By Paul Minga
Another PNG’s very best pilot late Capt – Peter Wanamp Ansphill (Capt Sheriff) was a flag bearer of the Jiwaka people and the pride of Senglap tribe. Peter was a first son from the Waghi Valley to brush aside fear and risk that is imminent for any aviator likely to encounter over the flying career.
He was infact a brave intellect venturing into a profession that not as many students from our province (Jiwaka) dare taking up as those of the many students from other Highland provinces seen doing. He was indeed a God’s blessing to the Senglap tribe and Jiwaka as a whole.
His break through as a first man to become pilot from the locality had led him into making a name for himself as another hero amongst the Jiwaka community. He broke the barrier in becoming a first and pioneer pilot for the three ethnic groups. That is Jimi, Waghi and Kambia – the three ethnic groups from which their first two letters derived to form the word Jiwaka.
However, it is as sad Peter’s parents were only subsistence farmers. Who were not so much busy and conscious of the importance and significance of their son’s education at the time in the 70’s and eighties as the case of most typical parents. Therefore they haven’t had much input in encouraging and giving Peter advice as what most educated parents these days are doing to their childrens future job prospect and in emphasising the value of education.
But their son through his own determination, desire and passion he sets his objective on target and worked towards it and eventually had his dream fulfilled in becoming another PNGDF pilot in the late 80’s and served the PNGDF at the ATS.
He was indeed another determined and brave person to have taken up a rare profession not many fellow Jiwakans dare taking up. But as more brilliant and intelligent are two appropriate adjective words to use for a person as him. As medical doctors and pilots are profession that students who are as more brilliant and intelligent in maths and science strands managed to make it through.
According to one of his school mate Johnny – whom they both passed grade 6 exam at Kerowil Community School and went on to Minj High School together in the late seventies. Johnny gave an account that his mate was very brilliant in maths and that saw him came first in Grade 10 Maths National Examination and was awarded – the dux prize during the graduation.
With his brilliance and top academic excellence he was accepted for a engineering course at the University of Technology in Lae as a grade 10 direct entry student in the early eighties.
However, Peter left university studies for pilot training after successfully passing his cadet pilot training entry test. Peter attended RAAF Point Cook Flight Training School in Sydney in the early 80’s together with other fellow PNGDF cadet pilots included Terry Togumagoma, Paul Paulo Boga, Eric Aliawi and Chester Berobero.
While Peter was still attending flight school in Australia. At home news was circulating every time within our tribe community that Peter Wanamp – as what most of us usually call him by that name is now flying the plane.
News of Peter flying the plane was when l was doing grade one at Ambang Community School in 1982. I could still remember one time mum told me in our Jiwaka vernacular – ” Peter Wanamp na sukul ner balus ambral ner pum. Pi ner pore nim balus ambrim panim. It can be interpreted into English as “People are saying that, Peter Wanamp who went to study to become a pilot is now flying the plane.”
When l heard this l was very pleased but at the same time was scared. I imagined of myself being right up at the tree top in taking view of the place below and the imagination of falling off from such a height. It’s indeed a scary sight and experience when l climbed right to the tree top. That is a typical thought l had when heard people saying that Peter was flying the plane.
A year later when l was in grade two in 1983. l could still remember one time it was during class time at around 11 o’clock over the day. One of the class from our school that was having physical education lesson on that day. Its teacher and students came out in playing different sports on the field. The rest of the school as usual were having lessons in class including my class.
All of a sudden a big noise shook the whole school was the engine of a PNGDF caribou aircraft flown by Peter. All the senior students that had fair idea of the camouflaged caribou aircraft calling out, Peter Wanamp! Peter Wanamp!
Peter was flying really low over the gum tree tops. The engine noise of the caribou and the cheering students having sports outside made those of us inside wondering what the hell and fuss was all about.
That instant most students and teachers were caught off guard in the fuss while others bump into each other in trying to make their way out to see what was going on. It was a hilarious melee as l could still recalled. Some students jumped over the desk in trying to make their exit first. Noise of the moving desk and tables could be heard in every classroom as everyone tried their best to get out to get a glimpse of the low flying caribou.
When l managed to get myself out. I saw that Peter flew very low past our school in following the infamous Binz River upstream to Binzkhu – his sacred home and hunting ground. We all stood in awe as he turned back, avoiding Karaptoi peak as much as possible as he was no stranger to the place.
He skillfully turned the caribou nose in the direction of his small Banz township for Kagamuga as we still gazed into the horizon of his route. Wow – what a sight for us both students and teachers that day.
From that first sight, l confirmed that the story of Peter flying the army plane was true. Over the time, whenever Peter had job schedule of his trip to Mt Hagen Kagamuga Airport. As soon as he sensed that he made it into Waghi Valley he would everytime lower the caribou very low in giving a signal that it is a boy from the valley. He did the same to his people from the valley when he flew the Fokker 28 jet aircraft.
After working with the PNGDF for quite a long while. Peter left the PNGDF ATS wing and went to work with the Islands Nation Air for some time. From there he then moved on to Air Niugini as first officer on the F28 jet aircraft and made his way up to become captain of the same aircraft model.(F28)
After securing an overseas job contract Peter went and worked for an international airline company based in Thailand flying the Boeing aircraft. When his job contract ended in Thailand, Peter came back and worked for Air Niugin once more. This time as Captain of the A380 Airbus for international routes until his passing in April, 2018.
When the news of Peter’s passing circulated – it was infact a big blow to the Jiwaka people as there are not many Jiwakans taking up job career as pilots.
Anyway, two notable highlight of late Peter’s achievement. He was at one time elected and served as President of PNG National Airline Pilot Association and appointed as Telikom Chairman during the late Sir Bill Skate term as Prime Minister after the 1997 General Election. The memory of the tribe’s pride and the man who bore the Jiwaka flag his legacy still lives on. Angam – you were once a forever sweet story on our lips.