Runway Blackout Diverts International Flights From Tonga International Airport

Faulty cable fixed, more inspections to ensure lights remain on for future flights

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 19, 2016) – A black-out at the Fua’amotu International Airport runway at 6.33pm yesterday evening disrupted international air services between Tonga, New Zealand and Australia. Two commercial scheduled flights were unable to land, and another private medical evacuation flight was delayed until this morning.

Hon. Poasi Tei, the Minister for Public Enterprises told Parliament this morning that a Fiji Airways flight to Fiji had managed to take off at 7.30 pm without lights on the runway.

He said that a 737 Virgin Australia flight scheduled to arrive at 7.20pm was diverted to Samoa, and an Air New Zealand Airbus 320 flight scheduled to arrive at Fua’amotu before 8 pm was diverted to Nadi Fiji.

Hon. Tei said that a smaller aircraft from New Zealand that was scheduled to come to Tonga to pick up a patient for medical treatment in New Zealand was informed not to come due to this problem.

It was understood that airport staff managed to fix the problem last night and everything was back to normal today. The private aircraft to remove the patient for medical treatment had arrived this morning.

[PIR editor's note: On Oct. 20, 2016 RNZI reported that 'The CEO of Tonga Airports Ltd says work will be undertaken next week to avoid the kinds of disruptions that led to two international flights being diverted Tuesday night. ... Mr Ma'ake said an inspection found a faulty cable which was repaired in time for operations this morning. ... He said Tonga Airports would be carrying out extra inspections and work over the next few days.']

Hon. Tei the Minister responsible for Tonga Airports Ltd., which operates all airports in Tonga, told Parliament that the problem was identified as a cut of power supply to the runway.

Parliament heard that the runway lights were working fine when it was checked and turned on at around 5:42pm. It was only discovered to be not working when it was turned on again at around 6:30pm, in preparation for the international flights.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
Copyright © 2016 Matangi Tonga. All Rights Reserved

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