NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 7 – After the fanfare that accompanied the launch of Kenya Airways daily flights between Nairobi and New York, one may think all is done, but that is not the case.
Apart from marketing the new route and building confidence in the flights the other key factor that will contribute to sustainability of the fights is security and safety.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority that played the lead role in the audits that paved the way for the clearance of Kenya Airways to fly into the US airspace still has a lot to do as far as that role is concerned.
The Authority’s Director General captain Gilbert Kibe says: “As the oversight authority we are going to oversight Kenya Airways on a regular basis to audit them to show that they are operating in a safe, secure and efficient manner. We will also continue to monitor the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on handling of passengers and their security at the airport.”
Captain Kibe adds that in the area of safety KCAA has benefited immensely from the audit processes that were conducted ahead of the flights to the US on how to improve or manage our civil aviation system.”
“We are using the US as a benchmark for excellence in the area of safely and aircraft operations,” he added.
There were four key steps that were followed before Kenya Airways was cleared to fly into the US airspace. First Kenya as a country was audited in order to be granted what is known as category one status.
“The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wanted to know whether Kenya is capable, qualified and competent to run a safe, efficient and secure civil aviation oversight system,” explains Kibe
The Second process led to national carrier that is, Kenya Airways, to being granted traffic rights or the commercial authority to operate between Kenya and the U.S.
Thirdly, a security audit was conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and this paved the way for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to be granted a last point of departure clearance. TSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that has authority over the security of the traveling public in the United States
The fourth clearance was for Kenya Airways to be granted an air operating certificate which is the technical authority granted by the FAA to operate to the US.
Jane Wambui, the acting manager of flight operations at KCAA reflects on what they went through as audits were being conducted.
“We had to burn the midnight oil to make sure that we comply with the standards, we had to make sure that we had enough inspectors and just achieving the category one standards also proves to us and to the world that we are able to be in the league of the aviation industry leaders in the world.”
Peninah Njeri, KCAA air worthiness inspector who was also part of the process says, “In 2013 when FAA inspectors came for the first audit we learnt from the audit that we had a couple of gaps to be filled. The journey was not easy. We had a lot of processes to change, a lot of training to do. Boeing came in to train us.”
Captain Tom Ogenche who is the director of aviation safety and security at KCAA notes, “We demonstrated that we have capable inspectors and that we can ensure aircrafts flying in and out of Kenya meet the required international standards.”
James Muchemi, examination coordinator at KCAA on the other hand says the audits were not just about institutions and aircrafts but also about personnel. “Who will fly the aircraft? Who will operate those aircraft? Who will maintain those aircraft, who will offer air traffic control? And are they qualified? Those were important questions at hand,” he says. “
While in the US, during the launch of the Kenya Airways flights, KCAA and their counterparts from the FAA met to review progress and way forward on monitoring the flights from Kenya to the US. FAA said in a statement that the two institutions have a strong working relationship and that many professionals can take pride in this accomplishment which took hard work and dedication to achieve.
“One example of our ongoing collaboration includes a new agreement which enables a wide range of training opportunities between the KCAA, the East African School of Aviation, and FAA,” wrote Jennifer Arquilla, FAA manager, Africa, Europe and Middle East Staff.
Although flying to the US has been seen as a big achievement to Kenya Airways, it is also an accomplishment to the entire civil aviation sector Kenya as a country. It is not only a commercial but also a diplomatic score.
The chairman of the KCAA board of directors Engineer Joseph Nkadayo said, “This has been a corporate effort of many people and institutions, including KCAA, Kenya Airways, Kenya Airports Authority, various US institutions and the governments of Kenya and the USA.
Kenya’s ambassador to the US Robinson Githae termed the new Kenya Airways’ route as a game changer. “It will boost trade and diplomatic relations between the two nations and we want them to start planning for other cities in the US like Washington DC, Dallas, Los Angeles and Atlanta,” he said.
(This is an article by Alex Chamwada, Founder, CHAMS Media)