15 Nov 2013

Tongan airline boss says controversial plane is reliable

5:38 am on 15 November 2013

The head of the Tongan airline operating a controversial plane says there is public support for it in Tonga.

The CEO of Real Tonga, Tevita Palu, says the MA-60 plane has been operating the Tongatapu to Vava'u route for three months and there hasn't been a problem filling the plane.

The New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully is maintaining a travel advisory for tourists and withholding a tourism aid package, until the aircraft is certified by a respected international authority.

However the plane has been accredited by China and Tonga and it operates in 20 countries.

Mr Palu says he has the same maintenance standards for his planes as he does for the Air New Zealand planes he is contracted to maintain when they fly in to Tonga and Samoa.

"The new aeroplane is very similar to any other aeroplane built by Boeing and Airbus and all that. We haven't identified any area of concern. So far the operation has been very reliable, it has been performing as we expected. I think the public are very happy with it."

The CEO of Real Tonga airlines, Tevita Palu.