The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) has thrown down the gauntlet to pilots and helicopter operators to ensure that the aircraft is operated safely during political gatherings.
KCAA raised concerns that the risky operations of choppers across the country is endangering lives.
This comes days after a group of rowdy youth stoned a helicopter ferrying leading presidential candidate Raila Odinga during the funeral of Jackson Kibor at his home in Uasin Gishu County on April 1, 2022.
In a letter dated April 6, KCAA warned pilots and helicopter crew and operators that they will be held individually responsible for such incidences.
“It is the responsibility of a helicopter operator to ensure that the aircraft is operated in a safe and secure manner, including its security on ground. To this end, therefore, helicopter operators are required to make arrangements for securing of the aircraft when landing in unmanned locations, such arrangements can be made through local administration and the National Police Service,” KCAA Director-General Gilbert Kibe wrote.
Other hazardous activities of concern include people hanging onto helicopters and standing close by as they take off.
The Aviation Authority stated it is the responsibility of chopper operators to adhere to the set safety guidelines.
“The guideline is to land and take-off at least 3km from the activity venues and ensure at least 30m radius free of any people. Lift-off in the midst of crowds or where there is insufficient distance between the aircraft and the crowd is a gross violation of the rules on the safe operation of aircraft,” the letter stated.
Further, KCAA asked helicopter operators to ask their clients not to engage in activities that jeopardize the safe operation of the aircraft, including addressing crowds around the aircraft or engaging in crowd-pulling activities while in or near the aircraft.
The Authority warned it would take disciplinary action on operators who engage in the negligent operation of aircraft, thus risking lives.
“Operators and pilots are reminded that it is their individual responsibilities under the operation authorisations issued and licences held to ensure the safety and security of the aircraft and its occupants as well as persons on ground,” KCAA said.
The Authority at the same time asked aircraft operators to voluntarily come up with safety measures, including written standard operating procedures (SOPs) and work instructions for strict adherence by their crew involved in ferrying VIPs during political campaigns.
“Copies of such SOPs to be provided to the authority with immediate effect,” the letter stated.