Fiji eye surgeons refuse to travel on MA-60 aircraft

A team of eye surgeons from Fiji said they will not use the Real Tongan MA-60 airplane when they will be in the kingdom next month.

The surgeons from the Pacific Eye Institute (PEI) are expected to travel from Nuku’alofa to Vava’u on October 14 to perform eye surgeries and treatments.

The Real Tonga new turboprop MA60, built by Chinese-government-owned Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corp became a subject of serious concerns after revelations it has experienced significant number of accidents in the past.

It  is not certified to travel in New Zealand, Australia, US and European countries.

The Tongan authotirites insisted the aircraft is safe. The Real Tonga  airline said there was no ground in which they need to ground the aircraft.

PEI is an initiative of the New Zealand’s Fred Hollows Foundation.

Director of the PEI, Dr John Szetu told Kaniva News their policy does not allow the team to “travel in an aircraft that is not recommended by the New Zealand government”.

The policy requires travellers to be insured but that is something an insurance company could not offer if travellers travel on unsafe aircraft, Dr Szetu said.

The institute is negotiating with Dr Paula Vivili from Tonga to sort things out but Dr. Szetu confirmed  the team, which will also perform eye surgeries on the mainland Tongatapu will travel by ferry to Vava’u.

About 200 Tongan eye patients are expected to be seen by the 12 surgeons in two weeks before they return to Fiji on October 26.

The PEI refusal was the second within one month after the Mormon Church in Tonga told its officials and employees the church would no longer pay airfares for them to travel on the Real Tonga MA-60 for safety reasons.

In 2011, a MA-60 crashed in Indonesia killing all 27 on board.

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