How JKIA fire changed my outlook on aviation sector

Blaze that razed Terminal 1A in 2013 was a turning point for KQ’s ground operations. Good things sometimes occur after great tragedies. At least this appears to be the case for Rogers Karani. Karani was at his workstation at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) on August 7, 2013 when fire broke out. At the time, he worked as a Kenya Airways Ground Operations IT Systems Manager. He spoke about the events of the day and how they altered his career path. How did the bad news hit you? We were in denial at first and hadn’t realised how bad the fire was. It, however, gave birth to a beautiful facility. I’m glad to have been one of the project managers and to have worked with such a great team to deliver it. How was the transformation? Terminal 1A was not designed to be an international terminal. It was delayed in delivery by the time of the fire and was to be used for domestic operations. It, therefore, provided an immediate alternative when the fire consumed units 1 and 2. Stakeholders came together and nominated representatives to the steering committee who for over two years were engaged in the redesign and implementation of the new terminal. We had immense support from the East Africa School of Aviation which provided students to act as passengers, enabling us to test all touch points until the quality control checklist permitted us to finally commence movement from the old terminal to the new one, one flight at a time starting with the regional flights. Any lessons from that experience? One of the most important lessons is that stakeholder involvement must be the basis of any project that involves many organisations and entities. Who is Rogers Karani? I’m a father, mentor, leader and entrepreneur. I am a graduate of Information Technology with a Masters in Strategic Management both from JKUAT and most recently a diploma in aviation management from the IATA school, Geneva. How and when did you join aviation? In the year 2011, while working as a project manager for Kenya Women Finance Trust. I had always wanted to be a pilot when I was young but never had a chance to work in the aviation industry, but one time a colleague mentioned an opening in Kenya Airways. I applied and got accepted. How was your first experience? My first few months were spent understanding the harmonious symphony that goes into dispatching 1 flight and I tell you it was quite an experience. A Boeing 787 that carries 234 passengers has a lot going on from the various departments, including human resources, security, safety, commercial, technical, flight operations, and ground operations to partners such as Civil Aviation, Airport Authority, Kenya Police, Kenya Revenue and port health, just to mention but a few. I was surprised at the amount of effort that goes into ensuring the safe and timely departure of an aircraft all the while connecting passengers, bags and cargo from one aircraft to another, one terminal to another and one airport to another. The razor-sharp military planning standard made me appreciate the industry more. What are some of the challenges you have encountered in your job? One of the challenges I faced as the IT Project Manager of a major departure control system in charge of well over 50 destinations is that on paper, the plan looked fantastic, but when it came to implementation, it was a nightmare, especially in Africa. Infrastructure, language barrier, different cultures, education levels, and government restrictions to name but a few were all hindrances to implementing the new system, which gave me and the team sleepless nights because we had a deadline to shut down the older system. Who are your role models? I celebrate Barrack Obama who despite rising to become the President of the United States didn’t forget Kenya and the continent he came from and to date still maintains contact with his late father’s village in Kogalo.