Real Tonga denies fluid leak claim

Real Tonga has denied claims that its controversial MA60 aircraft leaked hydraulic fluid during a flight from Tongatapu to Vava’u last Friday.

Real Tonga director Tevita Palu told a local newspaper hydraulic fluid was spilled on the aircraft during regular maintenance the day before.

He said engineers were unable to clean it all off.

He said the fluid got into the body of the aircraft and the wind forced it out when the aeroplane was in the air.

This made it look like the aircraft was leaking hydraulic fluid.

The leak was spotted when the MA60 arrived in Vava’u.

The aircraft was checked and returned to Tongatapu on its normal schedule.

The New Zealand government withdrew support for the Tongan tourism industry last year over the introduction of the MA60.

New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, told TVNZ that the Chinese-built MA60 was not certified to fly in New Zealand and was not certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency, the US Federal Aviation Administration or the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, defended the MA60, telling the Islands Business last year the aircraft was “safe and reliable.”

He said he was negotiating with China for two more aircraft. These appear to be Harbin Y12s, the same kind of aircraft used by Air Fiji, in which the China National Aero Technology Corporation has held shares.

The MA60 is a new version of the Xian Y7-200A, which is itself based on an old Soviet-era Russian design.

It is made to operate in rugged conditions with limited ground support and has short take-off and landing capability.

MA60s have been involved in a number of incidents in recent years, including a crash in which all passengers and crew died.

However, there is debate about whether these incidents occurred because of problems with the aircraft or poor crew procedures.

In May last year an MA60 flew from Heho Airport to Monghsat Airport in Burma.  It over-ran the runway on landing, resulting in two serious injuries and substantial damage to the aircraft because of a brakes failure.

In May 2011 an MA60 went into sea only 500 metres from the runway in Kaimana Airport in Indonesia. All passengers and crew were killed.

According to the authoritative flightglobal website, the latest airlines to be interested in the MA60 are Nepal and the Ukraine.

For more information:

Stop interfering: Tonga Tells NZ

NZ issues travel advisory as new plane cleared to fly

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