The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has been urged to upgrade the runway and other facilities at the Isiolo International Airport to enable more businesses in the region to take advantage of the key infrastructure.
During a tour at the facility by the Lamu Port and Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) Corridor Development Authority (LCDA) board members and Isiolo County leaders, it was revealed that the airport - one of the Vision 2030 projects commissioned last year - lacks sufficient aviation lights to allow planes to land or take off at night.
Isiolo Governor, Mohamed Kuti, attributed minimal operations at the airport to inadequate infrastructure including the 1.4 kilometre runway which he says cannot allow cargo planes and large passenger aircraft to operate.
The County boss said Tuesday that the airport will be fully utilised once the runway which is extended to 3 kilometres to enable large aircraft to take off safely.
He also noted that the facility requires a control tower for ease of operations and cargo shades.
“KAA should fast track the process of upgrading the facilities in order to give the airport true international status. We want locals from surrounding regions to fully benefit from the facility,” said the Governor.
Regulate building construction
Dr Kuti further cautioned developers against constructing tall buildings close to the airport or along flight paths after pilots complained about structures and tall trees that were interfering with safe landing and take-off.
“The County government will work closely with the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to regulate construction in the said areas,” he added.
Mr Kuti is optimistic that the facility will see increased trade and transportation of goods such as miraa, horticultural produce, beef and other animal products as well as boost tourism in Isiolo, Meru and Laikipia counties once it is revamped.
Airport manager, Mohamed Lippi, said only one airline - Fly Sax - is operating and only for passenger flights since Isiolo Airport was commissioned last year.
He added that some passengers were complaining of not being comfortable with small aircraft.
LCDA chairman and former Head of Civil Service, Francis Muthaura, in turn said the Authority will push for prioritisation of the facility's refurbishment.
“The region will have huge economic growth once the facility is adequately upgraded. We will champion for its upgrading so that businesses can thrive and allow Kenyans depending on the facility to fully reap its benefits,” said Amb Muthaura.
Miraa traders and horticulture businesspeople from neighbouring Meru and Laikipia Counties still conduct their business through Wilson Airport despite last year's reopening in July.
The facility, commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2017, is expected to open up northern Kenya to more economic opportunities.
It is a key component of the Lapsset Corridor and has a 5,000 square metre passenger terminal.
It can handle up to 125,000 passengers annually.