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Pilot to blame for Kones plane crash

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 25 – Human error and poor weather are to blame for the plane crash that killed Cabinet Minister Kipkalya Kones and Assistant Minister Lorna Laboso in June last year.

A report by the Department of Air Accident Investigation concluded that the pilot did not meet the minimum flying experience and qualification standards.

“The major contributing factors were inadequate flight planning by the pilot and poor visibility that prevailed in the Kojonga area at the time of the accident,” reads the report.

Investigations also found that the German pilot, Christoph Schnerr, made inadequate planning, dispatched the flight on his own.

“He did not pick weather information from the briefing office to aid in his flight planning,” said the report.

“The minimum safe flight level for the flight route was FL 125. The aircraft was flying below the minimum safe flight level for the area at the time of the accident.”

The investigation put the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) on the spot over its surveillance role.

“There was inadequate KCAA safety surveillance over the operations of the company,” the report says.

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The plane crashed in the Mau escarpment in conditions of poor visibility. The pilot Christoph Schnerr and Mr Kones’ bodyguard Kenneth Bett also perished in the accident. The pilot was the director of Skytrades Limited and owner of the aircraft. It was the only aircraft owned by the company.

The investigators have called for more scrutiny in the licensing of foreign pilots and called on the immigration department to be more vigilant in the issuance and renewal of work permits to expatriate aviators. The Authority has also been adviced to restrict use of aviation licenses issued to foreign nationals to non-commercial activities.

“KCAA should consider restricting the use of aviation licenses it issues to foreign nationals to non-commercial activities,” the report proposed.

Six Members of Parliament were killed in 2006 in another crash in Marsabit. Those killed in the crash were assistant ministers Mirugi Kariuki and Titus Ngoyoni; Dr Bonaya Godana who was deputy Leader of the then Official Opposition, MPs Guracha Galgalo and Abdi Sasura and regional Assembly member Abdullahi Adan. In 2003 labour Minister Mohammed Khalif lost his life in another plane crash.

The report called on the Office of the President to develop standards to regulate group travel for senior government officials.

“The fact that there were no laid standards laid down for VIP travel meant that the minister (Mr Kones) could take any aircraft. This is despite the fact that investigations into two previous accidents recommended that such standards be developed and implemented,” the report regretted.

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