Real Tonga Airlines (RT, Tongatapu) has resumed commercial MA-60 operations after it deployed A3-RTL (cn 904) onto its Tongatapu-Vava'u route on Tuesday, September 20.
The Chinese-manufactured turboprop was withdrawn from service in February 2015 after the Tongan government cancelled a lease agreement. At the time, the Pacific island-state came under intense pressure from New Zealand for operating the aircraft which, it said, had not been properly type-certified in line with international norms.
However, following months of regulatory realignments, the Tongan government signed a four-year lease contract for the aircraft with Real Tonga Airlines in August.
Speaking to the Matangi Tonga news agency during last week's inaugural flight, Tevita Palu, the CEO for Real Tonga Airlines, said the MA-60 would initially operate a weekly return service to Vava'u although this could increase dependent on demand.
Real Tonga currently operates a broad variety of aircraft which, aside from the MA-60, include: a Y12E; a Saab 340B (leased from Montrose Global); a Jetstream 32; and an Islander. While it currently focuses on domestic Tongan flights, it is planning to deploy the Saab340B onto international services to Apia Faleolo, Samoa next month.