Tongan Royal Flight

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

Crown Prince George (Siaosi) Tupou was educated abroad and became very interested in modern technology. He served more than twenty years as Tonga’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence and was closely involved in the modernisation of the Tonga Defence Services.


In about 2004 a Beech 18 belonging to Aerial Surveys Inc of the USA came to be based in Tonga. The aircraft was used by the Crown Prince and the Tongan Royal Family on several occaisons, including trips to New Zealand. In September 2006 the Crown Prince became King Tupou V. The Beech continued to be used by the Royal Family until at least 2009, but appears to have been little used subsequently. Its airworthiness certificate expired in June 2011. In 2012 the King sadly died and was succeeded by his younger brother.

Key Dates

2004? Beech 18 is first made available to the Royal Family
11 September 2006 Crown Prince becomes King Tupou V
June 2011 C of A for Beech 18 expires

Current Status

The Beech 18 aircraft remains in Tonga but is not believed to be operational.

Future Plans

No plans known. The Royal Family now uses charted commercial airliners for transport.


Markings

National Insignia

None carried – the aircraft retained its former markings.

Aircraft Serial Numbers

The Beech 18 retained its US civil registration.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.


Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used

Current Aircraft Inventory

Not applicable.

All-Time Aircraft Used List

Aircraft Type Quantity Service Entry Out of Service Origin
Beech D18S 1 2004? 2009? USA

Aircraft NOT Used

No false reports known.

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

None known.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

Tongatapu-Fua’amoto International Airport, Tonga.

Organisational Structure

No subordinate units.

Current Unit Assignments

No subordinate units.

Historical Unit Assignments

Not applicable.

All-Time Flying Units List

Not applicable.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

The aircraft is still based at Tongatapu-Fua’amoto International Airport.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

As above.


More Information

Books

None known.

Magazines

To be added

Websites

Pacific Islands Report

Any photographs illustrating this operator would be welcome.

 

Beech D18S

in Tongan Royal Flight Service

History

One Beech D18S delivered circa 2004. Owned by Aerial Surveys Inc of the USA but used by the King of Tonga for VIP Transport duties. Last seen January 2014.


Individual Details

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
N500MK A-216 N500MK 2004? model D18S, noted Mar 2004, noted Aug 2009, C of A expired Jun 2011


Pictures

None at present.

More Information

References

Other Sources

To be added.

National Markings
Tonga Defence Force

of Tonga Defence Services

This section describes and illustrates the various national insignia used by Tonga Defence Services/His Majesty’s Armed Forces since its formation:


                                  
                          Main Marking                              Fin Flash

1996-2013
Prior to the name change from TDS to HMAF, the aircraft carried explicit national markings and titles. The main marking, a red and yellow Maltese cross surmounted by a crown, was displayed on the fuselage sides. No wing insignia appears to have been carried, and no fin flash was used. The service titles TONGA DEFENCE SERVICES – AIR WING were displayed on the fuselage sides.


2013-present
After the name change, HMAF aircraft no longer carried the national insignia or service titles, merely a civilian-style registration on the fuselage sides.

His Majesty’s Armed Forces of Tonga

Operator Profile

History

Narrative Summary

The Tonga Defence Force was first established in 1939, as a reaction to the deteriorating international situation. After World War Two spread to the Pacific region, New Zealand was invited to train Tongan soldiers. Two units of the TDF subsequently saw action in the Solomon Islands campaign.

The TDF was disbanded at the end of the war, only to be reactivated in 1946. Tonga gained independence in 1970 and the TDF remained a land-based force. On 10 March 1973 the Tongan Maritime Force was established, and the former TDF renamed the Tongan Land Force. Both services became branches of the newly established Tonga Defence Services (TDS) under the Ministry of Defence of Tonga.

The first attempt to create an Air Wing for the TDS occured in 1986 when a Victa Airtourer light aircraft was obtained, but this aircraft never flew in Tongan service and was quickly re-sold. On 4 May 1996 a second attempt to create an Air Wing was more successful. A Beech 18 was taken into service for Maritime Patrol and Search & Rescue duties. The Air Wing operates in close cooperation with the Maritime Force and is sometimes referred to as the Maritime Force Air Wing. In 1999 a Citabria was aquired to help with pilot training of the tailwheel configured Beech 18.

In a controversial move the TDS was renamed His Majesty’s Armed Forces on 12 September 2013. The removal of the word ‘Tonga’ from the title and the assumption of a personal association with the king, resulted in a generic title that could apply to any monarchy from Norway to Swaziland.

Key Dates

1939 Tonga Defence Force (TDF) first established.
1943 TDF ground units trained for action in the Solomons Campaign of WW2.
1945 TDF disbanded.
1946 TDF re-activated.
1970 TDF renamed Tonga Defence Services.
1986 First aircraft delivered – not used.
4 May 1996 Air Wing formally established.
2013 TDS renamed His Majesty’s Armed Forces.

Current Status

The current status of the aircraft of the HMAF is unclear, as the official TDS website no longer works. The Citabria was seen in an aircraft shelter at at Fua’amotu on 16 January 2014. The Beech 18 has not been seen for a while.

Future Plans

No plans known. A replacement for the ancient Beech 18 must be an increasingly urgent requirement.


Markings

National Insignia

CurrentHistorical

Aircraft Serial Numbers

Aircraft operating with TDS carried two-digit serial numbers prefixed by AW, e.g. Beech 18 AW-01, but after the name change to HMAF aircraft now carry Tongan civil registrations, e.g. Citabria A3-AWB, where the ‘AW’ presumably stands for Air Wing. There is no confirmation that the Beech 18 received A3-AWA.

Unit/Base Codes

Coding system not used.


Aircraft

Aircraft Designations

None – Manufacturers designations used

Current Aircraft Inventory

Aircraft Type Total Del’d Total Active Still on Order Role
Beech G18S 1 1 0 Maritime Patrol
Champion 7GCBC Citabria 1 1 0 Maritime Patrol

All-Time Aircraft Used List

Aircraft Type Quantity Service Entry Out of Service Origin
Beech G18S 1 1996 current ex-civil
Champion 7GCBC Citabria 1 1999 current USA
Victa Airtourer 1 1986 1986 ex-civil

Aircraft NOT Used

False Reports of Aircraft in Service

Aircraft Losses and Incidents

None known.

Organisation

Main Headquarters

His Majesty’s Armed Forces, Vilai Barracks, Nuku’alofa, Tonga.

Organisational Structure

No subordinate units.

Current Order of Battle

No subordinate units.

Historical Orders of Battle

Not applicable.

All-Time Flying Units List

Not applicable.

Air Bases

Current Air Bases

The aircraft are based at Tongatapu-Fua’amoto Airport.

All-Time Air Bases Used List

As above.


More Information

Books

None known.

Magazines

To be added

Websites

wikipedia: His Majesty’s Armed Forces (Tonga)
Flight International
Pacific Islands Report

Any photographs illustrating this operator would be welcome.

 

Aircraft Not Used

of Tonga Defence Services

This page gives details of some of the aircraft types that were offered or promised to Tonga Defence Services but not delivered, cancelled official orders, and types have been falsely reported as being in service.

Aerospatiale SA330 Puma
Some Russian sources mention a SA330 Puma being used circa 1998, but there is no evidence to support this.

CASA C-212 Aviocar
In 1985 the Government of Tonga ordered a CASA C-212. Some observers assumed this was for military use, but in fact it was delivered to Friendly Island Airways.

IAI Arava
Flight International mentions a report of up to 4 IAI Aravas being ordered for 1988 delivery. No such order was placed.

Harbin Y-12
In 2012 the Government of Tonga negotiated with the Chinese Government of the supply of a Harbin Y-12. Some observers speculated that this aircraft could supplement or replace the TDS’s ancient Beech 18. This aircraft arrived in 2013 and was actually operated by Real Tonga airlines.

Mil Mi-8MT
The Russian version of Wikipedia mentions a Mi-8 being delivered by a An-124 on 25 September 1995. It was not used by the TDS.

Beech G18S

in Tonga Defence Services Use

History

One Beech G18S delivered in 1996. Used for Maritime Patrol duties.


Individual Details

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
AW-01 BA483 N9644R May 1996 model G18S, US reg’n canx Nov 1996, noted Aug 2009


Pictures


Beech G18S AW-01 (photo, Peter Lewis via Greg Kozak)


More Information

References

Other Sources

To be added.

Champion 7GCBC Citabria

in Tonga Defence Services Use

History

One (Bellanca-built) Champion 7GCBC Citabria delivered in 1999. Used for Training. Retired and placed into storage by August 2009. Seen in January 2014.


Individual Details

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
AW-02 817-95 N8469V Sep 1999 noted stored Aug 2009


Pictures


Citabria A3-AWB (photo, P White via Greg Kozak)


More Information

References

Other Sources

To be added.

Victa Airtourer 115

in Tonga Defence Services Use

History

One Airtourer 115 obtained second-hand in Fiji and delivered in 1986. Intended to be used for Maritime Patrol but not taken into service. Returned to Fiji the same year.


Individual Details

Serial c/no. Prev. Identity Delivered Fate/Notes
R151 DQ-FBD Jun 1986 to DQ-FBD 1986


Pictures

None at present.

More Information

References

Other Sources

To be added.

Tonga

Country Profile

The Country

Geography

Tonga is an island nation in the southern Pacific Ocean. It has maritime borders with Fiji to the west, Wallis and Futuna to the north west, Samoa to the north east, Niue to the east and New Zealand to the south. Tonga consists of 176 islands, running roughly north-south, of which 36 are inhabited. The largest island is Tongatapu.

The islands of Tonga are made up of two geologically different parallel chains of islands. The western islands are all volcanic in origin. The eastern islands are uplifted low coral formations or sand cays. Many of these have offshore barrier reefs.

Tonga has a total land area of 748 sq km (289 sq miles) and had a population of 103,000 in 2011. The main ethnic groups are Polynesian 98.0%, European 2.0%. The capital city, Nuku’alofa is on the island of Tongatapu.

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National History

Summary Narrative History

Timeline – Key Dates in Tonga History

Further National Information

BBC News Profile: Tonga
wikipedia: Tonga
wikipedia: History of Tonga

Aviation

Text to be added on the development of aviation in Tonga.

Markings

Civil Aircraft Registrations

Tonga civil aircraft use the registration sequence A3-AAA to A3-ZZZ.

Tonga Aircraft Register

Aircraft Operators

Military Air Arms

Defence Aviation (His Majesty’s Armed Forces – Air Wing)

Central Government Agencies

Royal Flight (Tongan Royal Flight)

Public Service Aviation

Medical Aviation – no EMS aviation services
Police Aviation (Tonga Police Force) – no aviation unit

Commercial Aviation

Air Tonga
Real Tonga
Royal Tongan Airlines [1985-2004]

wikipedia: Airlines of Tonga
The World’s Airlines: Tonga

Private Aviation

To be added

Industry

Aircraft Manufacturers

None at present.

Aircraft Maintenance/Repair Depots

None known.

Airfields

Civil Airports & Airfields

Airports in Tonga

Military Air Bases & Airfields

Military Air Bases Listing – to be added.

On Show

Aviation Museums

None at present

Airshow Dates

Key Airshow Dates

More Information

Aviation-Related Magazines

None known.

Aviation Bibliography

To be added

Web Links

To be added.