More air traffic controllers needed

, NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 27- The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority is seeking to raise the number of air traffic controllers to deal with a shortage of aviation professionals in the country.

KCAA currently has 130 qualified air traffic controllers, but wants the number to rise to 200 by 2011.

KCAA Director General Hilary Kioko said on Wednesday that although the country was not in a crisis level, it would be important to shore up numbers to deal with increased air traffic in the country.

“This shortage of aviation professionals is a problem all over the world. For Kenya we have a shortage because we do not have the numbers that we would be comfortable with,” Mr Kioko said.

The Director General said the authority had raised the intake of students at the East African School of Aviation to ensure a steady output of qualified aviation handlers. Forty students have already been enrolled into the school.

“We have noted a big gap in the availability of professionals that could affect air travel in future,” he said.

The Director General was speaking on the sidelines of the 21st Africa and Middle East international Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations Regional Meeting.

There are currently eight airports under the control of KCAA, but with the expansion of the Kisumu and Wajir Airports, more qualified people are required to serve.

Also speaking at the forum, Ministry of Transport Permanent Secretary Dr Cyrus Njiru said there had been a 50 percent increase in air traffic to the country between 2000 and 2008.

Dr Njiru said in January air transit in Kenya stood at 26,000 flights while in September the number had grown to 28,000 giving an average of 27,000 flights within the country.

“From January to September we have seen a total of 242,616 flight movements within the country which signifies the need to increase the number of people who handle the flights,” Dr Njiru said.

KCCA has already developed a new curriculum for the training of air traffic controllers as well as investment in a new flight simulator to facilitate the training.

MICHAEL KARANJA :Michael is a Business Reporter. He is a graduate of Daystar Univeristy with a Degree in Communication (Electronic bias) and a minor in Public Relations. He considers himself easy going and loves engaging in sporting activities over the weekends.