Real Tonga Airlines Plane Detained, Grounded After ‘Incident’

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Jetstream made emergency landing on one engine with 19 on board

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 7, 2015) – A Jetstream (J32) aircraft operated by the Real Tonga Airlines has been detained and grounded this afternoon after making a full emergency landing at Fua’amotu airport at mid-day today, in what was the second serious aircraft incident for the airline in less than a week.

The Jetstream carrying 19 people from Vava’u to Tongatapu landed with one engine.

Tonga’s new Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu this afternoon ordered that the aircraft "be detained and grounded" indefinitely until a complete report of the incident is submitted to the Ministry by Real Tonga Ltd.

Hon. ‘Etuate Lavulavu said he was at the airport when the aircraft landed, and he was informed by an engineer of the Real Tonga Airlines about a problem with the aircraft.

He said that after the aircraft left the Lupepau’u Airport, Vava’u after 10:00 am this morning, one of the two engines was not functioning properly, and as a result the two engines were heating up and the plane was loosing power.

For a safety measure, the two pilots, New Zealanders, Simon Peter J. Butler and Athol Aaron M. Isaac, decided to switch the troubled engine off and fly the aircraft with only one engine.

‘Etuate said that though it would have been closer for the aircraft to either return to Vava’u or to try and land at Pangai, Ha’apai, but for a full emergency landing they concluded that it would be safer to try and get to Fua’amotu Airport.

‘Etuate said that the 19 people on board were scared but were very happy that they landed safely.

The cause of the engine failure has yet to be identified.

The 20 year old aircraft has been leased by the Real Tonga Airline during the past six months from an Australian company.

With regards to a demand by ICAO for the Tongan Civil Authority to upgrade its aircraft certification process and its Civil Engineering Competency, ‘Etuate said that ICAO officials were due to arrive in Tonga on 15 January.

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