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Passengers should demand more from regulator

Saturday November 9 2019

air safty

A fire engine arrives at Wilson Airport where a Silverstone Air aircraft overshot the runway on October 11, 2019. Passengers are concerned about safety. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GLADYS BURINI
By GLADYS BURINI
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It has been years since I asked myself how safe our air carriers are.

When a Silverstone Air aircraft overshot the runway at Wilson Airport, I put that down to an isolated incident.

Two weeks later, the same low-cost carrier lost a wheel mid air, making it a safety concern for that airline.

But when days later a Safarilink Aviation aircraft skidded off the runway, there was now a major safety concern for our carriers. And so I ask: are our low-cost carriers safe?

Our local air transport options have increased greatly. We all love a good bargain and we now have our choice of frequent flights, at low fares, from a number of low-cost carriers. We arrive at our destinations with ease.

But as this area of air transport has rapidly expanded, it seems to be misconstrued that our paying low fares for convenience means air carriers can dispense with the expected safety of air transport.

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SAFETY CHECKS

With these incidents, it is becoming apparent that the adage “Air transport is the safest mode of transport” is not an absolute truth. It is hinged on several key players.

If an air carrier doesn’t perform its safety checks as recommended by the aircraft manufacturer or deviates from the prescribed instructions, it doesn't matter how safe air transport is; that air carrier won’t be.

If quick fixes are sought to ensure the full air carrier schedule is performed, passenger safety will be compromised.

We don’t pay fares for quick solutions that risk our lives. We pay to be transported to our destination safely.

Ordinarily when an accident occurs, we would await an investigation to establish the cause. That does not seem to be the case with our domestic carrier incidents.

The only result is to lead one to question if negligence is the culprit. For emphasis, a tyre came off an aircraft mid-flight; isn’t it standard procedure for the pilot to physically inspect the aircraft before taking off?

KCAA TO BLAME

Yet I am also reminded that air transport safety doesn’t occur in isolation of the airlines; why then would we need a regulator?

Over the years, our air travel safety record has been so good that the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority hasn’t crossed our minds.

But these incidents have brought the regulator to the fore, causing us to question if it is taking adequate measures to ensure local air carriers have passenger safety as their paramount concern.

For one, we can contend that the regulator reacted slowly to the first incident, and only took action after a lot of pushback from social media regarding the second one.

Much as these incidents did not result in any physical injury or worse, as passengers, we would expect an immediate reaction from the regulator on its course of action and its reassurance that passenger safety remains assured.

Since its assurance has not been guaranteed as exemplified, we hope the National Assembly calls upon the regulator to seriously scrutinise its measures on low-cost carriers.

As passengers, we are mainly concerned about safe arrival at our destination but we now demand to know if we will arrive safely.

“Air transport is the safest mode of transport” is just an adage when not backed up by actions that guarantee passenger safety.

The writer is a legal officer for an international airline; [email protected]

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