By Charo Banda
An association of private licensed pilots has partnered with the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to bring into the market more light aircrafts for training and recreational purposes.
The Recreational Aviation Association of Kenya (RAAK) secretary Gary Cullen said the move is a game changer to the aviation industry aimed at reducing the cost of owning and maintaining light aircrafts.
Speaking to the press after holding RAAK meeting at Malindi International Airport in Kilifi County, Mr Cullen said they plan to register about 100 private pilot licences (PPL) and air crafts in 2020.
“We hope that our continued relationship and support from aviation authority will enable us bring on board small aircrafts since it also happens in other countries such as America, Europe and South Africa,” he said.
Mr Cullen said their association has 28 aircrafts and 35 members compared to South Africa which has over 200,000 members and private-owned light aircraft.
“We need to have more members under those flying for leisure since it will attract tourists interested in aerobatics or sports flying,” he said, adding “these aircrafts will also provide a good training ground for pilots.”
However, he said there is need for reducing the cost of operating and maintain light aircrafts to make it more affordable and cheap to fly.
“It has been a matter of one-size fits all where tiny aircrafts have to obey same maintenance rules like Boeing jets, making it too expensive for private license pilots,” he added.
At the same time, Mr Cunning said training in Kenya is extremely expensive since one has to spend about Sh1.2 to Sh1.3 million in aviation schools to obtain PPL licence.
“Some of the small aircraft run on petrol which is half price of aviation fuel and it will be quite appealing if the cost of owning and operating aircrafts is reduced to inspire more pilots and aviation engineers,” he added.
On his part, Mr Trevor Kent, the RAAK chairman said they came up with a proposal that will make recreational airplanes be governed by another body rather than KCAA.
He said people in Kenya are being forced to spend too much of their budget in order to fly since aviation training is expensive.
“To fly commercially is a different route since it needs those who have money and resources, one has to fly for over 200 hours, making them spend about 30,000 or 40,000 US dollars for training,” he said adding “but our aim is recreational or leisure flying.”
The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICOA) regional director, Barry Kashambo, said the cost of owning and maintaining an aircraft in the Kenya are high due to the taxes incurred at the airports.
“But the aviation industry in Kenya is strong and the country has the best performing aviation sector after South Africa,” said Mr Kashambo.
He said he is optimistic that with the introduction of new flights into the Kenyan market the cost of flying will be reduced.