- Revise Tonga’s civil aviation rules and regulations within 60-90 days
- Commit to meet New Zealand aviation standards
- Replace Real Tonga with a New Zealand operator during the revision period
- Kaniva News recently revealed that Hon. Vaipulu had been removed from the Ministry of Infrastructure – which covers aviation – and given a new portfolio, Environment, Energy, Climate Change, Disaster Management, Information and Communications.
- Tonga received an MA60 aircraft from China in July 2012, forcing the New Zealand-based Chathams Pacific to move out of the kingdom. Its owners said it could not compete with an airline subsidised by the government.
- The aircraft, which is based on an old Russian design, has been involved in several accidents in different countries. In the worst accident 27 people died.
- The New Zealand government released a travel advisory warning that New Zealanders flying in the Real Tonga MA60 did so at their own risk.
- Wellington withheld $10 million aid for Tonga’s Tourism industry because of concerns over the aircraft.
- Lord Tu’ivakano visited New Zealand in March this year and after a meeting with New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon Murray McCully, the Tonga government became more amenable to New Zealand’s demands.
- In May the Tongan Parliament was told New Zealand would release half of its funding for Tonga’s tourism.
Hon. Vaipulu, who was instrumental in bringing the aircraft to kingdom, criticised New Zealand’s stance on the plane.
At one stage he publicly announced Tonga would obtain more aircraft from China.
Even after claims that the Prime Minister had agreed to ground the aircraft, Hon. Vaipulu still insisted the MA60 would fly.
The main points
- Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano has promised to revoke Real Tonga’s airline license and overhaul the kingdom’s civil aviation regulations.
- In a confidential letter to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Lord Tuivakano says he will revise Tonga’s civil aviation rules and regulations, commit to meet New Zealand aviation standards and replace Real Tonga with a New Zealand operator during the revision period.
- Lord Tu’ivakano has already sacked his deputy, Hon Samiu Vaipulu from the Civil Aviation portfolio, and taken it over himself.
- The overhaul of Tonga’s civil aviation regulations comes in the face of mounting international pressure over its use of the controversial MA60 passenger aircraft.