Meet Air Niugini’s longest serving employee and Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME), Alcan Mattiunga who has been with the airline for 45 years and continues to do what he knows and loves best.
From inside the airline’s engineering hangar, Alcan watched the Air Niugini fleet grow from a few DC3s to a fleet which has included Fokker 27 Friendship/F28, Dash 7/DHC8, Boeing 707, Airbus A310, Fokker F100/F70, Bombardier Q400 and Boeing B737 and B767 aircraft.
Alcan has been with the airline watching operations grow from a small domestic airliner to a now significant regional carrier operating flights to Australia, Asia and the Pacific.
LAME Mattiunga said Air Niugini has come a long way in its growth and development from when it first started to where it is now.
He said “A lot has changed for the airline over time from operations to commercial, training, recruitment, engineering and business processes and procedures. As new skills were developed with improved workplace practices, supported by the new technology, work has progressed and advanced a lot, resulting in greater efficiency and high productivity. “
When Alcan first started with Air Niugini Engineering, they use to refer all their work to the Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM), a bulky, heavy book which detailed the way in which all maintenance tasks on a specific aircraft must be carried out.
“The AMM contained information required to service, repair, replace, adjust, inspect and check equipment and systems on the aircraft.
We use to fly with the manual when carrying out maintenance at the outports. This, however is not happening anymore as all work is now computerized. We also see new, better hangar facilities and tools now than it was in the past.” Alcan said.
Being with Air Niugini for over four decades, Alcan knows the airline like the palm of his hand. He has successfully acquired several aircraft maintenance licenses under his belt including F28, F100/F70 as well as the B737.
As a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME), Alcan’s responsibility is to certify the correct state of systems maintained on an aircraft such as engines, hydraulics, autopilot, communications and radar. He is the sole attributor of safety when the aircraft is on the ground and gives approval to a Certificate of Release to Service, a legal document stating, clearing safety when he is certain that the aircraft is 100 percent safe to fly following maintenance.
Alcan said “While successfully acquiring aircraft maintenance licenses was my biggest achievement, the thing that satisfies me most is training and mentoring young Papua New Guineans to also pick up their licenses.”
“It’s important as it provides them the opportunity to further develop their skills, become more competent in their roles and prepare them for further growth and opportunities in the future.”
Alcan was only 18 when he first joined Air Niugini in 1978 after he was selected the previous year during an interview at a career week held at Rabaul High school, he was doing grade 12 then at Kerevat National High School.
In commencing with Air Niugini, he went straight into the airline’s four-year apprenticeship program, where Alcan spent the first two years (1978 to 1979) at Idubada Technical college, now Port Moresby Technical College. Another two years were spent at Leonard Isitt Aviation Training centre in Christ Church, New Zealand. After successfully completing his training in New Zealand, Alcan was certified as an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME), specialising in Engine Maintenance.
“I worked for three years as an AME before picking up my first license in 1985 to certify for maintenance on the F28 engine category thus making me a Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (LAME).
“Between 1985 and 2022(current), I picked up a total of four licenses, apart from F28, I also attained F100, F70 and the B737 licenses. I am certified to sign Release To Service (RTS) on these aircraft fleets.
Three years after acquiring his first license (1988), Alcan worked as Station Engineer based in Wewak.
From Viviran village in Gazelle Electorate, East New Britain Province, LAME Mattiunga is a product of late Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s vision in 1975 where he emphasized the need for Papua New Guineans to be engineers, pilots, doctors, lawyers, accountants and professionals in their own country. Mattiunga was among young Papua New Guineans who were too glad to be part of that vision and to make it a reality.
“PNG was a fairly new sovereign nation and as a young Papua New Guinean coming out of colonial rule to work in a professional field wasn’t easy. But some of us took the challenge head on, we want to make that vision a reality.
“As a Papua New Guinean working for the national airline at that time, I was very proud and I am still today.” Mattiunga said
Alcan said employees are more likely to stay with a company if they believe in the work they’re doing and feel that their work is recognized and appreciated, adding that having a job sustains families and provide security for their welfare.
His word to young Papua New Guineans out there who maybe dreaming of becoming an aircraft engineer one day.
“Becoming an Aircraft engineer is not easy, it’s a demanding job that requires great responsibility, but always remember that nothing is too hard when you set your mind to it.”
“Set your priorities right, ensure honesty, reliability, commitment, discipline and show respect to your co-workers, whoever they are in whatever positions. Finally, always be guided by rules/regulations that are in place.” Alcan said
Alcan was only 18 when he first joined Air Niugini, he is now 62. As the company turned 49 years yesterday , Tuesday 01st November, 2022 Alcan said the option for retirement may not be far off.
LAME Mattiunga acknowledged his wife, Helen and the three children for their support over the years.
“ I wouldn’t have made it here without my family’s support and of course, Air Niugini, a great airline company to work for. Air Niugini gave me everything, which I am forever grateful. “Alcan conclude