22 Oct 2014

Tonga MA60 plane in continued use

8:55 am on 22 October 2014

A controversial Tongan plane is still making domestic flights to Vava'u despite being at the centre of New Zealand sanctions since last year.

The owner of Tonga Beach Resort and board member of the Tonga Tourism Authority, Shane Walker, says the MA-60 plane, gifted from China, has always been safe.

A spokesperson for the New Zealand foreign ministry says 'progress has been made' by Tonga, and it recently removed reference to the MA-60 on its travel advisory.

Shane Walker says the change is mysterious.

"Last year this plane was deemed unsafe by the New Zealand travel advisory and miraculously all of a sudden that claim has now disappeared, suggesting that New Zealand is now happy with Tonga's certification processes and miraculously the plane is as safe as any other aircraft."

Shane Walker says the recent peak tourist season was healthy and an older plane was sourced from New Zealand to also fly to Vava'u with the MA-60.