The International Civil Aviation Authority says any registered state, such as Tonga, may certify an aircraft as airworthy under the organisation's framework.
The New Zealand government has suspended eight million US dollars in tourism aid to Tonga amid safety concerns with an MA-60 gifted from China, and has issued a travel advisory against New Zealanders using the aircraft.
Mary Baines reports.
"The Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, says the aircraft has not received international certification. But the Tongan government and the national airline, Real Tonga, say the MA-60, which is now flying domestically to Vava'u, is safe and has met ICAO requirements. An ICAO spokesperson, Anthony Philbin, says Tonga was able to certify the MA-60 itself under the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which specifies the certification requirements for specific aircraft types. But he says New Zealand is within its rights under the Convention to question the airworthiness of the MA-60, and deny operation of any aircraft in its airspace. Mr Philbin says ICAO cannot act as an arbiter between Tonga and New Zealand."