Helicopter rejected by Tongan authority welcomed in Samoa

A helicopter Tongan authority could not give its owner a license to fly in Tonga had its maiden flight in Samoa last week.

According to Samoa Observer, Caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, met with the Company’s principal and founder, Rodger McCutcheon early last week before he granted approval for the copter to fly in Samoa.

“When it comes to private investments where lives will be saved then government must take decisive action,” Tuilaepa was quoted by the website as saying.

“It is utter nonsense and ridiculous for any government to discard a service of this nature”, he added.

The helicopter was brought to perform life saving emergency work, sightseeing flights for tourists and commercial work.

McCutcheon told Kaniva News the Eurocopter AS350 helicopter arrived in the kingdom last month and because Tongan civil aviation authority could not allow them to fly it on their Australian licenses they decided to transfer and send it to Samoa

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 said the civil aviation authority needs “up to 3 months to bring in experts to assist them with approving us to fly in Tonga”.

Tonga’s civil aviation authority would not respond to our request for comment but the manager of Tonga International Airport Viliami Ma’ake said he was approached by McCutcheon about the helicopter. He said he told him to talk to civil aviation authority.

Tonga’s aviation safety rules came under strict scrutiny since 2013 after the kingdom accepted the  controversial Chinese MA-60 aircraft in 2012.

The aircraft, which is based on an old Russian design, has been involved in several accidents in different countries. In the worst accident 27 people died.

The New Zealand government released a travel advisory warning that New Zealanders flying in the Real Tonga MA60 did so at their own risk and withheld $10 million aid for Tonga’s Tourism industry because of concerns over the aircraft.

In 2014 the International Civil Aviation Organiation demanded Tonga to fully respond to its request to submit a report on Real Tonga’s controversial MA60 aircraft.

In his response the former Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano promised the international body he would revise Tonga’s civil aviation rules and regulations within 60-90 days, commit to meet New Zealand aviation standards and replace the Real Tonga with a New Zealand operator during the revision period.


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