7 June 2012

Kenya: Air Travel to Kakamega to Resume as Strip Repaired

THE renovation of the Kakamega Airstrip has been completed, paving the way for the resumption of flights to the county that have been on suspension for months.

Fly 540 airliner that plied the route twice a day suspended its operations mid-last year to allow for re-carpeting of the runway that was dilapidated and bumpy. The repair works also involved extension of the runway and construction of a terminal building whose works are still going on. "We are through with the maintenance work on the facility. I think the airliner is still organising itself before resuming operations which I hope will be soon," said Peter Wafula, the officer in charge of airstrips in Western Kenya.

Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale said the delay in the resumption of the flights had been caused by the delay by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority in compensating people living around the facility for the trees it demanded must be cleared from the flight paths. Khalwale said Kakamega, being the second largest county in the country, requires its own airport and not an airstrip because it has the potential to satisfy its needs. "As leaders from Kakamega county, we are ready to talk to the locals to to accept to move to a section of the 756 hectares occupied by Shikusa Prison land adjacent to the airstrip to pave the way for establishment of an airport," he said.

Khalwale, Housing minister Soita Shitanda and Gender assistant minister Manyala Keya said the government should budget for the airport. "The suspension of operations of the the Fly 540 airliner at the Kakamega airstrip was causing untold sufferings to travellers and hurt business in the region," they said. They said the region had been ignored by past and the current regimes, adding that the transport network was almost collapsing. "We, as Luhya community, have supported the regime of the day but our support has not been appreciated by giving us the much needed development," said Khalwale.

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