The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: No Justification for Buying Eurocopter, Says KCAA Witness

Photo: Joseph Kariuki/The Star
Helicopter crash site.

A witness appearing before the commission inquiring into the June 10 helicopter crash that killed a cabinet minister and his assistant yesterday disowned earlier evidence provided by another witness, which sought to justify why the police settled on the Eurocopter.

A director with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority Captain Joe Mutungi told the commission he replied to the a police request over the purchase of the aircraft by detailing only on the available models and local dealers and he did not give technical guidance on which aircraft to buy.

Mutunga, who is in charge of safety and regulation at the authority, said he was not aware of the contents written by the chairman of the tender evaluation committee, J.M Wambugu, which indicated that KCAA had recommended the buying of a helicopter either from Africair Inc or Eurocopter.He also said the police justification of going for a restrictive tender was not according to the tender.

Wambugu indicated in a letter dated November 20,2010 and addressed to Provincial Administration PS that the aviation authority had indicated that helicopters from the two firms are widely used in Kenya and their performance are well known besides having reliable and maintenance facilities.

The witness also told the commission that the authority had also requested proof of the current status of the appointed police pilot trainers who were supposed to carry out conversion and check-out training of pilots."The police use the Kenya Civil Aviation as a bench mark only. They might use what they want or ignore our safety standards and continue to flying," he said while responding to cross-examination by lawyer Fred Ngatia, who is representing the family of Internal Security minister George Saitoti, who died in the crash together with his assistant Orwa Ojode, their two bodyguards and two pilots.

The police had forwarded the names of Capt Evans Sigilai and Capt Thomas Samoei to KCAA to clear and engage them as trainers. "We never approved the police request of conversion of police officers on helicopter Bell 407. They are free to do so if they want to," he said. "The training is supposed to be done in a training school which has syllabus and a programme with designated examiners and instructors before the authority gives them a licence."

Kenya police received the registration certificate of the Eurocopter on January 4, 2012 while airworthiness certificate was issued on January 23.The commission also heard that the police chopper was licensed as a commercial air transport aircraft even though it could not carry commercial without the operators licence.

He said apart from commercial aircrafts, it was hard to check and manage compliance of private operators. "We don't have enough inspectors to check this operators. You need a lot of money to employ this inspectors to check private operators who might fly within their farms in Malindi, Lamu or Naivasha.

He said police and air-force aircrafts do not fall under their jurisdiction and it was upon to implement their own "good" procedures which civil aviation authority regularly asks them to implement.Ngatia cross-examined the witness seeking to know why state aircrafts are still registered in civil registrar yet they could not be audited by the civil aviation body.

Capt Mutunga concurred with Ngatia that even though the police and air-force aircrafts fall out of their oversight, they still need external audits. He said KCAA only audited the police aircrafts when one of the choppers went down in Kapsabet. He said from the incident they realised that police have good manuals and they needed to implement what they have after that incident.He said that that since police aircrafts fall under a category of their own, they could fly over built-up areas like city of Nairobi where commercial aircrafts cannot be allowed.

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