The completion of a USD$28 million upgrade of Tonga's two international airports at Fua’amotu and in Vava’u at the end of January will encourage more international airlines to come to Tonga.
Viliami Ma’ake, CEO for the Tonga Airports Ltd. said that the resurfacing of the Fua’amotu International Airport runway makes it possible for a 777 aircraft to land on Tongatapu. Previously, the biggest passenger aircraft that could land at Fua’amotu was a 767.
The upgrading of the Fua’amotu Airport, will include a redesigned terminal and an upgrading of the security services.
In Vava'u, the Lupepau’u International Airport has a resurfaced runway and a minor extension to the runway to enable the MA60 to comfortably turn around. The biggest aircraft that can now land at Lupepau’u is a New Zealand Air Force Hercules.
The upgrading of Fua’amotu and Lupepau’u was financed with a USD$28 million grant from the World Bank.
Viliami said the board of the Tonga Airport Ltd. also intended to use the heavy construction equipment from Australia/New Zealand for other construction projects while they are here.
The cost of mobilisation for the project alone was about $2 million.
"TAL has taken a loan and work is still going on at the Fua’amotu and Lupepau’u," he said.
At Fua’amotu there is an extension to the apron to make it possible for a 777 and a 767 to berth at the same time.
Viliami said that a new tower will also be built, so the tower staff can see where the aircraft will land at the end of the runway.
He said that the existing tower, built in 1980, will enable Tonga to abide with International Aviation law which requires a Stand-by Tower.
As for the Lupepau’u Airport, Viliami said that the tower is in a bad shape, “the cap at the top is rusted.”
The extra work on Tonga’s two international airports is expected to be completed soon. The first Air New Zealand 777 aircraft is scheduled to land at the Fua’amotu International Airport in April
The first Fiji Airways ADR42 aircraft flight to Vava'u has been scheduled to arrive at the Lupepau’u International Airport from Nadi Fiji in April. It will be the beginning of an international air service connecting Tonga to Nadi, and to the rest of the world.
The success of the World Bank’s USD$28m grant to Tonga went beyond the upgrading of Tonga’s international airports. Viliami said that the Tonga Airports Limited has also been selected by the World Bank as its Implement Agency for the Pacific, “so we oversee World Bank projects in Tonga, Samoa, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.”