KAA revamps airstrips in fresh plan to boost tourism


Passengers being screened at the Kakamega Airstrip. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has embarked on expansion and rehabilitation of airstrips and airports as it seeks to open up tourism, boost the movement of cargo and enhance mobility of passengers across the country.

The expansion, especially at airstrips, is meant to increase the capacity of these facilities so that they can accommodate larger aircraft such as code C airplanes.

“We want to use these airstrips to open up the country for so many things. For instance, the facilities in the North Rift will play a crucial role in evacuation of farm produce for export while those in other areas like Migori will be instrumental in promoting tourism,” said KAA.

KAA is targeting tourists from Tanzania to use the Migori Airstrip in visiting the region. The facility is also expected to improve air transport in the area as passengers travelling to South Nyanza have for long relied on Kisumu Airport, which is miles apart.

The rehabilitation works at Migori Airstrip will involve full reconstruction of the runway, construction of a new apron, security fence and patrol road.

In 2016, KAA recommended Migori Airstrip for funding and rehabilitation to support the tourism circuit between Kenya and Tanzania.

The Kakamega Airstrip is being upgraded to accommodate Code 1C Aircraft in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.

The project will involve development of the airstrip pavements to bituminous standard to accommodate larger aircraft, said the agency.

The construction work, which started in June last year will cost Sh174 million with the contractor expected to complete the project by August 2021.

At Kitale Airstrip, KAA is carrying out full reconstruction of the runway (1.45km long and 23m wide) as well as re-construction and extension of the apron (336m long and 39m wide).

The facility will come in handy in transportation of perishable horticultural produce from one of the country’s breadbaskets.

At the Kisumu Airport, the agency is putting up a cargo shed to boost freight services in one of the largest facilities in western Kenya.

The Sh7 billion construction work at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa has commenced and is due for completion next month after it was delayed by the outbreak of Covid-19 last year.

The project, which is being funded by the French Development Agency, will see the rehabilitation of the airfield ground lighting system and aircraft pavement.

The rehabilitation of the airport will involve replacing the existing airfield ground lighting systems and all-approach lighting masts from steel to fiberglass.

The upgraded pavements will have a sustainable maintenance regime to keep the runway and aprons in good condition throughout the 20 years design life, and also ensure “the airport land is neither undermined, nor destroyed due to unstable ground”. It will also enhance airport’s green rating through rainwater harvesting.

Plans are also underway to expand the Ukunda Airstrip to enable it handle larger aircraft. The upgrade has been delayed by land compensation for the people who will be displaced by the project.

Ukunda Airport has in recent past seen growth in passenger numbers, necessitating introduction of larger planes. It is served by Jambojet, Air Kenya, Safari link, Fly 540, Aeronav and a number of private charters.

“Passenger numbers have rapidly grown from 55,207 in 2014/15 to 175,460 in 2017/18, reflecting an overall growth of 240 percent, in four years “said the MD.

The shorter state of the Ukunda Airstrip has been cited as the main reason for expensive flight tickets to the South Coast.

The length of the airstrip, which limits the weight to be applied on the runway, makes it difficult for the airlines with larger aircraft to utilise their full capacity, hiking the cost of the ticket to the region.

For instance Jambojet has to fly with about 28 passengers less of its capacity in most of its aircraft to Diani.