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Cost of training pilots too high, say aviation stakeholders

The  Recreational Aviation Association of Kenya (RAAK), an association of private pilots has asked the government to review regulations governing the owning and maintenance of light aircraft with a view to spurring growth in the aviation sector.

The  RAAK  said that small aircraft that use petrol were being subjected to regulations governing commercial aircraft, thus making it expensive for small players to own and maintain airplanes.

The  RAAK Chairman, Trevor Kent said his organisation had come up with proposals which if adopted and implemented would make recreational airplanes and those used for training pilots to be governed by a body other than Kenya Aviation Authority (KCAA).

“We want the cost of owning and maintaining light aircraft to be reduced in order to inspire more pilots and aviation engineers to join the sector,” he told journalists during a press briefing at the Malindi International Airport on Monday.

Kent at the same time decried the high cost of training pilots in Kenya, which he attributed to the fact that light aircraft used for training pilots were expensive to run due to the stringent regulations. This, he said, had made aviation a preserve of the rich.

Kent’s sentiments were echoed by the  RAAK Secretary-General, Gary Cullen, who said the country had very few private pilot license (PPL) holders due to the high cost of owning and maintaining aircraft and called for a paradigm shift in regulating the sector.

“We propose the formation of a new body to regulate privately owned petrol-flown light aircraft so that KCAA can only concentrate on larger airplanes, since most of the light aircrafts are only used for recreational purposes and training of pilots.

He said for one to train as a pilot, one has to part with between Sh.1.2 million and Sh.1.3 million, making aviation training the preserve of the haves and locking many aspiring pilots out,” he said.

He said his association has however partnered with the KCAA with a view to bringing into the Kenyan market more light aircrafts to be used for recreational and training purposes.

The move is aimed at reducing the cost of owning and maintaining aircraft and in the process encourage more players in the industry, especially pilots and engineers.

“We believe that with the support from KCAA, we will be able to bring on board more small aircrafts and private pilots to operate in the country because the same is happening in other regions such as Europe, America and South Africa,” he said.

He  said his association had only 28 privately owned light aircrafts with 35 members private pilots compared to South Africa, which has 200,000 members and as many aircrafts.

“We need to have more members under those flying for leisure since it will attract tourists interested in aerobatics or sports flying. These aircrafts will also provide a good training ground for pilots,” he said.

On his part, the Regional Director of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Barry  Kashambo, blamed the high cost of owning and maintaining an aircraft in Kenya on taxation.

He said Kenya was among the best performing in aviation after South Africa, but added that a lot still needed to be done to spur the sector’s growth.

Kashambo said he was optimistic that with the introduction of new flights into Kenya would reduce the cost of flying since dominance by some airlines had been cited as one of the causes of expensive aviation.

The stakeholders had earlier met with representatives of the KCAA on the possibility of a partnership aimed at bringing into the Kenyan market small aircrafts to be used for recreational and training purposes.

The pilots then paraded about 20 airplanes and flew around Malindi for leisure.

By  Emmanuel Masha

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