Notorious Tongan plane at centre of NZ travel warning grounded

Tonga's controversial MA60 Chinese plane - which was at the centre of a New Zealand travel warning - has been suspended from flying.

The plane was gifted to Tonga by the Chinese government two years ago but has been operating without an internationally accepted safety certification.

The notorious aircraft type has been grounded in a number of countries because of its patchy safety record.

Last month superstar Kiwi shot-putter Valerie Adams was at the centre of its latest safety blemish, posting on Instagram: "...the real Tonga Airlines on their way to 'Eua only to find out the breaks [sic] don't work as the plane started to slide off the runway.

"Thank goodness everyone was safe and no one got hurt."

In a statement today the domestic operating company Real Tonga says that because of new aviation legislation, MA60 aircraft operations have been suspended.

The new legislation formally adopts the New Zealand Civil Aviation rules under which all airlines in Tonga must operate - and the MA60 currently doesn't meet that.

The Pacific Aviation Safety Office had recommended the MA60 be grounded until it gets full and proper type acceptance.

The suspension brings to a close two years of tense negotiations between New Zealand and Tonga.

In 2013 New Zealand stopped around $10.5 million in tourism aid to the Kingdom over concern at Tonga's use of a plane that had not been certified in "a normal manner".

At the time, Foreign Minister Murray McCully told One News he was "deeply concerned" and New Zealanders need to be told they fly on the plane at their own risk.

Real Tonga has handed the MA60 back to the Tongan government and is continuing its domestic service using other aircraft.

Two serious incidents in less than a week has forced an investigation into Real Tonga Airlines. Source: 1 NEWS


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