Air Lulutai at Lupepau'u International Airport . Photo/Supplied

Vava’u residents spotted an aircraft with Lulutai logo on it at the Lupepau’u International Airport amid services currently being ceased to the outer islands.

It appears the aircraft was conducting key test flights this week suggesting the government’s new domestic airline service is expected to be launched soon.

The aircraft was Saab 340 from Australia which was previously leased by Real Tonga Airline but a new lease deal recently transferred the ownership to the Tonga government, a reliable source told us.

A new engine for the aircraft arrived in Vava’u recently, another source said.

Photos obtained by Kaniva News also showed what appear to be renovation works conducted inside the airport terminal.

We were also reliably informed the domestic services could begin on the first week of September.

As Kaniva News reported, the aircraft suffered engine damage after it hit a bird during take-off from the Lupepau’u International Airport in May.  One of the engines was damaged during the incident.

The Prime Minister announced Tonga’s new domestic airline Lulutai the same month after the kingdom’s only domestic airline, Real Tonga, was reported to be on the verge of bankruptcy.

Owner and CEO of Real Tonga, Tevita Palu, said the airline was millions of dollars in debt.

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