29 May 2014

NZ pilots off to China in bid to solve Tonga plane saga

7:31 pm on 29 May 2014

Four experienced New Zealand pilots are on their way to China, in an attempt to solve a deepening diplomatic dispute between Tonga and New Zealand.

In 2012, New Zealand pulled tourism funding to Tonga and issued a travel advisory on its website, after China gifted a plane to Tonga.

New Zealand's foreign minister, Murray McCully, says Tonga did not certify the plane properly, and a recent World Bank review concludes the same.

But Tongan authorities strongly disagree, and say the International Civil Aviation Organisation supports them.

An experienced New Zealand pilot, Rodger McCutcheon, says the plane is safe and now New Zealand pilots are attempting to solve the stand-off.

Mr McCutcheon says he will go through the certification process and report to the New Zealand authorities.

Murray McCully says he is is fully supportive of the World Bank review process and is ready to assist Tonga in implementing the report's recommendations, if required.