By James Mesko
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Extra info for Airmobile: The Helicopter War in Vietnam (Vietnam Studies Group Series 6040)
Gliders carrying small tractors were flown in to construct the airstrip and these aircraft and the equipment were still there in 1958. At the aircraft parking area in Telefomin there is a monument to the two Patrol Officers who were killed by headhunters in 1957. There was only a small window of opportunity when one could safely operate into this mountain region. In the next valley to Telefomin was Eliptamin, which was only ten minutes flying west along the Eliptamin Valley, through a narrow gorge, then east along the Telefomin Valley.
The only light I could see in that desert wilderness was from a few houses in the very small town. Someone who had heard me overhead drove to the landing paddock but did not switch off his headlights. While landing I did not see the fence until it was too late to abort the landing; however, I must have managed to lift the aircraft slightly as later we could not fit the aircraft between the fence posts to get it back into the larger paddock where I was supposed to have touched down. There were only a few small scratches on the propeller and I mangaged to take off again at first light next day.
I applied for a job as an apprentice mechanic with the Royal Aero Club of South Australia just to be around aircraft. When I started there my weekly wage was five pounds a week (about $10 in today’s money), but unfortunately flying lessons were two pounds twenty pence an hour, so there was no way I could afford to take them. I heard that there was a sailplane club at Gawler that charged forty pence a launch, usually a five-minute flight. So I rode my pushbike the 40 kilometres there and then back again every weekend to take glider-flying lessons with Brian Creer.