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Aircraft at centre of spat between Tonga and NZ

written by australianaviation.com.au | August 12, 2013

The MA60 has been involved in 11 incidents since 2009, causing the Myanmar authorities to ground the aircraft.

A Chinese-built regional aircraft operating in Tonga is at the centre of an ongoing diplomatic row between the island nation and New Zealand.

The MA60 – a derivative of the Antonov 24 regional turboprop – has been cited by the New Zealand government as being unsafe and has pulled tourism aid to Tonga until the aircraft is grounded. New Zealand travellers to Tonga have also been warned not to fly on the aircraft.

While the MA60, flying for Real Tonga airlines, has not had an incident in the kingdom since it was introduced to service this year, the New Zealand foreign affairs minister Marray McCully told ABC News: “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.”

McCully based his decision on the MA60’s safety record, which has seen 11 incidents involving the type since 2009. Three of those were in the last two months alone and forced the Myanmar government to ground the aircraft after two accidents there.

McCully further said he fact the MA60 had not been certified for use in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and the US.


“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,” he added.

Coincident to the New Zealand announcement, the Tongan government earlier this year invited a Chinese company to operate domestic air services, forcing incumbent New Zealand-based Chathams Pacific.

Real Tonga is expecting a second MA60 later this year.

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Comments (6)

  • Glen


    I wonder how many of those accidents with this aircraft where pilot error and not a fault in the aircraft and do pilots from Myanmar get good training ? All factors to be taken into account

  • Bob Livingstone


    I’ve flown on the MA-60 in Laos. Apart from poor internal maintenance (broken seats) which makes one think the rest of the airframe/engines might be in a similar state, it seemed quite adequate and similar to the Dash 8. I read the problem to be a regulatory one rather than any particular short-coming of the type itself.

  • Peter O'Connor


    We have supplied avioics for the MA60 and its predecessor for over twenty years now at XAC in Xi’an in China. They are basically western aircraft. What has transpired here lately is probbaly a combination of things. Weather, pilot training, ATC advice, airport facilities etc. Several hundred of these have been manufactured and are currently in use in China and globally. Not everyone can afford a Rolls Royce ATR or DASH 8 aircraft. A lot of Toyotas out there and expect to see more of these, MA700’s, ARJ21’s C919’s out there and in service soon. Was the alternative a Convair 550 which ceased production in the 1950’s ?

  • Steve


    Atr 72 has similar incidents, kill more passenger than ma60, should nz also banned the aircraft

  • Geoff Bale


    Forget the side issues and other aircraft – all the NZ Govt is asking for, is “internationally respected certification process”. The flying public is entitled to that.

  • James


    What has caused the accidents?
    Clowns on the VA ATR’s have done some stupid things why not ground them too

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