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Better aircraft for Tonga but MA60 does not deserve bad rap

Auckland, New Zealand

User Peter White commented on NZ suspends tourism aid to Tonga over MA60 safety concerns

I am somewhat surprised by the reaction from within Tonga and abroad regarding the MA60 and its “safety” record. It seems to me to be largely scaremongering and overstated comments by an under-informed public. Do we jump to this conclusion because the aircraft is Chinese made?

Everyone keeps referring to Wikipedia and its “horrible” safety record. Why don’t we look into this a bit further. Horrible compared to what?

Yes, it has had 7 incidents/accidents in 4 years but what people forget is they are not all because of a fault with the aircraft. The first 3 for example, from Jan 2009 - May 2011 were operational/pilot error accidents. This can and does happen to any aircraft.

At this stage, the accident on 10 June 2013 appears to be nothing more than an undershoot and loss of control on landing. Again, happens to any aircraft. Just look at the Boeing 777 at San Francisco in the weekend! This, like the above did not happen due to a fault with the aircraft.

What amazes me if people around the world fly without a second thought on North American or European aircraft such as the Bombardier Dash 8 or the Beechcraft 1900D when you could say that these are aircraft that do have a questionable history!

Just Google: “Dash 8 Landing Gear” - there are over 20 documented “crash landings” due to issues with the undercarriage, including Air New Zealand aircraft! While you are there, Google: “Beech 1900D Accidents”, if you do, you will probably never fly again.

Want to see the list of accidents the Convair family has? The same family of Aircraft Chatham’s Pacific (ZK-CIF) used to operate in Tonga:
Yeah, not pretty.

What people really need to worry about is not the aircraft but crew competency and airport safety.

For the crew/pilots:

  • Are they fit to fly?
  • How many hours do they have in total?
  • How many on the particular aircraft?
  • Are they well rehearsed in emergency procedures?
  • Are they confident and well trained in instrument approaches?
  • Confident with missed approaches and go around when in Instrument flight conditions?
  • Well trained on strong crosswinds? etc..

For the airports:

  • What published approaches do they have?
  • Are all the navigation aids operational?
  • Are the runway and approach lighting serviceable?
  • How does the runway handle rain run off?
  • What is braking performance on the runway like when wet?
  • Are the Rescue Fire crew well trained and well equipped?
  • Is there a overshoot or under run area? etc…

These above examples concern me more (as a pilot myself and a passenger) than a media beat-up about a Chinese-made plane.

While I agree there are better suited aircraft for Tonga - ATR-42, SAAB 340, Jetstream J31, EMB120 for example, I don’t personally think the MA60 deserves it bad rap and everyone needs to calm down. After all, you have all been flying around on the Harbin Y-12 (another Chinese aircraft) since pre airlines Tonga days.

I am coming back  to Vava’u in December and will have no issues flying on the MA60, in fact I would love the Jump Seat!

Peter White


'I he taimi na'aku kei si'i ai, na'e 'i ai 'emau fu'u hoosi ko e pau'u atu. Na'e tala ma'u pe 'e he 'eku tamai ke 'oua teu heka he hoosi he 'oku pau'u. 'Aho 'e taha ne 'alu 'eku tamai kihe feitu'u kehe, ha'u au 'o teuteu'i fu'u hoosi 'o heka ai. Te'eki pe ke u heka hake kuo lele hoosi kau pa'ulu 'o puli a mamani. Ne toki foki mai 'eku tamai 'osi nai houa 4, malo ne u kei tokoto mo'ui pe. Ne u fua 'ae kanongatamaki 'eku talangata'a, kae tautefito ki he'eku ongo matu'a 'a e feinga ke faito'o au ke u mo'ui, he na'e 'ikai ke ma'u 'ae ngaahi faito'o totonu ke faito'o 'aki 'a e ngaahi lavea lalahi pehe 'i Tonga. SAIA

Stereotyping the plane's safety to a stubborn horse is a bit of stretch!

A horse is a "wild animal" that you can't ever fully control, it has its own mind and will do what it wants, but a plane is largely within our control and is safe as we make it.

Peter White, why are you surprised that we reacted accordingly to the issue amid the stance of FAA and CAANZ on the gifted aircraft? Are you telling us that both authorities are wrong in their respective decisions to decline certification? That their decisions are basically based on a racially dislike for anything Chinese? I suggest you made a formal complaint to the authorities concerned and challenged their under-informed position on the issue. We will then be convinced by a resulting U-turn in their stance that their original decline in granting certification was a reflection of the operators' state of preparedness rather than a reflection of the aircraft's physical fitness.