22 Jun 2004

Fly Niu has to buy liferaft to qualify for license

10:23 am on 22 June 2004

A pilot of Tonga's newest domestic airline, Fly Niu, says there has never been a law in Tonga making it mandatory for liferafts to be carried on domestic flights.

But the airline was required by civil aviaton officials to get one to qualify for a license - a requirement which delayed its inaugural flight for six days.

Venisi Taufau, who is also a co-owner of the airline, says Fly Niu had a liferaft flown up from New Zealand and eventually got airborne last wednesday.

"Under the discretion of the Ministry of Civil Aviation in Tonga, they said they would prefer us carrying a liferaft that would fit everyone on board. Well, the argument was that it was a moral obligation of the airline. Which over the last so many years that Royal Tongan Airlines have operated between these three islands, there was never a requirement for them for liferaft. Its not required by law."

Venisi Taufau says there is no royal family or government involvement in the airline.

Fly Niu is leasing a DASH8 aircraft from Air National in Auckland.

It will fly to Vava'u and the Ha'apai island group.

Mr Taufau says they hope to soon have a smaller aircraft operating on other domestic routes.