Tonga To Start Helicopter Service For Tourists, Emergencies

admin's picture

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Two helicopters to be based in Tongatapu, Vavaʻu

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 4, 2016) – Tonga’s own life-saving helicopter service is expected to start in early 2016. The new helicopter service will also enable visitors to enjoy the beauty of Tonga from the air and to drop into remote island resorts.

Rodger McCutcheon, the man who has been working tirelessly during the past two years to establish a helicopter service for Tonga, told Matangi Tonga yesterday, 3 January that a 7-seater Eurocopter AS350 helicopter is expected to arrive by ship in Nuku’alofa on 31 January.

The AS350 helicopter will be the first of two helicopters to service Tonga.

"The first helicopter will be based in Tongatapu close to the CBD. The second helicopter will be based in Vava’u.

"We will be based close to the heart of business and the tourist trade," said Rodger. From these positions they could assist police rescue boats, help people in trouble "in life saving quick time."

Rodger said that it was pain and suffering that had driven him to get a helicopter service for Tonga. He said that it was two years ago when a saw a badly injured person in serious pain on the island of Foeata in Vava’u that he decided, "I had to get a helicopter to Tonga and ‘Saving Tongan Lives’ has been my slogan since that day."

He is bringing all the equipment required for medical emergencies, including stretcher kits and oxygen, plus life rafts and vests that can be dropped into the water. "We also have a large net that can hold and lift five or six people out of the water into rescue boats or to land. "I'm also bringing a fire fighting bucket and other helpful items for emergency work," he said.

Rodger said that to get to where he is today has not been a smooth ride. He initially went into partnership with a New Zealand company that, unfortunately, went broke.

He said that it has not been easy to find a suitable partner for a Tongan helicopter operation. He has been very passionate about promoting Tonga to the world, and improving the health and well being of all Tongans, so it was not easy finding a partner with the same values as himself

However, he met Michael van der Zypp, the owner and the chief pilot of a respected Australian aviation company, Helicopter Group of Melbourne, and together they are the major shareholders of a Tongan registered helicopter company.

"I am very pleased with the agreement I have now, which will ultimately see two helicopters in Tonga, and all the necessary emergency and commercial equipment we need for the work … ultimately the investment will be approximately $4.7 million pa’anga."

He will be the Chief Crewman for the new service.

Rodger used to own and manage an air transport and air charter and flight training operation in New Zealand. He was also the International freight and logistics manager for the Pacific Forum Line for five years.

Civil aviation

Meanwhile, the CEO for Civil Aviation, Pesalili Tuiano, said that Tonga had not yet granted a helicopter operating licence for the service. He was touring Vava'u today, assessing damage after Tropical Cyclone Ula.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment