New Zealand raises alarm over Chinese-made Tongan aircraft
Agence France-Presse in Wellington
New Zealand issued a safety warning yesterday about domestic flights in Tonga and put a tourism promotion on hold after the Pacific island nation acquired an aircraft with a history of accidents.
The Chinese-made MA-60 "has been the subject of serious concerns amongst aviation experts", said New Zealand's foreign minister, Murray McCully.
The aircraft was given to Tonga by China last month.
A travel advisory issued by New Zealand said people flew on the Xian MA-60 "at their own risk" and that the aircraft was not certified to fly in New Zealand, nor by a number of other authorities, including the European Aviation Safety Agency.
"In the absence of an internationally respected certification process for Tongan conditions, it is the government's obligation to draw the attention of the travelling public to these issues and our Tongan travel advisory has been updated accordingly," McCully said.
"The New Zealand government has put support for the Tongan tourism industry on hold, and we will not be spending taxpayer money promoting tourism in Tonga until we are satisfied with the safety and reliability of this new air service."
The turboprop aircraft has been involved in numerous accidents, including three in recent months - two in Myanmar and one in Indonesia.