MA60 likely to remain grounded after all conditions not met, aviation minister says

The controversial MA60 aircraft that brought so much grief to Real Tonga airlines is likely to remain grounded.

Tonga’s Minister of Infrastructure Hon. ‘Etuate Sungalu Lavulavu said airworthiness requirements had not been met.

Hon. Lavulavu said although the government had an agreement with Tonga’s former Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu to lease the aircraft, this did not mean the aeroplane would operate in its current condition.

The minister told Kaniva News in Auckland Vaipulu had been given four conditions to fulfil before the MA60 was allowed to operate in Tonga.

None of those conditions had been met.

Hon Lavulavu, who is responsible for civil aviation in the kingdom, said it could take up to two years before any decision was made on whether the aircraft would be allowed to fly again.

The Chinese government gave the aircraft to Tonga in 2012. It was operated by Real Tonga.

Real Tonga suffered bad publicity after it was revealed the aircraft had been involved in a number of incidents around the world, including crashes.

MA60 operations were suspended on February 8 after the Tongan government received recommendation from the International Civil Aviation Organisation about Tonga’s aviation regulations.

Three Potential Airlines

Hon. Lavulavu said three airlines had indicated their interest in operating aircraft services in Tonga.

They were Fly Niu, Fiji Airways and an airline owned by a group including  Samiu Vaipulu.

All of the airlines had been invited to make a formal application to the government, but none of them has done so yet.

Meanwhile, Real Tonga director Tevita Palu said he was thankful for the government’s action on the MA60.

He said Real Tonga was operating as normal and was expecting another British Aerospace  Jetstream to arrive in Tonga before the end of March.

The main points

  • The controversial MA60 aircraft that brought so much grief to Real Tonga airlines is likely to remain grounded.
  • Tonga’s Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. ‘Etuate Sungalu Lavulavu, said airworthiness requirements had not been met.
  • Real Tonga airlines, which operated the MA60, suffered bad publicity after it was revealed the type had been involved in a number incidents around the world, including crashes.
  • MA60 operations were suspended on February 8.

For more information

MA60 suspended operations (Real Tonga)

‘Unsafe’ Chinese airplane hurting Tonga tourism (CNN)

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