LETTERS: Why it’s time to re-evaluate airspace safety
The rate at which air accidents have been happening in Kenya is quite alarming. This makes it necessary to re-evaluate safety measures in place for airspace travel.
Plane that crashed in Londiani, Kericho County, last month killing five people on board. PHOTO | JOHN NJOROGE | NMG
The shocking report of a helicopter crash that saw a Kenyan pilot and four American tourists die at Central Island National Park in Lake Turkana on Sunday evening is yet another clarion call to investigate the safety of the Kenyan airspace travel before it is too late. Although accidents happen, we should not find it normal. The rate at which they have been happening and on a mode of transport that on a global scale is touted to be the safest, is quite alarming and should worry relevant agencies obligated to ensure the safety of air transport.As the county mourns the victims of the crash, a keen observation of Kenyan’s aviation history in recent years makes it necessary to re-evaluate safety measures in place for airspace travel. Last month, a plane crashed in Londiani killing all five on board, including an American couple who were on vacation.In January, a Cessna 152 II, 5Y-JUX, belonging to the Flight Training Centre crashed in a forest shortly after taking off from Kindaruma Airstrip in Machakos County. In November 2018, a plane carrying a trainee student crashed in Malindi. Luckily in these two incidents, those on board survived.In September 2018, the aviation agency revealed unnerving details of what would have been the most devastating air accident in Kenyan airspace in Naivasha when an Ethiopian Airlines plane and an Italian leisure plane missed collision by a whisker. It should also be remembered that in June 2018, a passenger plane belonging to FlySAX crashed in the Aberdares and ten on board died.In 2017, which was described as the safest year in the aviation industry across the world by Dutch consultancy To70, a helicopter hovering in Lake Nakuru crashed and killed all on board. The whereabouts of one of its passengers is yet to be ascertained, two years on.According to the American National Safety Council, there is a 1 in 114 chance of dying in a car crash but slightly more than 86 times unlikely dying in air or space transport with odds standing at 1 in 9,821.
Although road and rail transport can be options and considerably cheap, they can be tedious and cumbersome to use, mainly for those with ability to choose a mode of transport they would like to use. Rail and road are slightly unpopular among the rich, the political class or particularly tourists as deny them an aerial view of nature to photograph or soothe their interests.In regard to the plane crash in Lake Turkana, it is important to note that the road infrastructure between Chepararia in West Pokot and Kainuk in Turkana County, which is a stretch of 77 kilometres, is dilapidated, making air transport a necessity.Nonetheless, and alluded earlier, Kenyans are becoming wealthier and air transport can only be their most preferred transport option. But endemic corruption can eviscerate the comfort, vim and vigor that is associated with air transport.If this argument holds, then its consequence would include things like the unanticipated collision of two planes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi last month. Needless to say, proper compensation of pilots, air traffic controllers and mechanics goes a long way in ensuring safety.According to a consumer satisfaction survey report by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), compliance is an average 50 percent. A multi-sector approach that seeks to find areas of improvement will go a long way in raising this perception index. Equally important, a rapid inquest into the safety of the aircraft, their routine maintenance and the competence of the pilots and air traffic controllers is crucial to off-set Kenyans’ general perception that there is a go-slow in investigating these incidences, whenever they occur.While capacity building, leveraging on technology and providing adequate practical lessons in school laboratories will tame crashes involving trainees, to overcome the traditional explanations of cumulated fog and mist, clouds, darkness and winds as possible causes of accidents and which a section of people may reasonably or unreasonably hollow because Kenyans hold diverse views on these occurrences, geography, physics and economics of reason are necessary tools needed most in not only explaining why but in fronting solutions.