6 Mar 2015

Former Tonga Deputy PM to lease grounded aircraft

8:04 am on 6 March 2015

Tonga's former deputy prime minister has confirmed that he is part of a group that has signed a lease for the government's domestic MA60 aircraft.

The new lease comes nearly a month after the government took the MA60, which was gifted by China, out of service because it didn't meet new civil aviation standards.

The plane was previously operated by Real Tonga, but that lease was terminated by the government when the plane was brought out of service.

Samiu Vaipulu, who was an ardent supporter of the MA60 when New Zealand issued a travel advisory against the aircraft last year, says his group signed a lease with the finance minister last month.

He says the group is now working out its plans.

"Yes, I have signed with the minister of finance for the aircraft, the MA60, and that's all I can give now. You don't lease an aircraft to run it like a bus, you lease it to fly it."

Samiu Vaipulu.

It's not known whether the aircraft now meets standards and has been cleared to fly.