26 Nov 2004

Tonga air official denies tyre blowout report

5:18 pm on 26 November 2004

Aviation authorities in Tonga are assuring the public's safety after a test flight for the country's only domestic airline overshot the runway.

The acting director of civil aviation, Keletoni Mafi, confirms an Air Peau o Vava'u aircraft ran off the newly-lengthened airstrip at Eu'a this week.

TheTonga Broadcasting Corporation had reported that the plane had to touchdown quickly to avoid tall trees, and a subsequent tyre blow-out forced the plane onto the grass.

But Mr Mafi denies these reports and says the trees had been cut down before the test flight.

"The work has been done properly, and this testing was done by the company to make sure all is done properly before any commercial flight to E'ua."

Mr Mafi says only the pilots, some Fuamotu airport rescue workers and few company staff had been on board.

He says the civil aviation directorate expects a full report on the incident within two weeks.