Puzzle of airline grounded over violation of rules but still flies
A section of Terminal 1A at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina,Standard]
An airline with a lucrative spot for its cargo operations was quietly suspended for violating aviation regulations then allowed to operate under circumstances the regulator is not keen to discuss.
For the second time in a year, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) suspended Jetways Airline Limited on November 23 over gross violation of aviation rules and threatened “additional cause of action” once comprehensive investigations were out.
The suspension was to last seven days by which period additional cause of action was to be established. When the period lapsed on December 3, Jetways was back in operations and KCAA was tight-lipped on the issue, which speaks to the cargo wars at the country’s biggest airport.
“If you think I am going to tell you whether they have resumed or not, that I cannot do,” KCAA Director General Gilbert Kibe told the .
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Oddly, although the suspension was limited to the seven days, KCAA gave Jetways 28 days within which to appeal the suspension that would have lapsed 21 days earlier.
It is neither clear whether Jetways appealed nor whether it indeed served the full seven-day provisional suspension. What is however clear is that Jetways is continuing with its cargo operations as proven by tracking of its flights.
Among the issues KCAA had accused Jetways of in a letter sent on November 23 touches on compromising air safety, a critical component in aviation. The claims arose from an ad hoc inspection carried out on November 16 on its premises, personnel, systems and aircraft.
“The referenced exercises revealed lack of capacity to undertake safe operations arising from inadequate staffing levels and training that cut across various levels of employees such as pilots, cabin crew and flight operations officers,” said KCAA while informing Jetways of its suspension.
“The exercises also revealed serious safety critical deficiencies arising from unqualified or undocumented personnel undertaking sensitive critical activities such as preparation of operation flight plans and aircraft weight and balance forms.”
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In total, Jetways was found to have flouted seven regulations, some of which not only have serious consequences but can lead to the cancellation of a licence. Apart from not keeping records about its staff, equipment and aircraft according to regulations, the airline has also been operating an aircraft not authorised to be part of its fleet to fly to Somalia.
The plane, a Fokker 100 with the registration number FY-SIA, has been flying between Nairobi and Mogadishu daily using flight number 0E-2212 under the colours of Ocean Airlines, a Somalia based airline. The aircraft was previously operated by Skyward Express.
Jetways and Skyward Express share the same ownership and are run by a Mr Isaack Somo. We could not get him for a comment but any change in the destinations or transfer of operations of an aircraft must be sanctioned by KCAA.
“A person shall not operate additional or replacement aircraft of a type for which it is currently authorised unless that person can show that the aircraft has been approved by the Authority for inclusion in the Operator’s fleet,” says regulation 22(3) of the Civil Aviation Air Operator Certification and Administration regulations. Kibe also refused to tell us what the comprehensive audit established, citing regulator-client confidentiality.
“The results of the audit are not for public consumption. They are for the airline’s owners,” he said.
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A tracking of some of Jetways planes under registration numbers 5Y-SIA, 5Y-JWC, 5Y-JWG and 5Y-JWB through tracking software shows that they have all been flying for the last one week.
Flights 5Y-JWG and 5Y-JWB are cargo planes while the rest are passenger planes. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) has 25 airlines that deal with cargo, but has only six bonded warehouses. The rest of the cargo operators have to move their goods through these six companies with lucrative access to the airside. These are Kenya Airways, Siginon Freight, Swissport International, DHL, Africa Flight Services (AFS) and Jetways.
The Kenya Airfreight Handling Ltd (KAHL) cargo centre, where Jetways has its cargo handling facility, was until July last year under the full control of Kenya Airways. It is owned by the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), which decides whom to rent it out to.
It takes rigorous assessment by both local and international aviation regulatory bodies to get clearance to set up an airside shed. This includes getting the coveted RA3 status issued to airlines that are allowed to send cargo to European Union countries after passing security assessments.