10 August 2013

Tonga's MA60 airborne!

The Government is warning Kiwis to be extra vigilant when travelling on the Real Tonga airline from today. The airline's MA-60 aircraft, which has one of the world's worst safety records, is now in service. "The MA-60 has been the subject of serious concerns amongst aviation experts. It is not certified to fly in New Zealand and would not be allowed to do so without a thorough certification process under Civil Aviation rules," Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said. "The MA-60 is not certified by comparable jurisdictions such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EU), the Federal Aviation Administration (US) and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (AUS)." Tonga was gifted a MA-60 for its Real Tonga airline to use for domestic flights by China. Since 2009 there have been 11 serious incidents involving MA-60s, three of them in the last two months. Most of the crashes were caused by technical or system failure. The New Zealand Government has suspended millions of dollars in tourism aid to Tonga after learning the kingdom wants to use these unsafe planes. "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," Mr McCully said. He said the Government was in in discussions with the Tongan Government on this issue. "I reiterate my offer of support to Tonga to assist them in ensuring aviation safety, a critical component of tourism in the Pacific Islands."
Source :
There is also a video clip of the earlier news item at this site
There is a really excellent photo of it in its Chinese registration at "


  1. The issue with the MA-60 is the operators - not the aircraft. They are mostly fringe carries and questionable if they should even have an Air Operators Certificate.

    If a western airline like Air NZ operated the MA-60 it would operate safely and reliably.

    Myanma Airways - 11 Accidents, only 2 with the MA60. Neither were a fault with the aircraft.

    Merpati Nusantara Airlines - BANNED in the EU. 49 Accidents, only 2 with the MA60. Poor visibility leading to landing short.. Not a aircraft fault. the jury is still out on the cause of the hard landing.

    Zest Airways - BANNED in the EU. 2 MA-60 accidents. An undershoot and a over shoot. NEITHER of which are a fault with the aircraft.. In fact as a result of these accidents lengthening of the runway and clean up of the approach path was carried out.

    Here are Boeing 737 accidents for ONE operator in 4 years..

    Lion Air B734 at Surabaya on Oct 30th 2009, runway incursion
    Lion Air B734 at Pekanbaru on Dec 13th 2009, overran runway
    Lion Air B739 at Balikpapan on Oct 23rd 2011, runway excursion
    Lion Air B739 at Padang on Jan 19th 2010, runway excursion on landing
    Lion Air B734 at Pontianak on Nov 1st 2012, overran runway on landing
    Lion Air B734 at Pontianak on Dec 30th 2012, runway excursion on landing
    Lion Air B738 at Denpasar on Apr 13th 2013, landed short of runway and came to stop in sea
    Lion Air B739 at Jalaluddin on Aug 7th 2013, overran runway on landing
    Lion Air B734 at Pontianak on Nov 2nd 2010, overran runway on landing
    Lion Air B739 at Pekanbaru on Feb 14th 2011, runway excursion on landing
    Lion Air B739 at Pekanbaru on Feb 15th 2011, overran runway on landing

    Do we stop flying Boeing 737s because of it?

    Is it a problem with the the operator, not the plane.

    The 737 in total has over 130 hull losses.. Do we hear the same things about the 737?

    1. Finally someone who can see that the ma60 is not the problem but the operators. Having just completed my training on the ma60 in china for real tonga as an FO I felt it was a nice aircraft that was not unsafe. All these accidents that are being blamed on the aircraft are just an escape goat for company's to lay the blame on anything but their poor training. The Chinese training was intense and very strict and I think this is proof that pilot error is the main issue as you don't see the ma60 crashing in china at the alarming rate it's portrayed to in all these other countries. With the Tongan pilots there is major safety concerns and I was there with them through out my training and was disgusted at how such incompetent people could even hold a licence!I pulled out of flying for them as I can't even bare to think of being involved in an accident waiting to happen that is perfectly avoidable. It is no joke how bad the two Tongan captains are, one couldn't even keep the aircraft slightly on the runway with engine failures and continued to swear and actually smash the sim with his hands and legs when he couldn't control the aircraft, it was apparently the "sims fault" but hey we didnt have that problem. Also it was clear the AC was going to struggle with the Tongan runways and definatly not be going in fully loaded! But these captains had the so called "skills and experience" that they could do it "easy". They couldn't even keep the AC on the runway in the sim let alone land it into a short strip! All I can say is I would not let anyone I care about go near real tonga!

  2. Question Steve. On the Real Tonga website it has listed the are operating a Convair, obviously leased from Chatham Pacific. But they also have listed a Beech Queenair. Is this also leased from Chats Pacific?

  3. I just did some research on the Internet going to New Zealand Travel Advisory site, Wikipedia and the FAA International Aviation Safety Assessments (IASA) Program site. I also went to The US, UK, Canadian and Australian travel advisory websites.

    The results are a bit disturbing. Out of all the countries listed on Wikipedia that fly the MA-60 commercially (not military) only one has a Travel advisory for the MA-60 aircraft. That is Tonga. New Zealand is the only country of the 5 I went to with an advisory.

    Of the same countries on that same list, only 2 countries are listed on the FAA IASA Program results as meeting the International Civil Aviation Organization (IACO) standards. Those are China and Tonga. To be fair, 5 countries are not listed and 4 do not meet the standards. The ones that stand out are Indonesia and Philippines who are listed on Wikipedia as having multiple incidents with the MA-60.

    The following is from the FAA site: The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established the IASA program through public policy in August of 1992. FAA's foreign assessment program focuses on a country's ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance established by the United Nation's technical agency for aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

    I am no aviation engineer, or even a pilot. I am a Tourism Operator in Vava’u, Tonga and finding out the facts is very important to me. I am not saying the plane is safe, or dangerous. It just seems that the data presented by the New Zealand government is lacking in “Real Information” from credible organizations.

    This whole thing smells of politics. My challenge to the New Zealand government is to ask the respected aviation organizations that they reference so often, i.e. United States, Europe, Australia, and find out why it is not certified to fly there. Have the MA-60 aircraft ever been presented for certification to fly there? If they were, then why were they refused to fly? These are not difficult questions to ask, do it and put the doubts to rest.

    If anyone wants my sources for the information (websites and such), please respond to this and I will post them. Information accuracy is paramount in this matter!

  4. Wonder how much the Chinese builders have copied the Antonov AN 24 Is it just a look alike .

  5. To answer the question about the Queenair this is a press release from Real Tonga from April...

    Real Tonga is pleased to introduce additional capacity to its current operation. With the signing of a new lease agreement, Real Tonga will be providing additional services for the domestic air market effective from 22 April 2013. Tevita Palu, Real Tonga’s Chief Executive says that he is delighted to have secured the lease of a Queenair &a BN-2 Islander aircraft as it now provides the airline with the opportunity to commence services to the two Niuas. Furthermore, the addition of these two aircraft provide much needed back up and schedule integrity. The additional aircraft also allows Real Tonga to better match capacity to demand on specific routes, so ‘Eua will now be serviced by the Islander, freeing up more capacity on the larger Y12 to focus on services between Tongatapu and Vava’u as well as Ha’apai. Services to the Niua’s begin with a flight from Tongatapu to Niua Toputapu on Wednesday 24 April, with Niuafo’ou to commence a week later on the first of May.

  6. G'day guys. Just to set a few things straight.
    I'm another person who has been directly involved from both a flying and engineering point of view during this whole MA60 debacle.
    Firstly I support the NZ governments decision to issue a travel advisory as well as the removal of travel insurance cover for anyone silly enough to fly with this airline.
    Secondly I support the decision of the pilot above to not continue with Real Tonga for the reasons she stated.
    In response to the above tourism operators comments, it is not up to NZ to prove certification of the MA60. So far despite repeaded attempts (witnessed by myself) for the Minister of Aviation as well as the deputy prime minister to provide evidence of type acceptance they have refused to do so. All that NZ is asking for as well as most aviation experts is transparent proof that the aircraft meets the international standard that Tonga is a member. ICAO, PASO ect.
    The director of CAD stated that the aircraft would not leave the ground untill internationally certified. He was then told it would not meet international cert and then chose to certify it himself and provide no proof to those that know what they are doing as to how he did it.
    They are not only breaking thier own laws but those of the member states the base their own regulation on.
    I agree that the aircraft itself could be operated perfectly safely given the right conditions, but flying in an unstable environment, with fresh crew, into strips that aren't what the aircraft was designed for, political pressure, lack of engineers, not even a hangar to maintain it in. All adds up to a potentially risky situation.
    I also know for a fact that there is routine over loading of the aircraft already becaue of the low standard weight being used. I also know for a fact that because of approach limitations into Vavau they should be offloading roughly 950kg to remain within performance specs. They are not.
    Again repeating what someone said above, there is no way I would let anyone I know or care about get on this airplane, not because it itself is unsafe but because so many corners have been cut and all safely margins have been removed that normally apply to such operations.

  7. your take on the Ma-60 I believe to be quite accurate. The government claim is these pilots have over 10,000 hours of flying albeit not on type. I question how a young pilot of perhaps 25 to 30 managed to acquire over 10,000 hours left or right seat.
    We here have watched the ma60 do missed approaches I believe because of rain. viz was in the acceptable range for vfr day time flight. I believe given the approach and length of runway required,the parameters of the ma60 are not conducive to Vava'u airport. Unless this runway is lengthened, and widened the margin for approaches would not present a comfortable and safe level for landing the ma 60.
    One can only hope the government recognizes and realizes this is about peoples lives.

  8. RTA have purchased A3-CIA (queenair) from Chats.
    They had intended to purchase A3-LYP (BN-2)from Chats also, but that fell through and they have now purchased BN-2s from Samoa.
    They have also requested the use of ZK-CIF since the MA-60 cannot land on short strips.
    CIF has recently returned to NZ for Tauck work.
    Chats metroliner is still in Tonga for maintenance and is getting a new paint-job.