Tonga’s troubled Lulutai airlines has bought a new aircraft, according to reliable sources.
Kaniva News understands the airline has bought a 19-seat DeHavilland Canada Twin Otter for US$6.5 million.
We have contacted Lulutai’s CEO, Poasi Tei, for confirmation.
We have asked him who is funding the purchase of the aircraft and when it will arrive in Tonga.
It is understood that in May this year Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade awarded a contract to support a Twin Otter in Tonga.
Twin Otters have an extremely good reputation and have been used widely in the Pacific.
The Kiribati government bought one in February through an American company and it appears the deal may have been supported by the US government.
According to Kaniva New’s sources, a Twin Otter is being prepared and is expected to arrive in Tonga soon.
It is understood that earlier this year, Lulutai CEO Tei was enquiring about the possibility of acquiring a Twin Otter for a three to six months lease.
Micro operators such as Lulutai normally seek a package known as a wet lease that includes an aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance. However, Tonga’s financial position is likely to affect its chances of securing an aircraft without external funding guarantees.
Kaniva News believes that two Twin Otters were identified as available for sale for US$6.4m each in March.