Plane stand-off between Tonga and NZ may soon be solved
A saga over the disputed safety of a Tongan plane could soon be over, if an international agency weighs in.
An almost year-long dispute between Tonga and New Zealand over a controversial plane gifted by China could soon be resolved.
New Zealand's foreign ministry cancelled an $8 million US-dollar aid package and has a travel advisory on its website, as the MA-60 aircraft is not accredited to a standard it recognises.
Tonga's deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu is adamant he won't ask a New Zealand technician to accredit the plane, as he doesn't want to offend China.
But a board member of Tonga's Tourism Authority, Shane Walker, says the plane is brand new and safe.
And he told Alex Perrottet the International Civil Aviation Organisation may have stepped in to solve the stand-off.
SHANE WALKER: I was told recently, as late as Friday last week by some New Zealand Government officials that ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, has been looking closely at it. And I can't verify this exactly but reading between the lines, it's my understanding that everyone has agreed to do the work required to appease New Zealand's concerns and we're optimistic that a certification process will be put in place that's acceptable to New Zealand, so it should be good news for Tonga. It's not in anyone's interests if there's questions over any aircraft's accreditation and certification. People need to feel safe and comfortable and confident. We've got a brand new aircraft up there, a very reliable aircraft and what's missing is essentially the certificate, a piece of paper that says that New Zealand is happy with its certification process. From what I understand, it doesn't mean that the aircraft gets taken back to the factory and rebuilt or if anything changes on the aircraft. It's quite simply that the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted and New Zealand and other first world countries say 'yep that's fine now, we deem it safe and good to fly on'. There is a number of these aircraft operating in China and I couldn't tell you any specific numbers but I would hazard a guess that a lot more Kiwis have flown on MA-60s in China airspace over the last ten years than will fly on the MA-60 in Tonga in the next twelve months. These are a widely-used commuter aircraft in China and just the law of averages suggests that a lot of Kiwis will have to have flown on them.
ALEX PERROTTET: And you're saying that that some company, Xian I think it is, supplies the wingboxes and other parts to companies such as Boeing and Airbus that operate in Western countries like the UK and in Europe and the United States?
SW: Oh absolutely, Xian have been in the business for about 60 years and they're one of the biggies in aircraft componentry, component manufacturing. The company also builds wings and tails and other big componentry for Boeing. Many of their components are on Boeing 737s and the like. That sort of stuff doesn't come lightly, they're seriously in the business of building aircraft and there's a number of other aircraft types that they build and the MA-60 is just one of them.
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