Mysterious plane crash linked to drugs, Far North
AN Australian pilot is receiving consular support after a light aircraft that crashed in Papua New Guinea in suspicious circumstances, which police allege was possibly carrying cocaine, was flown out of Mareeba.
Local news reports said residents found the twin engine Cessna burning on a newly built runway on Sunday in bushland in the country's Central Province.
Website Papua New Guinea Today quoted a Police Dog Unit Officer in Charge Jack Hori saying the initial investigations suggest cocaine might have been the main cargo on board, but a large quantity of the drug was moved and the plane appeared to have been deliberately set alight.
The pilot was initially reported as missing, but a spokesman from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed late on Wednesday an Australian man was receiving consular assistance in PNG.
"Owing to our privacy obligations, we will not provide further comment," he said.
Australian Federal Police are understood to be on the ground assisting with the investigation.
Flight tracking of the plane's radar leading up to the crash showed it left Mareeba on Sunday morning about 8.40am, flew north and reached 1500ft, then disappeared from radar just north of Biboohra.
A spokesman from the Mareeba Shire Council, which owns and operates the small airfield, confirmed the plane had been there last week.
"All we know is that the aircraft was at there for some time," he said.
"It was parked at the airport on Friday and wasn't on the Monday."
According to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority records the plane has a Papua New Guinean operator named Ravenpol, but operated by Avlease Pty Ltd which is based in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
They both became owner and operator in January this year.
A spokesman for the former owner of the aircraft, Goldfields Air Services, said the Cessna had been sold in August 2018.
PNG Air Accident Commission investigations manager advisor Winston San Martin told local PNG media earlier in the week they would be looking at how the plane crashed or landed.
Authorities were called after receiving a distress signal.
He said the investigation would consider if the aircraft had a flight plan and relevant approvals for landing in PNG.
The AFP have been asked for comment.
Originally published as Mysterious plane crash linked to drugs, Far North