10 Sep 2013

Mormon church in Tonga not using MA60 aircraft

1:24 pm on 10 September 2013

The Mormon Church in Tonga has told its employees not to fly on Real Tonga's new MA-60 aircraft until questions raised about its safety by the New Zealand government are resolved.

The aircraft gifted from China, which is flying domestically between Nuku'alofa and Vava'u, has one of the worst safety records in the world.

While Tonga has certified it under International Civil Aviation Organisation regulations, the New Zealand government has suspended more than eight million US dollars of tourism aid and issued a travel advisory against using the aircraft.

The church's Public Affairs advisor, Richard Hunter, says the church takes the safety of its employees and visiting leaders very seriously.

He says while there are questions about the aircraft's safety by the New Zealand government, church officials will not be flying on it.

Mr Hunter says once there is a consensus view among regional governments and relevant aviation authorities that it is cleared for use, the church will revisit its use of the aircraft.

He says employees are still using other Real Tonga services.