President Kenyatta meets the Kenyan aviation industry today

AVIATION INDUSTRY SET FOR KEY MEETING WITH PRESIDENT KENYATTA

(Posted 02nd February 2015)

While little could be learned at this stage about the specific agenda of the meeting later today at the Kenya Airways’ Pride Centre it is generally thought that aviation infrastructure and related issues will form a key part of discussions between Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and key stakeholders from the aviation industry.

Expected at the meeting are the Cabinet Secretary for Transport and senior ministry officials, the Kenya Airports Authority, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, county governors and of course representatives of the aviation private sector.

A suggestion has been floated to this correspondent that the county governors in particular will be keen to hear how the central government intends to help establish airfields and aerodromes across the country to aid connectivity by air.

Besides Kenya’s and the region’s most important aviation hub, Jomo Kenyatta International, which is presently undergoing a transformation with the recent opening of the new Terminal 1A, the soon to be opened ‘Temporary Terminal’ and the ongoing demolition of the arrivals complex which was wrecked by a fire in August 2013, are several other international and regional airports strategically located across Kenya. Second in importance is the Moi International Airport in Mombasa, followed by Kisumu, Eldoret and Malindi. Nairobi’s second airport, Wilson, also handles flights from the region and beyond but is largely seen as Kenya’s safari aviation hub with most departures leaving to the national parks and such aerodromes like Lamu or Ukunda and other secondary and tertiary airfields.

Not every county has the ability to support a fully-fledged aerodrome but more basic airstrips, often with grass or murram surface, can just as easily be used to allow light aircraft to land and take off.

Many lodges and safari camps in the national parks have their own airstrips and receive charter and at times scheduled flights, giving tourists the option to reach their destinations within the hour compared to often day long journeys by road.

The Kenya Airport Authority has in the more recent past carried out extensive work in particular at Malindi’s airport with a new terminal building and other improvements and ensured a similar transformation two years ago at Kisumu’s airport. Ukunda, the South coast’s and Diani’s main aviation link, will also see a new terminal building constructed alongside a runway extension, after a nearby school has been relocated to a new location.

Aviation stakeholders have also advocated in the past to lengthen the runway at Lamu to allow for larger aircraft, including small jets to land there.

None of the regular sources from Nairobi was at this moment in time prepared to speculate if other issues would be raised at the meeting, such as continuing the protection Kenyan airlines have enjoyed so far by the regulators keeping unwanted competition out of the Kenyan skies, but pressure has been growing on the government to revisit their open skies policy, if at all they have one right now, and permit more foreign airlines to fly into Mombasa.

Only a month ago did this correspondent ask Qatar Airways’ Group CEO Akbar Al Baker about past plans to fly to the Kenyan coast and while affirming continued keen interest in launching a service to Mombasa was Al Baker equally swift to put the ball firmly in the court of the Kenyan government over traffic rights via intermediate waypoints.

Watch this space for updates once details from the meeting later today emerge.

Meanwhile, in a related development, has Kenya Airways’ Pride Centre announced their presence in Eldoret’s EldoCentre from February 07th to 08th, seeking to showcase the available courses which will allow young school leavers and university graduates to begin a career in aviation. East Africa, as does the rest of the world, faces a critical shortage of pilots and engineering staff in coming years, as airlines expand and fleets grow. For details on the courses the Pride Centre offers click on www.kqpridecentre.com

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