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


  1. Is this going to end up as another storm in a teacup?
    The Tongan Government refuses to say anything to anyone about something that was leaked to the news media many weeks ago.
    Even Real Tonga can not get the government to explain itself.
    Its like someone has thrown a spanner into the works and the process has been stopped it its tracks.
    Maybe Icao is backing down in the same way the World Bank backed down.

  2. I knew something was brewing when nzkanivapacific.co.nz on the 12th of September posted an article titled
    "Vaipulu removed from Infrastructure portfolio because of errors in aviation report"

    Icao had earlier said it wasn't going to get involved in the dispute between Tonga and new Zealand
    An international civil aviation group says it wouldn't be appropriate for it to get involved in a long-standing dispute between Tonga and New Zealand.
    A member of Tonga's Tourism Authority, Shane Walker, says he was told the International Civil Aviation Organisation may have stepped in to solve the stand-off, but the organisation has distanced itself from the comments.


    Why did Icao change its mind and decide to get involved?
    Y12e's have been flying around the pacific for ages and did anyone complain?
    Why did Icao get upset when anther Y12 was being brought in.
    Why is it that Icao has gone quiet again and is not responding to media inquires or even the Tongan Government it seems?

    Also why is it only now that Ringo is "working very closely with PASO to find a way forward."? They should have thought up a plan that was actually going to work before hand without trying to improvise halfway through their airline demolition job.