Tonga’s first Helicopter ships out to Samoa as kingdom’s authority declines certification  

The first helicopter for Tonga arrived in the kingdom about two  weeks ago but its owner, Rodger McCutcheon said they decided to transfer and sent it to Samoa because Tongan civil aviation authority could not allow them to fly it on their Australian licenses.

He said another helicopter was on its way to Tonga but still they do not have a license to operate it in the kingdom.

McCutcheon told Kaniva News civil aviation authority needs “up to 3 months to bring in experts to assist them with approving us to fly in Tonga”.

In January we published a story saying the first of two helicopters for Tonga would arrive on February 6.

McCutcheon, who described himself as Founder – Chief Crewman of Tonga Helicopters told us at the time it would be a Eurocopter AS350 fitted with a stretcher kit and is capable of carrying a large life raft, long lines and nets and a fire fighting bucket.

The first helicopter advertised to commence services in 2015 but this did not happen. It was featured with this caption: “Commencing operations in Aug 2015 Tonga Helicopters offers a range of awesome & exhilarating scenic tours, outer island transfers and tourist charter flights. With one helicopter located at Vuna Wharf in Nuku’alofa and one helicopter in Vava’u, the New Zealand & Australian pilots are highly skilled and operate at the highest safety standards. Tonga Helicopters has a strong focus on quality, and experiencing the Pacific Islands from the air in a helicopter is a guaranteed highlight for visitors to Tonga”. Photo/Tonga Pacific

“We could not allow the helicopter to sit at the Port and deteriorate, so regrettably, yesterday we shipped the life saving helicopter to Samoa where it will fly immediately”, McCutcheon said.

He said a second helicopter was on its way to Tonga and it was expected to arrive there next month.

Helicopter 5
This helicopter arrived in Tonga 10 days ago but it was shipped out and taken to Samoa. Photo/Rodger McCutcheon

This helicopter “is needed immediately for lifting work”, he said.

He said it was a more powerful helicopter,  red in colour and “fully kitted out as a rescue and tourism helicopter like the one that has just been shipped out”.

The transfer of the helicopter from Tonga to Samoa and the announcement of another one to replace it came after it was advertised  on the helicopter services  would commence “operations in August 2015”.

McCutcheon said the helicopter is sitting at the port of Tonga while they could not touch it. Photo/Rodger McCutcheon

At the time it said the services would offer “a range of awesome & exhilarating scenic tours, outer island transfers and tourist charter flights”.

McCutcheon said it was the same helicopter he shipped to Tonga on February 2016 but the thing was that  “there have been a few set backs, this has not been an easy road”.

Helicopter 3
McCutcheon said: “The writing is photo shopped on the red helicopter, if the sponsor comes on board we will let them make those announcements”. Photo/Rodger McCutcheon

McCutcheon said today: “We sincerely hope by the time this second helicopter arrives in Tonga, we will have the approvals to fly it as a Tongan Registered helicopter.  Most countries in the world would accept us to fly on our Australian licences for a period of time, Tonga did not allow this, as they said they have higher standards than Australia”.

The sponsor of this multi-million dollar worth business is still unknown and McCutcheon said he “may” annouce it next month during the unveiling of the second helicopter.

Kaniva News reached out to Tongan authority for comment, but hadn’t heard back at press time.

Photo 2 shipped to Samoa
McCutcheon said this is the helicopter while it is being loaded out on the ship to Samoa. Photo/Rodger McCutcheon


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