Civil Aviation admits PASO was not involved in Lulutai Airline’s AOC process

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David Tohi, Aviation Consultant

By Ana Tausinga

 

Nuku’alofa, Tonga: Since the media’s questioning of the transparency and truthfulness of Lulutai Airline’s certification process to attain its AOC (Airline Operating Certificate), the truth has slowly surfaced. Contrary to what Lulutai Board members have claimed, Civil Aviation of Tonga has now issued a press release denying PASO’s involvement in the certification process.

The press release issued by Civil Aviation of Tonga on 29 September, 2020, states: “It is hereby confirmed that PASO was not engaged by Tonga’s Civil Aviation Director, in any capacity whatsoever, for the certification process of Lulutai Airlines. PASO’s services are valued by Tonga Civil Aviation, and Tonga will certainly continue to work with PASO in the future under more favourable circumstances.”

Initially, according to Civil Aviation, PASO was enlisted to assist with the certification process, but due to COVID – 19 and the scheduled proposal submitted by PASO, it would have delayed their certification process until 2021.

It is also reported it would have cost Lulutai Airlines $500,000 to carry out the process with PASO consultants.

Subsequently, the Director of Civil Aviation, Kilifi Havea, rejected PASO’s proposal due to the time and money involved.

Instead, Dave Tohi, a Tongan national who specializes in aviation safety and an independent consultant, was one of the inspectors hired by Civil Aviation to conduct the certification process, according to the press release.

So, why did the Government and Lulutai Board of Directors simply choose not to state the facts right from the beginning?

Tevita Palu, CEO of Real Tonga, has expressed his concern over the fairness of how the Director of Civil Aviation, Kilifi Havea, has undermined his airline’s AOC license in order to keep them from operating. It is alleged that Havea has been working behind the scene as the Director of Aviation to help co-ordinate Lulutai Airline’s start-up venture.

Under the Civil Aviation Act of Tonga, the Director of Aviation is to be impartial and unbiased as the regulator. But if the regulator is now engaged in starting up an airline, how fair will he carry out his role against the competitor?

Many Tongans had high hopes that a government owned airline would provide lower airfare to the public, as it turns out, Lulutai Airlines promised a lot, but has only delivered controversy at a high price.

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