Mechanical failure prompted king to travel by vessel – NZ warns air travellers

UPDATED 10:30am, 11/08: A quick change was made on the King of Tonga’s flight schedules for his royal visits to open outer islands Agricultural Show on a Real Tongan Aircraft after the airline revealed the plane had mechanical failure.

King Tupou VI was due to take royal tour around the main outer islands of Tonga by aircraft to open the Royal Agricultural Show 2013 beginning on August 7  but eventually travelled on the MV 'Otuanga'ofa.

Tevita Palu, Real Tonga Chief Executive Officer said the company experienced a number of problems so far.

“‘Uhinga ki he laiseni ‘o e vaka, mo e kau ngaue pea ‘i ai mo e me’akehe ne maumau e vaka ‘e taha ‘o uesia ai e fefolau’aki,” ko ‘ene lau ia ki he pepa Kele’a. Translated as: “I mean there's an issue with the aircraft’s license, and the employees and some other issues, one aircraft had mechanical failure and they affected the flight schedules,” he told the  local Kele'a newspaper.

The Real Tonga leased aircraft from Air Chatham and it was the air plane that serviced the Niuas but the lease ended on August 6.

An anonymous source told the paper there is a substitution aircraft but it could not be able to land on the Niuas. The source said a small aircraft that could land on the Niuas was available but it assumed the king would not like to travel on it.

The MA-60 aircraft gifted from China was apparently not allowed to operate when the king's flights to the two Niuas were scheduled and it could not service the two islands for landing reasons.

The royal trips were arranged to be at Niuatoputapu on August 7,  Niuafo’ou on August 8, Vava’u on August 10, Ha’apai on August 14, and ‘Eua on August 17, before ending up with the  Tongatapu two days event on August 23-24.

Losaline Ma’asi from the Ministry of Agriculture told the paper they made regular checks with the airline office while the king was in the outer islands but confirmed the aircraft still could not be able to operate.

Too early

The problems revived a heated debate emerged when Air Chatham was about to leave Tonga in March this year saying it was not fair for the government to set up and subsidize a local airline, Real Tonga company,  to compete with its airline.

Critics warned at the time that government had pressed the wrong button when it was revealed it re-engaged in airline services considering its long history of failed aircraft ventures, including11 failed and bankrupted airlines in the past.

Deputy Prime Minister Hon Vaipulu, who was instrumental in setting up of the Real Tonga Airline was insistent at the time assuring Tonga’s domestic air travellers “they won’t be affected when the current domestic airline Chathams Pacific pulls out in March.”

The situation escalated into a stage that cost Tonga's millions of grant from New Zealand after PM John Key's government learnt last month the kingdom accepted a controversial aircraft as a gift from China.

Despite New Zealand's attempt to intervene for safety reason by holding its grants for Tonga's Tourism Hon Vaipulu announced the "aircraft is safe" and few things to be completed before it  "start the service to our people."

New Zealand releases warning

New Zealand today Saturday 10 has  warned its citizens after it confirmed Tonga has allowed the MA-60 aircraft to fly its zone.

"The MA-60 has been the subject of serious concerns amongst aviation experts. It is not certified to fly in New Zealand and would not be allowed to do so without a thorough certification process under Civil Aviation rules. The MA-60 is not certified by comparable jurisdictions such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EU), the Federal Aviation Administration (US) and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (AUS),” Mr McCully says.

“In the absence of an internationally respected certification process for Tongan conditions, it is the government’s obligation to draw the attention of the travelling public to these issues and our Tongan travel advisory has been updated accordingly.

“The New Zealand Government has put support for the Tongan tourism industry on hold, and we will not be spending taxpayer money promoting tourism in Tonga until we are satisfied with the safety and reliability of this new air service.

“We are in discussions with the Tongan Government on this issue. I reiterate my offer of support to Tonga to assist them in ensuring aviation safety, a critical component of tourism in the Pacific islands,” Mr McCully says.

MFAT’s updated travel advice on the MA-60:

Tonga’s domestic airline fleet currently includes an MA-60 aircraft. This aircraft has been involved in a significant number of accidents in the last few years. The MA-60 is not certified to fly in New Zealand or other comparable jurisdictions and would not be allowed to do so without a thorough certification process under Civil Aviation rules. Travellers utilising the MA-60 do so at their own risk.

CONVERSATION

Source: Na’e liliu fakavave e taimi tepile folau ‘a e tu’i ‘o Tonga ki he ‘otu motu ke huufi fakaava ‘a e Faka’ali’ali ngoue ‘a Tonga ki he 2013 hili hono fakaha ‘e he kautaha vaka Real Tonga ‘oku ‘i ai ‘a e palopalema fakamisini ki he taha ‘ene ngaahi vakapuna ‘oku fepuna’aki ‘i he vaha’a ‘o Tongatapu mo e ‘otu motu tautefito ki he ongo Niua. Na’e fakaha ‘e Tevita Palu ko e CEO ‘o e kautaha vakapuna ‘oku ‘ikai taha pe ‘a e palopalema ‘oku fe’ao mo e kautaha he tu'unga 'o e me'a ko 'eni kuo hoko. “‘Uhinga ki he laiseni ‘o e vaka, mo e kau ngaue pea ‘i ai mo e me’akehe ne maumau e vaka ‘e taha ‘o uesia ai e fefolau’aki,” ko ‘ene lau ia ki he pepa Kele’a. Ne fakaha foki 'e ha tokotaha na'e 'ikai loto ke tala hono hingoa ki he pepaa 'oku 'i ai 'a e vaka talifaki ka 'oku 'ikai lava ia ke puna ki he ongo Niua. Na'a ne toe pehe foki 'oku 'i ai ha vaka si'isi'i 'oku lava ia ke puna to ki he Ongo Niua ka 'oku ne mahalo 'e ia 'e 'ikai fie ha'ele 'a e tu'i ia ai. Ko e vaka mohu fakaanga'i koia MA-60 ne me'a'ofa mei Siaina ne te'eki fakangofua ia 'e Tonga ke puna 'i hono fai holo ko 'eni e me'a folau vakapuna 'a e ha'ele fakatatau ki he vakai kuo fai ki he ngaahi fakamatala 'oku ala mahino mai mei he ngaahi tafa'aki. Ko e toe vaka foki ia ko ia 'oku 'ikai lava ia 'o to ki he ongo Niua. Na'e toki faka'ata 'a e vaka MA-60 ia ko 'eni mei Siaina ki mui ni 'o toki 'ilo pe 'i hono talaki 'e he Pule'anga Nu'u Sila 'i he 'aho Tokonaki 10 'o 'Aokosi ni kuo fakangofua ia 'e Tonga ke puna. Na’e fokotu’utu’u ke ‘i Niuatoputapu ‘a e ha’ele ‘i he ‘aho 7 ‘o ‘Aokosi, Niua Fo’ou he ‘aho 8, Vava’u he ‘aho 10 Ha’apai he ‘aho 14, ‘Eua he ‘aho 17 ki mu’a pea ne aofangatuku hake ki he faka’ali’ali ‘a Tongatapu ‘i he ‘aho 23 -24. Kuo hoko e palopalema ni ke ne toe langa manatua ha fekihiaki lahi ‘i he taimi ne pau ai ke foki mei Tonga ‘i he mahina Ma’asi ‘a e Kautaha Vakapuna Nu’u Sila ko e Chatham ‘i he ‘uhinga ko e ‘ikai fea kia kinautolu ‘a hono fatu ‘e Tonga ke fokotu’u mo ne tokoni’i fakapa’anga ha’ane kautaha vakapuna ke na fe’auhi. Na’e pehe ‘e he kau fakaanga ‘o e Pule’anga he taimi ko ia ko e fo’i laka hala mo’oni ia ene toe holi kau ‘i he fakalele ‘o e sevesi fakalele ‘ealaini koe’uhi he ko ‘ene tu’u ‘a hono hisitolia he me’a ko e ‘ai vakapuna ‘oku te’eki mo’ui ha kautaha te ne fakalele. Na'e 'uhinga 'eni ki he kautaha vakapuna 'e 11 ki mu'a atu hono fakalele mo e iku kotoa pe ki he mate pe ko e ka’anga fakapa’anga. Ka ne kikihi pe Tokoni Palemia , Samiu Vaipulu mo ne toutou fakapapau’i ki he kau folau vakapuna Tonga ‘e ‘ikai pe ha palopalema ia ‘i he’enau fepuna’aki mo e anga e sevesi ‘a e kautaha Real Tonga ‘o ka hili ha mavahe mai ia ‘a e Chatham Airline. Fakatokanga Nu’u Sila: Kuo pehe ‘e he Potungaue ki Muli ‘a Nu’u Sila he ‘aho ni kuo ne ma’u ‘a e fakamatala mahino kuo faka’ata ‘e Tonga ia ke puna ‘a e MA-60 na’e ‘omai ko ha me’a’ofa mei Siaina. Ko e fakatokanga ko 'eni 'oku 'oatu ia 'i he fakalea 'o pehe ko hono fale'i 'o e kau folau Nu'u SIla 'i Tonga ke nau matu'aki fili ke tonu 'i ha'anau fakakaukau ke folau 'i he vaka ko 'eni. Ko e vakapuna ‘eni fakatatau ki hono hisitolia ‘oku hange ha popoto mo manufekai. Lahi e ngaahi fakatu’utamaki kuo hoko ki he kalasi ni i he ngaahi tapa kehekehe 'o mamani ‘o a’u ki he mole ai ‘a e mo’ui tokolahi. Kuo tuku atu ai mei he ‘ofisi ‘o e Minisita ki Muli ‘a Nu’u Sila ni he ‘aho ni ha fakatokanga pea ko 'ene hiki to 'eni 'a e tokanga 'a Nu'u Sila ni ki he kaveinga ki he nota 'oku toe ma'olunga ange hili ia 'ene ta'ofi fakataimi 'ene tokoni'i lau miliona e Takimamata 'a Tonga. Pehe ‘e he fakatokanga ni ‘oku ‘ikai tali ‘e Nu’u Sila ‘a e kalasi vaka ko ‘eni ke puna ‘i Nu’u Sila ni pea ‘e ‘ikai pe ke ne faka’ata kae ‘oleva kuo ne ma’u ha setifikeiti kuo ne paasi ‘i he ngaahi lao fepuna’aki sivile. Ha foki ‘i he fakatokanga ni ko ‘ene mole ko e ‘o ‘ikai ma’u ‘a e sitifikeiti fakavaha’a pule’anga faka’apa’apa’ia oku taau ke fou ai ‘a hono laiseni ‘o e vaka ‘i Tonga pea ko e ngafa ia ‘o e pule’anga ke fakatokanga ki he kau folau fekau’aki mo e ngaahi ‘isiu ko ‘eni. Kuo tuku atu ai ha fale’i ke nau ‘ilo ki ai. Na’e toe pehe foki ‘e kei puke tu’u pe ‘e he Pule’anga Nu’u Sila ene tokoni fakapa’anga lau Miliona ke fakakake’aki e Takimamata ‘a Tonga ka e ‘oleva kuo nau fiemalie ki he tu'unga malu mo falala’anga ‘ene sevesi fo’ou ko 'eni ‘i he folau vakapuna.

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