Kenya: Silverstone Maintains Flight Operations Safe as Questions Raised on Wilson Airport's Runway Maintenance

A Silverstone aircraft.
30 October 2019

Nairobi — Silverstone Air, a local budget airline, has defended the safety record of its operations following two incidents in a span three weeks.

The airline's management on Wednesday noted that it had successfully operated 10,000 trips since inception flying over 1 million passengers to local destinations including Mombasa, Lamu, Kisumu, Malindi, Ukunda and Lodwar.

This even as it emerged the main runway at Wilson Airport where one of Silverstone's flight skidded of was undergoing maintenance to fix potholes.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director General Gilbert Kibe told Capital FM News that the repairs that started on Friday last week have since been concluded.

"Wilson is a safe airport and it has had issues; it is true there were potholes in the runway. This was reported to Kenya Airports Authority," Kibe said.

Repairs were carried out on the runway "One-Four."

The details emerged in a heated press conference by the troubled privately-owned airline, Silverstone Air on Wednesday. On October 11, 9 people sustained injuries after a Silverstone plane crashed barely after taking off.

Sheila Muturi, the Silverstone Accountable Manager said she did not want to shift blame to the regulator - KCAA - but has welcomed the new development.

Without divulging details, Muturi said they have activated mitigating measures, to mitigate mechanical mishaps.

"All our aircraft will continue to be held to the highest possible safety standard and safety actions have been taken with an intention of preventing a recurrence," she said.

The first incident, which occurred on October 11, was after their aircraft carrying 55 passengers skidded off the runway at Wilson Airport, leaving 9 people with injuries while on Monday, a plane run by airline lost a wheel after taking off.

Muturi said the mishap was beyond the airline's control-no one was injured during the incident.

"We have implemented a safety management system which is a regulatory requirement for every operator," she said.

About the wheel that fell off, she said "it was a wheel bearing failure. It was a mechanical issue that we have no control of. As a mitigating measure, we inspected our entire fleet."

According to Victor Gatheru, the head of maintenance at Silverstone, "the life of an aircraft is not dependent on the number of years that it has been in operation.

What determines the service of an aircraft is the number of cycles it has made. For instance, the aircraft that lost its wheel has 80,000 cycles put down by the manufacturer. It is not even halfway."

Already the Air Accident Investigations Department under Ministry of Transport has launched an audit of the airline, following the two incidents.

"As per the provision of Civil Aviation Act No. 21 of 2013, amended in 2016, KCAA is mandated to manage, regulate and operate a safe, secure and efficient Civil Aviation system in Kenya," Kibe said in a statement on Monday.

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