China, New Zealand and the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) vowed to assist and improve Tonga’s aviation safety.
Known as “Four Party Meeting” (FPM), the aviation authorities met in Nuku’alofa last week and agreed to step up their efforts in assisting Tonga so its safety aviation could meet the international required standards sustainably.
This included allowing PASO to access and deal with the controversial MA60 aircraft that had brought so much grief to Real Tonga airline since 2012.
The FPM formally agreed to provide technical supports to Tonga’s aviation on a long term arrangement.
The Tongan aviation authority was caught in the middle after the former government was accused internationally for endorsing the MA60 which had been involved in a number of incidents around the world, including crashes.
Supporters and advocates of the aircraft however cited claims these incidents were caused by pilot error.
At the time the New Zealand government immediately told tourists they would be flying on the aircraft at their own risk.
The New Zealand authority later suspended NZ$10 million (TP15.5 million) tourism aid to Tonga in response to the kingdom’s use of the aircraft.
The suspension was later lifted in 2014 after the two governments began negotiation to resolve their concerns.
The situation also cost one Minister of Aviation’s ministerial post in September 2014 after a report from the Tongan government to the International Civil Aviation Organisation was found to have errors.
However, New Zealand has promised Tonga it has turned over a new page and supported its attempts to normalise its aviation standards.
The meeting was attended by leaders of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the Civil Aviation Authority New Zealand (CAANZ), the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO), and the Civil Aviation Division of the Ministry of Infrastructure Tonga.