The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Police Choppers 'Not Inspected By KCAA '

Photo: Joseph Kariuki/The Star
Helicopter crash site.

A team investigating the cause of the chopper crash which killed Internal Security minister George Saitoti, his deputy Orwa Ojode and four others has learnt that police planes are not subjected to any check by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

The shocking revelation, which raises questions about safety of police choppers, was revealed yesterday by a senior flight operation inspector from KCAA during the public hearing.

KCAA is responsibility for regulating the aviation industry in the country. However, Benson Mwaura Thiga told the investigating team led by Justice Kaplana Rawal that the state corporation does not carry safety audits for police Airwing.

The inspector further revealed that that Kenya police Airwing does not have an Air Operation Certificate, which allows applicants to operate in compliance with safety standards.

Saitot and Ojode died on June 10 when a Eurocopter AS350 belonging to the police crashed at Kibiku in Ngong Forest. Their bodyguards Thomas Murimi and Joshua Tonkei and pilots Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi also died in the crash.

They were headed to Ndhiwa for a church service when the police chopper came down. "State aircraft forms their own safety audits. I don't know if there is another body that does it for the police," Mwaura told the hearing when he was questioned by Saitoti lawyer Fred Ngatia.

The officer further said this department provides air navigation services and training for aviation personnel and gives AOC to those who comply. He said before an applicant is issued with a air operator certificate, he must undergo a through vigorous and a safety driven five-phased process to certify that he is qualified.

Mwaura said an applicant must also provide a manual to indicate where and how he intends to operate. "When a company applies, we look at how that company will run the entity. There must be a CEO who will be responsible for maintenance," he said.

During cross extermination by lawyer Ngatia, Mwaura said he did not know that the minister had powers under the Civil Aviation Act to compel KCAA to regulate police Airwing. Mwaura, who has military background, said he was also part of a tender evaluation committee that approved the purchase of the Eurocopata. But he said he had "a very nominal role in the deliberations".

The Police air wing purchased the Eurocopter at Sh 272 million locking out Africair Inc which was valued at Sh 315 million.Mwaura said the committee did not differ unanimously agreed on the Eurocopter and the process was regular He said the two aircraft had instruments of frying.

The healing resumes on Monday. Saitoti family lawyer sought for an adjournment to be able to go through statements for a witness.

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