Silverstone Air Services, an airline in the eye of the storm following recent accidents, is under scrutiny over its links to the sector regulator, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA).
Claims of conflict of interest have emerged following reports that Silverstone’s accountable manager, Sheila Muturi, was previously an aviation inspector with KCAA before she left to join the operator.
In her time as a regulator, Ms Muturi may have handled Silverstone’s air licensing applications, thus causing the allegations of conflict of interest.
When contacted over the allegations, Ms Muturi said there is no law in Kenya that prohibits an employee from leaving the public sector to join the private sector.
“She vacated her role at KCAA in accordance with the law and she has been employed by Silverstone Air in full compliance with the Employment Act and the constitution. Silverstone Air brought her on board owing to her expertise in aviation matters,” the airline said in response to questions from the Saturday Nation.
“The aviation industry is a specialist industry and the KCAA employs from within the industry. Oversight of an entity is not a one-man-show and there are a lot of checks and balances in the processes,” the airline added.
Amid the recent accident and other incidents, Ms Muturi has become the face of the airline as the Somow brothers, who are the force behind the airline, keep off from the limelight.
At Wilson Airport, claims of KCAA being “asleep” are rife, as some operators claim the regulator is not doing enough to safeguard the integrity of the aviation sector.
Following the latest incident involving Silverstone Air Services, the director general of KCAA, Captain Gilbert Kibe, issued a statement saying the agency was carrying out an audit of the airline “after various air incidents and an accidents involving Silverstone Air Services.”
“The audit is being performed in order to determine the level of compliance with the current civil aviation regulations and their own company’s approved manuals and procedures,” Mr Kibe had said.
He did not respond to the Saturday Nation’s questions about the claims of conflict of interest.
In a written interview, Silverstone also refuted claims that they were charging way below the market rates to drive off competitors from the routes they also operate.
According to the airline, they charge competitively. “If you do a bit of research you will realise that we are not even the cheapest airline on the Lodwar route. Our aircraft undergo routine maintenance checks as per laws and regulations that govern the industry. We have not and cannot compromise on that,” the airline said.
Recent incidents and an accident involving Silverstone’s aircraft have put the airline in the spotlight as safety concerns are raised.
The airline, however, maintains its safety record is uncompromised. “Our aircraft are inspected and maintained in accordance with the Aircraft Manufacturers Manual and Silverstone’s approved Aircraft Maintenance Programme … Our policies which comply with regulatory and manufacturer requirements ensure our aircraft are safely loaded within weight limits,” the airline said.
Privately, officials of the airline believe business rivalry is behind the focus on them. They are even alleging sabotage.
During Joseph Boinnet’s time as the Inspector General of Police, the airline had entered a curious partnership with Airport Police, which saw the airline supply the officers with branded reflector jackets.
Essentially, the police was promoting the Silverstone brand.
An operator at Wilson says they complained through the Kenya Airports Police Unit (KAPU) and then IG Boinnet until the partnership was stopped.