EDITORIAL: Regulator must sustain safety compliance audits


A Silverstone Air Services plane at Wilson Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A decision by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to investigate the safety compliance standards of domestic carrier Silverstone Air Services following recent mishaps involving its fleet sits well with making air travel safer in this country.

The investigation was prompted by an incident in which a plane operated by the airline lost a tyre while taking off from Lodwar Airstrip on Monday.

This was the second mishap involving the company’s fleet this month. On October 11, a plane belonging to the firm skidded off the runway and crashed during take-off from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport.

Although the incidents may be unrelated, it is proper for KCAA to audit the safety systems and procedures of the airline with a view to making improvements on whichever weak points that may be exposed by the review.

The audit should, however, not just focus on Silverstone alone but should be extended to other domestic airlines as well as airstrips to confirm that they too meet safety standards.

The domestic airline segment has expanded rapidly in recent years due to demand from key sectors of the economy such as tourism and business travel. Statistics by the KCAA show that the number of domestic passengers increased by 22.5 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year — pointing to the rising significance of the sub-sector.

As expected more new players continue to join to service demand in this segment of the airline business.

However, many of these firms are still small in terms of capacity and no doubt require continuous monitoring as well as guidance on critical matters such as compliance with safety standards. The onus is therefore on KCAA to remain proactive with safety compliance audits as a way of supporting growth and investment in the sector. We hope the regulator will comb all areas including the state of airfields and ground aids, aircraft operations, air navigation services, personnel licensing and training and airworthiness of civil aircraft to satisfy itself that everyone in the industry is compliant.

Findings from the audits should be followed up with action for compliance for the sake of safety in the skies. Aviation is a sensitive sector where customer confidence highly hinges on safety records and both the regulator and airlines should co-operate on delivering safe travel.