Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

Warning issued over Tongan aircraft

File photo / Thinkstock
File photo / Thinkstock

The Government is warning New Zealanders flying in Tonga it will be at their own risk as the national airline has bought a plane which has been involved in numerous crashes.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has posted an updated travel advisory in relation to Real Tonga airline which has just purchased an MA-60 aircraft.

"This aircraft has been involved in a significant number of accidents in the last few years,'' MFAT said.

The MA-60 was not certified to fly in New Zealand or other comparable jurisdictions and would not be allowed to do so without a thorough certification process under Civil Aviation rules, the advisory said.

"Travellers utilising the MA-60 do so at their own risk.''

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the aircraft had been the subject of "serious concerns'' amongst aviation experts.

"In the absence of an internationally respected certification process for Tongan conditions, it is the government's obligation to draw the attention of the travelling public to these issues and our Tongan travel advisory has been updated accordingly.

"The New Zealand Government has put support for the Tongan tourism industry on hold, and we will not be spending taxpayer money promoting tourism in Tonga until we are satisfied with the safety and reliability of this new air service,'' Mr McCully said.

"We are in discussions with the Tongan Government on this issue. I reiterate my offer of support to Tonga to assist them in ensuring aviation safety, a critical component of tourism in the Pacific islands.''

- APNZ

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