Real Tonga Airlines (RLT, Tongatapu) has ended MA-60 operations after the Tongan government terminated its lease contract with the airline early last month. The termination came after the Tongan government, on February 8, passed legislation making New Zealand Civil Aviation Rules (NZCAR) the de-facto standard by which the country's aviation community is to be governed.

However, in order for the MA-60 to operate under the new NZCAR, it must first undergo Type Certification with the Tongan Ministry of Infrastructure before it can be issued its Type Acceptance. In addition, Real Tonga must also address issues on its current Part 121 certificate to adequately demonstrate that it is in full compliance with corresponding requirements in the NZCAR.

"The MA60 is therefore not operating until the two above requirements have been met and the aircraft has now been formally returned to Government and the lease between Government and Real Tonga has been terminated," Real Tonga said.

The Matangi Tonga newspaper reports that once regulatory hurdles have been cleared, the contentious turboprop, a gift to the Tongan government from China, will resume operations albeit with a new consortium of investors which includes the former Tongan Deputy Prime Minister and current Vava'u People's Representative to Parliament, Samiu Vaipulu.

New Zealand imposed a travel advisory and withdrew funding to Tonga soon after the MA-60 entered revenue service in 2013. Wellington argued that the type's questionable safety record and lack of certification by aviation authorities in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and the United States had rendered it unsafe to fly.