Tension between Tonga and New Zealand continues to rise over plane

Tension is rising between New Zealand and Tonga, as the Kingdom continues to insist that it will fly a Chinese-gifted aircraft without international safety certification.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that New Zealand was suspending Tonga's tourism aid because of the MA60 aircraft's shocking safety record.

The aircraft is being used by Real Tonga airline for domestic flights and has one of the world's worst safety records.Since 2009, it has been involved in eleven serious incidents - three of them in the last two months - with most of the crashes caused by technical or system failure.

New Zealand's suspension of millions of dollars of tourism aid has not gone down well with Tonga's politicians who have targeted Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

McCully said in a statement that aviation safety will not be compromised, repeating that if the new plane flies without internationally respected certification, his ministry will change its travel advisory to Tonga as a warning to tourists.

But Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu says China has ticked off the plane's safety, saying all it needed was insurance.

However, the Tongan government is adamant its own safety standards are good enough and the plane will soon be off the ground.


  1. I am shocked by your statement "has one of the world's worst safety records." Where does this information come from? I would love to have the source of such claims. If it is from a credible source, I would want to advise my clients of such.

    I just did some research on the Internet going to New Zealand Travel Advisory site, Wikipedia and the FAA International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) Program site. I also went to The US, UK, Canadian and Australian travel advisory websites.

    The results are a bit disturbing. Out of all the countries listed on Wikipedia that fly the MA-60 commercially (not military) only one has a Travel advisory for the MA-60 aircraft. That is Tonga. New Zealand is the only country of the 5 I went to with an advisory.

    Of the same countries on that same list, only 2 countries are listed on the FAA IASA Program results as meeting the International Civil Aviation Organization (IACO) standards. Those are China and Tonga. To be fair, 5 countries are not listed and 4 do not meet the standards. The ones that stand out as not meeting standards are Indonesia and Philippines who are listed on Wikipedia as having multiple incidents with the MA-60.

    The following is from the FAA site: The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established the IASA program through public policy in August of 1992. FAA's foreign assessment program focuses on a country's ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance established by the United Nation's technical agency for aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

    I am no aviation engineer, or even a pilot. I am a Tourism Operator in Vava’u, Tonga and finding out the facts is very important to me. I am not saying the plane is safe, or dangerous. It just seems that the data presented by the New Zealand government is lacking in “Real Information” from credible organizations.

    This whole thing smells of politics. My challenge to the New Zealand government is to ask the respected aviation organizations that they reference so often, i.e. United States, Europe, Australia, and find out why it is not certified to fly there. Have the MA-60 aircraft ever been presented for certification to fly there? If they were, then why were they refused to fly? These are not difficult questions to ask, do it and put the doubts to rest.

    If anyone wants my sources for the information (websites and such), please respond to this and I will post them. Information accuracy is paramount in this matter!

    Report facts, Not opinions!

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