15 August 2012

Kenya: Chopper Registered Without Crucial Papers

The helicopter that crashed in June killing internal security minister George Saitoti, his deputy Orwa Ojode and four government officers was issued with certificates of registration and airworthiness, days before the mandatory documents were verified by the Civil Aviation Authority.

An employee of the civil aviation body told the public hearings at the KICC yesterday that he checked the documents as a routine procedure for internal office work and found the documents had gone through the registration process.

George Kaundu, an air worthiness inspector at KCAA told the commission the Eurocopter was cleared for registration, despite missing documents such as engine log book which were availed later to the authority. Out of a list of 30 items that they were to look before registering the aircraft, Kaundu said he only questioned the exemption of insurance cover which was listed as item number 27. The authority later exempted the requirement and certified the aircraft as registered after receiving a request letter from the Kenya Police Air Wing.

All the document verification process was undertaken on January 23 this year and was done using a renewal check list instead of an issuance check list which would have been the case for a new aircraft. Taking questions from Commissioner Fredrick Aggrey Opot and Saitoti's family lawyer Fred Ngatia, the witness admitted it was wrong for them to have used the renewal checklist when the aircraft was new and noted that the new one could have been used in reconciling with items required.

"I do not have an explanation as to why we used a renewal check list to register the aircraft," said Kaundu. He said he was given assignment to inspect work done by his senior Kingsley Ongaya even though it was unprocedural. He said the documents were given to him for verification five months after the first inspection in South Africa.

He said the forms provided for verification indicated that missing documents such engine log book propeller documents, APU and flight manual were to be availed at a later date. He said he only verified the presence of KCAA notices, airworthiness directives, flight test schedule, compass swing and survey report. The hearings resumes this morning with one of the highly mentioned witness in the procurement process Kingsley Ongaya taking to the witness box. It was Kingsley who inspected the aircraft in South Africa on behalf of KCAA before it was brought into the country.

Kaundu evidence collaborated with earlier testimony by another witness Peter Gatuse who said the registration and issue of the certificate of airworthiness was procedural and would not have compromised the civil aviation authority's work despite the missing documents. He said they looked at the master minimum equipment list and the aircraft flight manual while registering the ill-fated copter.

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