25 Jul 2013

Tonga's MA-60 aircraft to go into service next week

2:59 pm on 25 July 2013

The Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga says the MA-60 aircraft gifted to the Kingdom by China will be in service from next week.

Earlier this month, the New Zealand government suspended eight million US dollars of tourism aid to Tonga amid safety concerns with the aircraft, which has one of the world's worst safety records.

Samiu Vaipulu says the MA-60 is now certified to fly and its insurance is being finalised today and tomorrow.

Mr Vaipulu says he knows the aircraft is up to international standards because MA-60s are flying in China, which is a member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

"We did it according to our legislation and according to ICAO and its safety. We did our own diligence and we will fly it as soon as we complete the procedures we want done."

Samiu Vaipulu says New Zealand should take any issues it has with the safety of the aircraft to China, not to Tonga.

He says he is not worried about the suspension of funding, saying it mainly affects New Zealand business people trying to sell their goods in Tonga.