The helicopter that crashed on Sunday killing all six on board was flown all the way from South Africa, it emerged on Thursday. Read (Chopper was ‘new and powerful’)
Kenya Police Airwing commandant Rodgers Mbithi said he flew the chopper from South Africa — through Mozambique and Tanzania — last December.
He was accompanied by an engineer and another pilot, both from the manufacturer, Eurocopter Southern Africa.
They left South Africa on December 5 and arrived in Kenya two days later after making stop-overs in Mozambique and Dar es Salaam, where it was refuelled.
It had been assembled in South Africa and sold directly to the government.
The acquisition of the new aircraft was part of a plan by the Police Force to expand its airborne law enforcement and crime prevention unit.
It also emerged that the police initially wanted to buy a Bell 407 helicopter and it was not clear why they settled for the Eurocopter AS350B3e.
The acquisition of the AS350 B3e, which is the enhanced version of the AS350 model, is said to have followed an open and competitive tender won earlier this year by Eurocopter Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd.
The Bell 407, a four-blade, single-engine chopper, is manufactured by Bell Helicopter Textron Company of Canada. The plane started being used in 1996.
It has a capacity of seven passengers with additional space for cargo and costs between $2.6 million (Sh221 million) and $3 million (Sh255 million).
The Kenya Wildlife Services has purchased a Bell 407.
Round the clock security
Mr Mbithi said that the airwing, based at Hangar 27 at Wilson Airport in Nairobi, is usually guarded round the clock.
He said that the aircraft are locked inside the hangar with armed officers keeping watch outside.
“The airport is a relatively safe place but we lock our planes inside the hangar since they may be pushed by strong winds and get damaged,” said the commandant.
The unit is also poorly equipped — out of its eight helicopters, five are unserviceable, and of the seven Cessna fixed wing aircraft, four are unserviceable.
It currently has 10 helicopter pilots, 13 fixed wing pilots, 18 engineers, 48 technicians, and seven cabin crew.