What needs to be done to spur Kenyan aviation

KCAA has only one aviation training organisation inspector. “Why would someone want to build an international airport in Webuye? To carry what? There’s already Eldoret Airport, which is under-utilised and operates round the clock. Yet the second-busiest Airport in Africa, Wilson Airport, opens at 6:30am and closes at 8:30pm!” wonders Eng Githae Mwaniki. These are some of the concerns of one of the aviation industry players that Capt Emile Arao, the new director general of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) hopes to address. He has traversed the African skies and worked in different regions as a captain of the Let 410 aircraft. The Let 410 is a hardy Scandinavian-made aircraft that carries 19 passengers or two tonnes of cargo. The first order of business following Capt Arao’s appointment in March this year was to solve examination issues. On the recommendation of the Association of African Approved Aviation Training Organisation-Kenya Chapter (AATO-KE), he has implemented the promulgation of Advisory Circular CAA-AC-PEL006E, on August 1 2022, a policy of credit pass. Capt Arao has also removed a partial pass policy to ensure students sit for exams in a fair environment and every subject is credited as a pass. Initially, you would sit for your examination, and you would have to pass at least four subjects out of eight to get a partial pass. Now any subject a trainee passes is credited. The examinations are not a joke, and many have failed. The tough part is that before passing all the papers, the expiry of the passes catches up with a learner. This has made many commercial pilot students drop out. The next challenge that needs to be addressed is the insufficiency of inspectors and AOC application delays. The authority has only one Aviation Training Organisation Inspector, therefore there is a need for the swift appointment of ATO inspectors with sufficient knowledge and experience in aviation. Managers need to have sufficient experience in aviation training too. Civil Aviation Regulations, 2022 need to have effective public participation to highlight points of improvement and strengthen regulator-operator relationships. The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) has its fair share of challenges. Apart from fresh threats of strikes by the operatives, KAA needs to have the policy to develop airport infrastructure. Infrastructure should target demand from air operators and not merely appease the ruling class. KAA needs to work closely with the operators. As the industry fights to be an aviation hub in Africa, charging foreign students Sh10,000 for an airport pass and locals Sh3,000 discourages foreigners from coming to Kenya for flight training. They opt for other markets such as South Africa. The National Government introduced a tax policy after the amendment of the VAT Act in 2020 that imposes VAT on aircraft with an unladen weight of 2000 kilogrammes. This is a big blow to flight training and general aviation and only favours the big players. It also makes the cost of acquisition of light aircraft more expensive in Kenya, curtailing the growth of general aviation in the country. This has made some Kenyans register their aircraft in Tanzania and Uganda.