Transport and communications services between Kitale town and Nairobi City have received a major boost following resumption of flights operations between the two destinations by Safarilink.
The airstrip was shut down in 2020 to pave the way for construction of a Runway Safety Area (RSA).
Trans Nzoia County Commissioner (CC), Mr. Samson Ojwang and Safarilink Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr. Alex Avedi, presided over the re-launch ceremony held at the airstrip on Thursday morning.
According to reports, Kenya Airport Authority (KAA) has spent Sh221 million towards construction of the 1.45 kilometre runway at the Kitale airstrip, which will be instrumental in the transportation of horticultural products.
Rehabilitation works involved extension of the runway to accommodate code 2B Aircraft.
Speaking during the event, Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), Kitale Airstrip Manager, Mr. Martin Juma, said the Kitale facility will now accommodate at least four planes with a capacity of 40 passengers each at any given time.
Juma said the airstrip, which has been under renovation for the last two years, will aid in decongesting the Eldoret International Airport.
“The Airstrip, which has a 1.45 kilometre strip, was given two new taxiways, making it to four in total,” remarked Juma, adding that this will allow for the movement of any aircraft in and away from the terminal building.
Speaking to KNA on the sidelines of the event, Juma explained that rehabilitation at the facility was being done in two phases, Phase One being upgrading of the 1.45 km runway, while Second Phase involved construction of an Administration Block that consists of a VIP lounge.
Due to the renovation works, domestic air travelers to western region have had to use the Eldoret and Kisumu airports.
The County Commissioner noted that the airstrip was one of the President Uhuru Kenyatta’s flagship projects in the region, which would go a long way in boosting flight connectivity within the County and the region at large.
Ojwang hailed Safarilink’s decision to resume flights, saying travelers will save up to one hour when flying directly between Kitale and Nairobi compared to using Kisumu or Eldoret airports.
“This Airstrip is a significant infrastructural project to this region. It currently takes over one hour from Eldoret to get here and two hours from Kisumu by road,” observed Ojwang, adding the facility will come in handy in transportation of perishable horticultural produce from one of the country’s breadbaskets.
He further pointed out the facility will enhance regional integration, improve access and connectivity between Kenya, Southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda as well as fostering transport, communication and trade linkages within the four countries and beyond.
The County Commissioner assured members of public that President Kenyatta will soon visit the area, where he will officially hand over the renovated facility to KAA alongside commissioning of other mega government funded projects, including the Kitale – Suam road and Kiptogot-Kolongolo Water Supply projects.
On his part, Avedi hailed the government’s initiative to expand the Kitale airstrip, saying it would greatly boost the rising demand for local travel in the County and country at large.
“Safarilink has today officially resumed flight operations between Kitale Airstrip and Wilson Airport in Nairobi,” announced Avedi, adding travel rates between the two destinations was Sh.6,500.
Encouraging travelers in the region to utilize the refurbished airstrip, the CEO disclosed the Safarlink flight services will be done five times weekly on every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Speaking at the colorful event, area Senator, Michael Mbito and Dr. Noah Wekesa, a retired public servant and politician, both expressed delight over resumption of flight operations at the Airstrip.
By Maurice Aluda