New Zealand pilot says China may wade into NZ-Tonga dispute
New Zealand pilot says China may wade into NZ-Tonga dispute.
An experienced New Zealand pilot says China may have to offer mediation over a new plane it gifted Tonga.
New Zealand has issued an advisory over the MA60 aircraft and suspended tourism aid to Tonga.
The pilot, Rodger McCutcheon, says he has pilots ready to test fly the plane, and China has cleared them to do so.
Tonga's deputy Prime Minister, Samiu Vaipulu, met New Zealand's foreign minister Murray McCully but there was very little agreement.
Mr McCutcheon told Alex Perrottet the plane is safe and can easily be accredited, but Mr McCully is standing in the way.
RODGER MCCUTCHEON: I've been up there since August, and I've seen the aircraft going through its certification process before it carried passengers, I've seen them flying it two or three times a day. I know the boxes have been ticked with ICAO, so, I was there, I was actually on its second flight when it took passengers.
ALEX PERROTTET: You were at a crucial meeting yesterday between Mr Vaipulu and Mr McCully. What was your reading of the meeting, I mean what were the parties trying to get on the table?
RM: Samiu was really expressing the way forward, which we have some ex-Air New Zealand pilots who are prepared to go up there and fly the MA60, China has endorsed them. They are going to go to China and be type-rated, then go put the MA60 through its certification process, or should I say recertification, to satisfy Mr McCully.
AP: And what was Mr McCully's response to that?
RM: Look at this stage, it wasn't good. And that needs to be worked through with Samiu and him. That's all I'd like to say on this at this stage.
AP: One player in all of this is the donor, China. They are the ones with the agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration, and they have type certified the plane, and they've donated it to Tonga, and Tonga has an agreement with China. Are you surprised we haven't heard from China about this diplomatic issue?
RM: Well, look, I am privy that there is some talks between China and the deputy Prime Minister, Samiu. I think China are just holding back to see what the response is going to be from New Zealand. Because, you know, when you think about it, Air New Zealand are routing passengers to China, and they're flying on MA60s, I personally don't see the difference in flying passengers into Tonga and flying domestically on the MA60. So it's just, it's wrong, you know, it needs to be sorted.
AP: Was that point put to Mr McCully yesterday? That New Zealanders are flying probably on the MA60 in other countries like China and Indonesia?
RM: Yes, yes.
AP: And his response?
RM: As I said, it's not good. He has his advisors, and you know, I think that he and Samiu work through that. What I am trying to do here is the way forward. We have the way forward and hopefully all parties will get together and agree that.
AP: Okay, now, just step me through what that process is. You're talking about New Zealand pilots going and test flying it. What will be different about what's happened so far, and what do you think will be achieved that will hopefully convince New Zealand to say yes, this is a safe plane, and New Zealanders should feel safe flying it?
RM: Well, Alex, we would hope that pilots with over 15,000 hours, that are New Zealand pilots that have flown for Air New Zealand, we would hope that their credibility, and Air New Zealand pilots around the world are well-known for their excellence, that we would work through that process with the New Zealand government quite quickly, so that these guys would endorse the MA60 and its flights characteristics, and the advisory would be lifted. You know, I've travelled on the MA60, my family travel on it. You know, I personally think the aeroplane is an excellent aeroplane, and the sooner we can get this sorted for Tonga, because Tonga is suffering.
AP: And to follow up on that, you're saying that as long as this plane is flown according to the rules, or according to the numbers as they say in the game, that it's a safe flight, and you also say you have faith in Real Tonga and their pilots to do that, and they have been doing that so far. Is that an accurate reading of the situation?
RM: Yes, Alex. And there's no difference, absolutely, there's no difference between Boeing putting their pilots, their test pilots, on their aircraft and doing a certification process. What we're proposing is that these pilots fly the aeroplane in Tonga and go through that process. So, there is no difference in what any other type certification process is.
AP: So just to confirm, this process of sending New Zealand pilots is not because Real Tonga have not been responsibly flying the MA60?
RM: No, and the staff up there are excellent, you know, I've worked with them, and I can say that the aeroplane has operated there for the last six to eight months safely and it will continue to do so.
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