Economy

Aviation regulator on the spot over Wilson Airport mishaps

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A Safarilink plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Frequent mishaps involving Wilson Airport-based light aircraft have refocused attention on quality of safety audits even as the aviation regulator blames laxity on legal protection for operators.
  • The latest incident on Tuesday evening involved Safari Link carrying 10 passengers that veered off the runway as a result of a defective tyre, leading to the closure of the airport for 30 minutes.
  • The incident, the third to involve planes that operate from Wilson Airport in three weeks, brings to question the safety of the air transport in the country.

Frequent mishaps involving Wilson Airport-based light aircraft have refocused attention on quality of safety audits even as the aviation regulator blames laxity on legal protection for operators.

The latest incident on Tuesday evening involved Safari Link carrying 10 passengers that veered off the runway as a result of a defective tyre, leading to the closure of the airport for 30 minutes.

The incident, the third to involve planes that operate from Wilson Airport in three weeks, brings to question the safety of the air transport in the country.

Under the Civil Aviation Act, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) is supposed “to manage, regulate and operate a safe, secure and efficient air transport system in Kenya.”

It is in effort to fulfill that mandate that the KCAA is supposed to undertake regular inspection to determine compliance with the aviation regulations as well as the operator’s own company approved manuals and procedures.

KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe acknowledges that the recent mishaps point to safety concerns.

“But we have to follow the law… we cannot ground the airline just like that or else we could be sued for wrongful grounding,” said the aviation boss.

The aviation regulator has since opened investigations into Silverstone Air Services to determine its safety compliance.

Another mid-air scare occurred on Monday when an aircraft belonging to low-cost carrier Silverstone dropped a tyre while taking off from Lodwar.

Early this month, another aircraft operated by the same airline veered off the runway at Wilson Airport.

DEDICATED PILOTS

Silverstone yesterday defended its safety records, saying the firm has a team comprising of “qualified, well trained and dedicated pilots” to operate its aircraft.

“Regarding the recent occurrences, we are co-operating fully with the investigation being conducted by both the KCAA and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Department (AAID), and we will continue to use every resource at our disposal to assist and work with investigators to determine what happened,” said the airline in a statement yesterday.

Preliminary report of the investigations are expected in the next 30 days.