Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is expected to gain Category One status by the end of the year, enabling direct flights to the US, following a revamp of security at the facility.
The government has been executing some of the recommendations by the US government to enhance security, including separation of arrival and departure passengers, clearing the flight path and fencing off the airport.
Construction of the new terminal, expected to be ready in June, will offer the separation while the authorities have demolished buildings obstructing aircraft flight paths with home owners in the Syokimau area being the most affected. Attaining the status will allow direct flights between Kenya and the US.
American based airlines Delta Airways and Fedex have expressed interest to start operations to Kenya.
“There are certain conditions for us to have direct flights to the US. We will have a dry run of the airport security in May and in June the US agents will come to inspect it,” said Transport secretary Michael Kamau. “We hope by the end of the year we will have Category One.”
In addition, the government has invested Sh1.3 billion in new security equipment to be installed by November. The equipment will enhance airport screening, especially at the entry to JKIA, where work has begun in preparation for the new security measures.
Mr Kamau was speaking during the ground-breaking of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) headquarters.
The new facility, on a six acre plot owned by Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), is expected to cost Sh832 million. The World Bank will fund the project, which is expected to take 15 months.
The facility will be equipped with the latest technology to enable the oversight body to carry out its mandate, which includes the country’s airspace.
The new headquarters will help mitigate the conflict of interest captured in the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) audits of November 2008 and May 2013 on aviation safety standards in Kenya.
ICAO, a UN agency overseeing the development of global aviation, recommended that KCAA as a regulator should not continue leasing office space from KAA, a body it regulates. Kenya’s aviation sector has been growing rapidly as local airlines, especially Kenya Airways, invest in expansion strategies.
The county has also been attracting interests of international airlines starting, or expanding, their operations in the largest aviation hub in the region.
The Transport ministry is currently revising the KCAA Act 2013 to facilitate better operations of the oversight body including the hiring of board members, said Mr Kamau.