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 WW 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, Air Pacific, Pacific Blue Airlines, and Polynesian Airlines. Air Pacific fly Boeing 737-800s from Nadi and Suva. Air New Zealand flies Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-300s, and Boeing 767-300s from Auckland. Once a week, a 767-300 continues to Apia and Los Angeles, and vice versa. Polynesian Airlines now flies a Dash 8 to/from Apia, as Polynesian Blue have taken over its Boeing 737-800 operations. Pacific Blue have begun flying a Boeing 737-800 to Fuaʻamotu from Sydney and Auckland.
Air Traffic Control
Fuaʻamotu has air traffic control at times of scheduled international flight movements, but most of the time a Flight Information Service is provided. The tower is contactable on 118.5, and Ground on 120.9. Outside of the hours of service at Fuaʻamotu a limited FIS is available via Nadi.
Runway 11/29: (Elev 91 ft/28m) PCN 45 FBXT (Flexible pavement, medium subgrade strength, medium tyre pressure (1500kPa), 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. A fully laden Boeing 767 on a flexible pavement B strength, such as at this airport, requires a PCN of 49 - which is allowable (10% leeway permitted). A Boeing 747 could take off and land at Fuaʻamotu length-wise, but needs a PCN of 62 i.e., it would risk damaging the runway severely. (A 747 - on average - weighs over twice as much as a 767.)
The vast majority of international operations from Fuaʻamotu are various types of Boeing 737, with some A320s, and two Boeing 767 services a week with Air New Zealand (Auckland - Fuaʻamotu - Auckland, and Auckland - Fuaʻamotu - Apia - Los Angeles and return).
Until Royal Tongan Airlines ceased operating in 2004, they used a Boeing 737 on their international services, and a Boeing 757 leased from Royal Brunei in the later years.
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 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 recently (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
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