have been similar to a trip to the other side of the world. But at least there were some Dobuans living in Madang, so it wasn’t too bad.

But then in 1965 my father was recruited by the Church of the Nazarene to build a hospital in the Wahgi Valley of the Western Highlands at a place called Kudjip. I noticed that earlier this month the Kudjip Nazarene Hospital celebrated their 50th anniversary, this hospital has been doing an excellent job serving the people of the Mid Wahgi. I am blessed to have been associated with such a fine institution.

Now if moving to Madang was like going to the other side of the world for Dobuans, heading into the Highlands in 1965 would have been like going to the moon. There were no Dobuans there, it was totally foreign in every respect, the language, the food, the weather, … but my father saw the advantages for our family, seized the opportunity, picked up his very young family, I was 6, my sister was 3 and my brother Tim was 1… and off we went.

By doing so, my father had shown me the skill and fortitude of not being afraid to move out of your comfort zone if you feel that you will gain from doing so. He showed me to make sure I had a backup plan and the qualities of hard work and perseverance to make your plan come to fruition. My uncle and a few other Dobuan carpenters soon followed in my Dads footsteps and before long we had a great little Dobuan community at Kudjip.

I did the exact same thing in 1991 when I took my young family of two boys 7 and 2, and moved them to Dubai in the Middle East, just after the first Gulf War.

In those days, this was like moving to the moon… sound familiar? I was the first Papua New Guinean to work in that country, the UAE, and had to even show the immigration department where it was so they could enter it into their database. The airline I chose to fly for was very small, only five planes, and had an uncertain future due to the war, but I was confident and knew this was the right move. That airline, Emirates is now the biggest airline in the world with over 250 wide body aircraft and 5,000 pilots. The gamble paid off, my own brother and many other PNG pilots soon followed.  The similarities to the string of events my father had instigated in 1965 are compelling.

My father had left me a good template of life and I had learned my lesson well. What kind of Template are you leaving for your children and those that look up to you?  Are you leaving them something that they can be proud of one day, something they can follow to bring success. Remember “little brother is always watching you”.

I did all my education in the Highlands, Primary School at Banz in the Wahgi Valley and High School in Ukarumpa near Kainantu.  After the completion of the Nazarene Hospital my father and all my family moved back to Milne Bay in 1971, however a Nazarene Missionary family, Wallace and Mona White asked if they could look after me and sponsored my High School education. Those high school days were some of the best days of my life and thanks to Facebook and my international flying I am able to stay in close contact with many of my high school friends. I finished High School in 1976, the year after PNG got its Independence, and both of us set out to make our mark in the world. A new country and a new adult.

 I moved back to Hagen where the Whites were living and was working for a car workshop called Kaiwe Motors based in Wara Kum driving a purple tow truck, very happy with my K45 per fortnight, when the opportunity to go flying through a PNG CAA scholarship was taken. I had never actually chased the flying dream, it was expensive and beyond reach … but thanks to my American missionary parents, they guided me through the selection process and I got accepted for the flying scholarship.

I left PNG shores for the first time in my life in 1977 at 17 years of age, with the likes of Joe Kumasi, Francis Pohonelan, Simon Naua and others to learn to fly at Cessnock in NSW at the Nationwide Aviation Space Academy, NASA. Yes the exact same name as the US version, though they actually went to the moon, we were doing controlled crash landings on earth most of the time. We were affectionately known as  “Oz” tranauts to other flying schools in Australia.

After completing our pilot licences, we returned to PNG to take up roles as First Officers on F27 aircraft in April 1978. I then spent 12 blissful months flying out of Rabaul in 1978/9 and absolutely loved it. It was a magical time. Many years later in 2013, I was sent by my current employer Etihad to be the General Manager of Air Seychelles for three years, arriving on Mahe Island I felt like I was stepping back in time to those days in Rabaul. The similarities were astounding, the pace of life, the mountains and even down to the smell of frangipanis on the breeze, it was a great stroll back in time for me.

In the third and final part of Granger Narara’s speech, he tells of his experiences and how a small group of Papua New Guineans pioneered flying in the early days. He also tells how his second son Duanne has pursued a different career and now lives in China.

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Granger Narara: My father, my ‘Man of Honour’