News of a crash landing of a small aircraft at ‘Eua airport this morning is coming out as horrified ‘Eua residents witnessed a plane land without its landing gear down.
REAL Tonga has confirmed this afternoon that the seven passengers and one crew member are safe, after a “belly landing” of the Queen Air.
Reporting on her Facebook page Naite Ma’ake-Hausia from the Hideaway Resort in ‘Eua, said, ” I will never forget the feeling of watching the aircraft crash land this morning. Landing gear wasn’t working? Thankfully everyone is ok. Thumbs up to the pilot.”
“While we were waiting at the terminal worrying about the passengers, we watched them get off and walk towards us. And then we heard them laugh…wth?! There were Japanese volunteers and Tongans on the flight.. and in true Tongan spirit, they said they’re ok and it could’ve been worse, and they have to go to work. lol! Mani ee, fai atu e worry ki a nautolu ka nau kata. They were more worried about the pilot and how he’s handling it. They thanked him and told him not to worry, everyone is fine and the plane is replaceable and just look on the positive side.”
The CEO of Real Tonga, Tevita Palu, could not be reached for comment immediately.
It is understood that a second aircraft that went to ‘Eua today is now in the air returning to Tongatapu.
The CEO for Tonga Civil Aviation was not available for comment at lunchtime today. It is understood that he travelled to ‘Eua to investigate the incident.
Updated, 1:47pm Wednesday 20 April 2014:
REAL Tonga Ltd. airlines issued the following Press Statement entitled “Aircraft Incident in ‘Eua”-
“This morning at approximately 0700, Real Tonga’s aircraft was involved in an incident on landing at ‘Eua airport.
Initial reports from the Captain, indicate that the nose landing gear failed to deploy and the Captain was required to perform a “belly” landing.
The flight was a scheduled service between Tongatapu and ‘Eua. There were 7 (seven) passengers on board and one crew member. There were no injuries to either passengers or crew.
Real Tonga’s Chief Executive has expressed his gratitude that nobody was hurt and he advised that a team, consisting of senior management and engineering personnel have been dispatched to ‘Eua to make a proper assessment.
Police and the Ministry of Transport have been notified. The aircraft was scheduled to operate a flight to Niuafo’ou later today and this service has had to be cancelled.
All other Real Tonga flights are operating as normal. There are no other details available at this time and an update of the situation will be provided once the necessary reports have been submitted from the evaluation team.”
The plane a Beech Queen Air A3-CIA has a New Zealand history. According to a blog written by aircraft enthusiast Steve Lowe, the A3-CIA operated for Port Hutt Air as ZK–WKA from February 2002 until 2004. He reported that after languishing in Palmerston North for a few years, in 2010 the aircraft was brought up to flyable standard and was registered as A3-CIA for Chathams Pacific’s Tongan operation.
“Chathams Pacific ceased operations on the 2 March 2013 but the Queen Air was leased by the new Tongan airline, Real Tonga. Subsequently A3-CIA was sold to Real Tonga and repainted in their colours,” Steve stated.