Ukunda Airstrip has received a major boost after the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) commissioned its first modern Sh150 million control tower for safer flight operations.
KCAA director-general Gilbert Kibe said the investment is the product of increased flights at Ukunda airstrip, which supports travel to famed tourist hotspot in Diani, Kwale County
"We are investing in the safety, security and efficiency of the aviation sector. This mobile tower will mitigate against service disruptions, incidents or treats within the air space," said Mr Kibe.
Mr Kibe said the Ukunda airfield has seen a jump in traffic at peak hours, which surpasses movement in other major airports.
Growth in traffic has been in tandem with the rise in tourist arrivals, which rose 31.2 per cent last year to breach the two-million mark.
Ukunda reported 300 flight movements since December with 52 aircraft arrivals and departures captured on January 2.
Although Diani is endowed with one of the best beaches in Africa and also has world-class hotels, accessing the holiday destination is a challenge due to lack of major airport and ferry problems on the Likoni channel. Plans are on to upgrade the airstrip to an airport, allowing planes with a capacity of 150 passengers to fly directly from Nairobi to Ukunda.
The airstrip has a small runway of 1.4 kilometres and requires a longer taxiway of at least 2.5 kilometres for larger planes.
"This commitment made by the authority will ensure that we have a dedicated mobile tower operating on a 12-hour basis and will ensure provision of uninterrupted aerodrome air traffic control air navigation services," said KCAA chairman Joseph Nkadayo.