Fuaʻamotu International Airport
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|Fuaʻamotu International Airport|
|IATA: TBU – ICAO: NFTF|
|Operator||Ministry of Civil Aviation|
|Elevation AMSL||126 ft / 38 m|
Fuaʻamotu International Airport (IATA: TBU, ICAO: NFTF) is an international airport in Tonga. It is on the south side of the main island, Tongatapu, 35 km from the capital of Tonga, Nukuʻalofa. Although named after the nearby village of Fuaʻamotu, which is on Tungī's (the king's) estate, in reality the airfield is located on the Tuʻi Pelehake's estate, closer to the village of Pelehake (which did not yet exist as a village during the early aviation days).
Fuaʻamotu was originally built in 1942 by a civilian contractor for the US Army. It was intended as a World War II heavy bomber field, and had three coral-surfaced runways. In the late 1970s, it was expanded to permit jet aircraft to use the runways. Fuaʻamotu is now suitable for up to Boeing 767 size aircraft, but remains closed to larger jets (e.g., 747s).
Fuaʻamotu International Airport is equipped with VOR/DME (114.5) and NDB (245) navigational facilities. No ILS is available. Lighting is provided for the runway, apron, and taxiway. International airlines with regular services to Fuaʻamotu include Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways and Virgin Australia. Fiji Airways flies Boeing 737-800 aircraft from Nadi and ATR 42-500 aircraft from Suva (operated by Pacific Sun). Air New Zealand flies Airbus A320 and Boeing 767-300ER aircraft from Auckland. In March 2016, Air New Zealand announced plans to introduce Boeing 787-9s for the route Auckland–Tonga starting on June 15, 2016. Virgin Australia flies a Boeing 737-800 from Sydney and Auckland.
Air traffic control
Fuaʻamotu is a total controlled aerodrome and all traffic are guided by air traffic control. The tower is contactable on 118.5, and Ground on 121.9. Outside of the hours of service at Fuaʻamotu a limited FIS is available by Auckland Oceanic.
Runway 11/29: (Elev 91 ft/28m) PCN 45 FBXT (Flexible pavement, medium subgrade strength, medium tyre pressure (1,500 kPa (220 psi)), technical evaluation completed). Runway End Identifier Lights are installed at each end of the runway, as are T-VASI glidescope indicators. Low Intensity Runway Lighting is provided, and a simple Low Intensity Lighting Approach Lighting System is installed on Runway 11.
It is the strength of the runway rather than the length that restricts operations from Fuaʻamotu. Even a fully laden Boeing 767-300ER on a flexible pavement B strength, such as at this airport, requires a Pavement Classification Number (PCN) of 59, therefore is not allowed to takeoff with full load. The same can be said of a Boeing 747-400, which theoretically could take off and land at Fuaʻamotu length-wise, but needs a PCN of 66, and would therefore damage the runway severely in the process. (A B747-400 weighs over twice as much as a B767-300ER.)
On April 28, 2006, the Tongan Government ended their controversial one-airline policy that had been in favour of Peau Vavaʻu. Two airlines are now permitted to serve the country. Previously, Peau Vavaʻu had the monopoly, but were unable to fulfill the terms of their contract to serve all the islands named in it. Airlines Tonga were thus permitted to start operations. There was a nervous wait over some months on who would then be granted the monopoly; instead, both airlines are to continue service. Peau Vavaʻu have stated officially that they will support the government's stand, and Airlines Tonga state they are very happy with Cabinet's decision.
Peau Vavaʻu operate a Convair 580 subleased from Reef Air leased from New Zealand's Air Chathams to Haʻapai and Vavaʻu, and a Twin Otter to Niuafoʻou and Niuatoputapu. Airlines Tonga operate Harbin Y-12 aircraft.
There is no public bus service to the airport, but several hostels and hotels in Nukuʻalofa meet flights and taxis are available.
Under Tongan law, Fuaʻamotu International Airport is closed on Sundays — only to be opened in distress, after the minister's approval.
Lupepauʻu Airport service
Some short-haul international flights such as to Fiji or American Samoa also operate from Vavaʻu Island's Lupepauʻu Airport from time to time. Airlines Tonga plans to restart this route using a Dash-8 type aircraft later this year.
Until August 2006, Peau Vavaʻu used a DC-3 on their domestic routes, but this has recently been replaced with a Jetstream 41. Airlines Tonga use ex Air Fiji Harbin Y12s, and an Embraer Bandeirante.
Airlines and destinations
|Air New Zealand||Auckland|
|Real Tonga||'Eua, Ha'apai, Vava'u|
operated by Fiji Link
|Polynesian Airlines||Charter: Apia|
|Virgin Australia||Auckland, Sydney|
- Airport information for NFTF from DAFIF (effective October 2006)
- Airport information for TBU at Great Circle Mapper. Source: DAFIF (effective October 2006).
- "Air New Zealand Plans 787 Dreamliner Debut in Tonga in mid-June 2016". airlineroute. 24 March 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- Boeing commercial aircraft specifications
- "Tonga ends its controversial one-airline policy". Matangi Tonga (Vavaʻu Press). 2006-05-01. Retrieved 2006-05-05.
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