KCAA denies reported near collision over Kenyan airspace

September 11, 2018 (2 weeks ago)
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A screen grab shows flight ETH585 and NOS252 approaching each other at different altitudes/COURTESY

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 11 – The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has denied reports Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) could have failed to avert a potential mid-air plane crash two weeks ago due to a tiff with Ethiopian counterparts.

According to the aviation authority, two planes said to have been headed for a convergence on August 29 had maintained correct flight levels while in the Kenyan airspace.

In a statement released on Monday the authority however admits that the planes might have been headed for a convergence in flight paths saying air controllers “issued instructions to separate the planes before the minimum allowable distance of 10 nautical miles was bridged.”

“The objective ATC among others is to separate aircraft to avoid collision and the Air Traffic Control Officer (ATCO) in Kenya did their work as expected,” KCAA said.

“None of the pilots have filled an incident report as would be the case if indeed the pilot took the initiative on his own without getting the instructions from ATC,” the authority further stated.

The authority dismissed as misleading a publication on the East African weekend newspaper edition that suggested pilots of an Ethiopian Airline (ET 858) had to act on a warning from an inbuilt Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) initiating a climb from 37,000 to 38,000 feet to avoid a crash with an Italian aircraft (NOS252) on the same path.

KCAA denied reports that poor coordination between Kenyan and Ethiopian controllers could have caused an incident saying the none of the planes cited had originated from Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian Airline was reported to have been originated from Johannesburg on its way to Addis Ababa while the Italian plane had departed from Verona on its way to Zanzibar.

The aviation agency maintained a Resolution Advisory (RA) would have been generated should any of the aircraft have acted on instructions from TCAS.

“KCAA has one of the best state of the art surveillance systems which meet the required surveillance performance as required by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” Director General Gilbert Kibe asserted.

“The use of this equipment enables our controllers to provide tactical surveillance services with precision as it was on the material day,” he said.

The Saturday publication by the East African triggered memories of a fatal plane crash in June in the Aberdares, an accident which claimed all the ten occupants aboard a FlySax passenger plane en-route to Nairobi.

An 11-page report released by the Transport Ministry in the aftermath of the June 5 incident ruled out bad weather as the cause for the diversion of the planes’ route, the report indicating that the aircraft had initiated the request to divert to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where some of its passengers were scheduled to take a connecting flight, before heading to its hub at the Wilson Airport.

The ministry and KCAA are however yet to release a conclusive report explaining why the plane crashed into a mountain in the Aberdares moments after diverting from its initial flight path to the Wilson Airport.

While releasing the initial report in June, KCAA’s Kibe had told the media that the ill-fated FlySax plane had not flight data and voice recorders saying some of its components would be taken abroad for further analysis.

The June 5 had triggered a number of questions on air traffic safety in the country as it remained unclear how ATC failed to take into consideration the altitude the FlySax plane would have to fly to avoid running into a terrain on its revised flight path.

It also remained unclear why on-board systems failed to warn the pilots flying the plane on the terrain it was approaching ahead.

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