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Michelle Geekala from East Sepik and Gulf provinces, has created history by being the first and only female staff operating the Main Deck Loader (MDL), an equipment responsible for loading and unloading larger containerized cargo from the main deck of wide body aircraft.

Michelle works with Air Niugini Cargo Department’s operations section and is the only specialized female operator of the MDL equipment.

Her most recent task was unloading heavy mining equipment from the main deck of a Boeing 747-400 series freighter here in Port Moresby. While passenger planes carry people with minimal luggage at the cargo hold, freighters specifically uplift cargo, their empty galleys are modified to fit various types of cargo.

Michelle said “The journey has not been easy, it comes with its own challenges but you have to believe in yourself, even when no one does, you have to be your own supporter and critique, challenge yourself to be better than you were yesterday”. She was previously engaged in and operated the Lower Deck Loader (LDL) for both the B747 and B737 freighters but the recent task was her first on the Main Deck Loader. The Main Deck Loader Equipment is higher and has larger weight capacity while the Lower Deck Loader is used to load and unload cargo from the lower lobe of wide body aircraft and also main deck of the narrow body aircraft.

Air Niugini’s Manager for Cargo Operations, Trevor Elly said the airline’s cargo department has always maintained a healthy level of female presence in its business and in particular its operational areas both within Port Moresby and the domestic network. “We are proud of Michelle’s progress, breaking into an area where you find only men working there. She is currently the only female in the Port Moresby Operations unit who operates the MDL equipment and joins a legacy of other female Cargo Operations Staff including our current Cargo Business Development Manager, Ms. Donna Hevoho as well as General Manager Cargo, Ms. Paila Leka and many other women through Air Niugini’s 50-year history. “Elly said Air Niugini’s Acting Chief Executive Officer, Gary Seddon re-emphasized that “Air Niugini is an equal opportunity employer. We have women working across our business, loading aircraft as well as flying them, from junior to very senior roles.

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