Samoa’s Prime Minister, Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi made light of the fact that Samoa benefitted greatly from the helicopter service that was offered to the Kingdom of Tonga, yet failed to be given registration by the Government.
An Australian businessman, Rodger McCutcheon, had offered the use of his helicopter for emergency services in Tonga, but the Tongan Government took so long to grant a license. It would have taken up to four months for the application to be considered. Mr. McCutcheon eventually withdrew his offer to Tonga, and moved to Samoa where he was welcomed as a helicopter pilot, and granted an operating license.
PM Tuilaepa told media in Samoa the reasons behind Tonga’s failure to grant a license to the helicopter was unreasonable and foolish.
“It makes no sense that a Government would reject assistance like this that would benefit the country,” he said.
Helicopters are needed in emergency services particularly in uplifting people needing urgent medical attention from isolated places.
They can also be used in rescue services to those involved in accidents either at sea or in isolated locations on land.
Tonga’s Civil Aviation claims their standard for licensing of helicopters requires a lot more than other countries. McCutcheon’s helicopter was licensed for operation in Australia, a country where thousands of helicopters and licensed and operate.
In recent years, there have been difficulties in sorting out safety issues with planes in Tonga. The China-made MA60 aircraft, for example, a gift from China, flew for a while in domestic air services, and then due to new requirements from Tonga’s Civil Aviation, the plane was grounded.
Reason given by the Civil Aviation authorities was that the aircraft was not up to par with requirements by New Zealand Aviation. New Zealand Foreign Ministry issued warnings to NZ tourists visiting Tonga that the MA60 may have safety problems.
The MA60 had been licensed and passed the safety requirements of China, as well as other countries where the aircraft operates. But in Tonga it is parked at the airport while the authorities have not made up their minds what to do.