29 September 2014

More on Real Tonga's Woes

Tonga's Aviation struggles to abide by International Standards 

A decision by Tonga’s Civil Aviation Authority to certifiy a Y12 aircraft without addressing  demands by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to upgrade its aircraft certification system has thrown Tonga’s domestic air service into a state of uncertainty. The two specific areas of concern expressed by the ICAO in its letter to the then Director of Tonga’s Civil Aviation, Viliami Cocker on 15 July was for Tonga to upgrade its aviation safety certification legal frame work, and for Tonga to address its lack of aviation engineering competency. However, there is evidence that Tonga’s Civil Aviation Authority did not address these concerns, proceeding to certify a Y-12 aircraft in early August, a gift from China to the Tongan government. Ringo Fa’oliu the CEO for the Ministry of Infrastructure and the new director of Tonga’s Civil Aviation said that the Tonga government’s immediate response to the ICAO’s letter was ourlined in the letter of the Prime Minister, Lord Tuk’ivakano to ICAO on 25 August, to revoke the Air Operator Certificate of Tonga’s only domestic airline, Real Tonga, upgrade Tonga’s Aviation Certification System to be the same as that of New Zealand, and for the Prime Minister to take over the Ministry of Infrastructure from the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Samiu Vaipulu. Tonga’s Civil Aviation is under the Ministry of Infrastructure. Hon. Samiu Vaipulu and the former director of Civil Aviation, Viliami Cocker have been relocated to a newly established Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. The letter of warning from ICAO was in response to a letter from the then Director of Civil Aviation, Viliami Cocker who wrote to ICAO in early July seeking assistance for the certification of a new 17-seater Y-12 aircraft, a gift from the government of China which was scheduled to arrive in Tonga in early August. The Y-12 is the second aircraft to be gifted by China to Tonga, the first was a 56-seater MA60 aircraft that was handed over to the Tongan government on 6 July 2013. The certification of the MA60 by the Tongan Civil Aviation Authority to operate domestically has caused some concern since the MA60 has not been certified by New Zealand, Australia and the USA. New Zealand has also taken the matter a step further by withholding millions of its tourism development aid to Tonga, and issued an advisory warning to Tonga over its concern over the security of flying in the MA60. The Y-12 aircraft however landed in Tonga in early August and it was handed over by the Chinese ambassador to Tonga HE Mr Huang Huaguang to HM King Tupou VI in Vava’u on 6 August. There is alos evidence that the Prime Minister and the Tongan government  were not aware of the ICAO’s 15 July letter to the director of Civil Aviation until after the agricultural show in the Niuas, Vava’u and ‘Eua in early August. The Tonga Civil Aviation Authority with a copy of the letter of concern from ICAO, presumably proceeded to certifiy the Y-12 under Tonga’s aviation certification system and allow the aircraft to fly, carrying the king and the queen to Niuatoputapu on 6 August and to Niuafo’ou on 7 August for the annual Agricultural Show. Ringo Fa’oliu the Chief Executive Officer CEO for the Ministry of Infrastructure, who is also responsible for Civil Aviation said on Wednesday, 24 September that the letter from the ICAO specifically spelled out its areas of concern: Tonga’s aviation safety legal frame work, and a lack of engineering competency. The response of the Tonga government to ICAO’s demand was outlined in a Cabinet decision of 21 August and a letter from the Prime Minister, Lord Tu’ivakano to the Deputy Director of ICAO, Henry Gourdji, dated 27 August which was leaked to the media. Both of these documents have been leaked to the Tongan media.
Highlights from the Cabinet Decision of 21 August, included:
  • the appointment of a Regulator to assist the Director general of Civil Aviation DGCA.
  • the DGCA to meet the General Manager of the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) and enter into an agreement for the provision of certification and safety oversight for Tonga’s obligations under the Chicago Convention.
  • the agreement between Tonga and PASO to be supported with a credible certification system like the NZCAA.
  • the revoking of the current Air Operator Certificate of the Real Tonga, and to reapply for an Air Operator Certificate and certification in accordance with the Standards of the NZCAR’s (The New Zealand aviation certification standard). A New Zealand operator to be brought in to provide the domestic service during this transition period.
  • for the ICAO to be informed of new arrangements with PASO and government measures to ensure a Serious Safety Concern SSC is not issued on Tonga.

The ICAO has not replied to the Prime Minister’s letter of 27 August. Amidst of all these going on, the owner and the CEO of the Real Tonga Airline, Tevita Palu told Matangi Tonga on 23 September that he has not been officially informed that his current Air Operator Certificate has been revoked, and that Real Tonga is still operating normally. Tevita main concern is to keep the domestic service running, even though government is talking about bring in a New Zealand operator to operate the domestic service while they reapply to be certified. Tevita also expressed great concern over the impact of the Cabinet decision on his business since he has multi million projects, already on the drawing board. Real Tonga had signed 3-years lease agreement with government to operate the MA60 and the Y-12 aircrafts. He said that the lease agreement for the Y-12 was signed early last month. Ringo, the new director of Tonga’s Civil Aviation and is responsible for negotiation with PASO, a regional aviation organization to address the concern of ICAO, stressed that his top priority is to avoid any disruption to the domestic air services. He said that he is working very closely with PASO to find a way forward.

Check out the source to see a picture of the Y12

Source : http://matangitonga.to/2014/09/27/tongas-aviation-struggles-abide-international-standards

28 September 2014

Viscounts withdrawn from service 39 years ago today...

I happened to hear a piece National Radio tonight that it is 39 years today since NAC withdrew its Vickers Viscounts from service. The last flight was operated by Viscount ZK-BWO, City of Dunedin, under the command of Captain B. D. Dunn, the last flight being operated from Palmerston North to Wellington and Christchurch arriving at the Garden City at 5.45 pm.

The Viscounts first entered NAC service of 3 February 1958 with Vickers Viscount ZK-BRD, City of Wellington leaving Christchurch at 2.15pm for Auckland and returning to Christchurch at 6.45pm. 

As it was happening, as getting ready to move I cam across this great photo taken by the late Brian Whebell of a busy tarmac at Christchurch taken on 14 October 1973. The new terminal pier being built is gone... The Viscounts are gone... The Viscount replacement , the Boeing 737-200s are gone... The Friendships are now reduced to just air post flights... and NAC has gone!

A busy tarmac at Christchurch on 14 October 1973

NZ5213 - Auckland to Palmerston North

Nice views of Hamilton City

Flying a little west of Hamilton Airport
Mount Ngauruhoe
Mounts Tongariro (left) and Ngauruhoe (right)
Mount Tongariro
Mount Ngauruhoe summit
Lower Tama
Mount Ruapehu and its crater lake

Mount Ngauruhoe
Mount Ruapehu and its crater lake

Turoa skifield
Snow capped Kaimanawa Ranges in the distance
Rangitikei River
Wind farm on base turn for Palmerston North
My ride south, ATR 72 ZK-MCX

27 September 2014

Spotted this week...

I was delighted to photograph Mount Cook Airlines' newly painted ATR 72-500 as I was boarding my flight to Palmerston North at Auckland on 24 September 2014.
Speaking or repainted, Airbus 320 ZK-OJB has also rolled out in the new scheme. It is seen here at Auckland on 26 September 2014 operating NZ754 to Nadi 
Operating NZ139 to Brisbane on 26 September 2014 was Boeing 767-300 ZK-NCG
while Boeing 777-200 ZK-OKD operated NZ102 from Sydney

A couple of surprises out flying on 26 September 2014 were Air Chathams' Fairchild Metroliner III ZK-CIC ...
and Air Freight's Convair 580 ZK-FTA arriving from Palmerston North

Finally a first photo of Jetstar's Airbus 320 VH-VGH arriving from Sydney on 26 September 2014

26 September 2014

Trans-Tasman Traffic

A bit of a surprise on Tuesday was Virgin Australia's Boeing 737-800 VH-VUY departing for the Gold Coast

Operating NZ124 from Melbourne on 23 September 2014 was Boeing 777-300 ZK-OKM - the sun came out for the critical 10-15 seconds!

25 September 2014

Real Tonga's Licence to be Revoked

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 has removed Deputy Prime Minister Hon Samiu Vaipulu from the Civil Aviation portfolio and relieved the Director of Civil Aviation, Mr Vili Cocker, of his responsibilities.

The Prime Minister promised to
  • 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.

The letter, dated August 27, was sent to ICAO Deputy Director Henry Gourdji. In it, the Prime Minister said he had made the changes to show his “personal commitments” to meeting the ICAO’s demands on Real Tonga’s controversial MA60 aircraft. The Prime Minister said Real Tonga would be allowed to reapply for its license under the new civil aviation regulations. It would be replaced by a New Zealand operator during the review process. Real Tonga did not immediately response to a request from Kaniva News for comments. The Prime Minister’s letter was sent in response to a letter sent by the ICAO on July 15 concerning two Mandatory Information Requests (MIRs) concerning the certification of the MA60. Kaniva News has been reliably informed that the ICAO’s letter warned that if the Tongan Government did not co-operate with its demands concerning the MA60, the international body would issue a worldwide travel advisory for Tonga. Tongan authorities feared this would end Tonga’s domestic airline service. The Prime Minister’s letter said the kingdom was submitting what he described as a “corrective action plan” for approval to the ICAO before it made a decision on the controversial Chinese aircraft. He said a new airline operator from New Zealand would take over the domestic airline while the proposed review of Tonga’s aviation system took place. This would happen within 60 to 90 days. Lord Tu’ivakano said his government would submit a revised version of Tonga’s Civil Aviation Act 2013 to Parliament that would reflect ICAO requirements. The Prime Minister said he had taken over responsibility for the Infrastructure portfolio, which includes civil aviation. The letter said all certification and decisions issued by the previous Tonga Civil Aviation Division management, including the ratification of the operation of the MA60 aircraft, would be revoked. Lord Tu’ivakano said the review of Tonga’s aviation system would cover the Air Operator Certificates, Foreign Air Operator Certificates, Maintenance Organisation Certificates, Aerodrome Operator Certificates, Airworthiness Certificates, Aircraft Certificate of Registration and Type Acceptable Certificates. Also included would be a full evaluation and review of Tonga’s state Aviation Activity Questionnaire (SAAQ), Compliance Checklists (CCs), and Protocol Questions, with a comprehensive gap analysis to be sent to ICAO by 17 October 2014. The ICAO was told the Tongan government would work with Pacific Aviation Safety Office inspectors to rewrite and execute “a new service agreement effective 28 August 2014” that also covered safety rules provided by PASO. The Prime Minister has asked the ICAO for an extension to November 3 to complete its review and implement the changes.


  • 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.


The Prime Minister’s letter could be read as implying that the Deputy Prime Minister was removed from the civil aviation portfolio to please the ICAO. There have been claims that a report from the Civil Aviation Division had upset the international authority. The government has denied allegations that Lord Tu’ivakano and Hon. Vaipulu rowed over matters related to MA60. Justice Minister Hon. Clive Edwards said the Deputy Prime Minister was removed because of errors in a report to the ICAO.

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.

Tuesday Twins

On Tuesday 23 September 2014 Air Chathams BN Islander ZK-LYP was in a position where I could get reasonable shots... The only problem with this aircraft is that the "Operated by Air Chathams" titles are on the fuselage behind the engine... Trying to get the titles and rego in the one photo is near-on impossible

Looking for business... Air Chathams' Fairchild Metroliner III ZK-CIC in cargo configuration at Aucjland on 23 September 2014 
Meanwhile Life Flight's Metroliner III ZK-NSS had been out on an air ambulance mission
This is my first photo of Piper PA42 400LS Cheyenne VH-BUR... it's got a massive tail!

24 September 2014

Corporate Activity

Arriving into Auckland on Tuesday 23 September 2014 was Gulfstream G550 N581D

A little earlier in the same afternoon locally based Dassault Falcon 900 N146EX was getting ready for departure

23 September 2014

Hastings on Saturday

With a storm passing over the North Island there wasn't much plane spotting to be had driving down to Hastings on Saturday and back on Sunday. With the high winds in the Hawkes Bay nothing much was flying and there were only three aircraft to be had at Hastings' Bridge Pa aerodrome

Wareham Airsprays' Fletcher ZK-CZB at Hastings on 20 September 2014
Cessna R172K Hawk ZK-FJE also at Hastings... the last time I photographed this was 30 years ago in Hokitika!
Schweizer 269C ZK-IAG covered up against the strong winds

21 September 2014


Caught at North Shore on 14 September were Great Barrier Airlines' BN Trislanders ZK-LGC (above) and ZK-LGF (below). I haven't seen either of them flying for some time... 

20 September 2014

Time to say goodbye...

With Air New Zealand Boeing 747-400 fleet now retired the last Jumbo, ZK-NBV, has been stripped of titles and registration in readiness for its new owner. It was photographed under tow at Auckland on 18 September 2014. Thanks Agairnz!