Pioneer aviator and former Eastern Highlands Governor passes on

Malcolm Kela Smith, the owner of Pacific Helicopters and former Eastern Highlands Governor has died in Brisbane, Australia today.

He is very well known to the people of Goroka and is a philanthropist.

The famous Pacific Gardens Hotel in Goroka is also owned by him.

Born in Essex, England, he emigrated to Australia as a 10-year-old, flew helicopters with the Australian Army in the Vietnam War and became a successful businessman in Papua New Guinea.

He told veteran journalist Malum Nalu during the opening of the refurbished and upgraded Goroka airport terminal that it was exciting for him and he believed the former Talair owner Denis Buchanan would have loved it.

Many aircraft engineers and PNG pilots also worked for his company and built their careers in aviation.

I had an interview with him in 2017 and he said he was happy that many Papua New Guineans have dominated the aviation industry.

One of them was Central Province Governor Robert Agarobe whom he described as a smart young man who was very committed to his engagements.

Agarobe used to fix Pacific Helicopters as he was freelancing and he had some credits with Pacific Helicopters.

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Being smart Agarobe realised that Telikom was struggling to send engineers up to maintain their telecommunication towers in the mountains so he asked Pacific Helicopters to assist Telikom using his credits.

Agarobe owning Helifix made sure he picked up Telikom staff in the mornings and made breakfast for them before they got on Pacific Helicopters.

Using Agarobe’s credits at Pacific Helicopters and Telikom engineers were able to ensure the communication towers were working, Telikom was able to make some money and they paid Agarobe.

Agarobe was able to buy his first helicopter and sooner a second one.

In appreciation to Telikom, he went on his will and painted his helicopters with Telikom logo.

Mal Smith said PNG aviation laws were as good as in Australia and he believed there will be less incidents.

He reflected during the interview, the engines then when he was flying as early as 1969 were not as strong as todays.

Rest in peace Kela Smith.


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