Kenya Airways decides better safe than sorry


Another problem last week at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with the runway lighting has compelled Kenya Airways (KQ), amongst others, to delay a number of flights from Nairobi, mostly affecting the departures to Mombasa.

Only two weeks earlier the runway lights had gone out altogether and all inbound flights were diverted while emergency repairs went underway, grounding all air traffic for several hours. According to sources from the main Nairobi international airport, it appears that this time around, the lights suddenly dimmed and a so-called “notam” was immediately rushed out to air operators warning them of the problem. While apparently some other airlines did operate their flights from Nairobi to Mombasa, Kenya Airways decided to go by the book and delayed departures rather than operating in conditions, which according to international standards, were not safe.

In fact a source close to KQ, although pointing out that he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the airline, told this column that as Kenya Airways is an IOSA – IATA’s Operational Safety Audit – cleared airline, they would go by such very high safety standards, while others may judge from case to case and leave the decision to their pilots whether to take off or land under such circumstances. However, should an incident occur, they would nevertheless be held responsible and legally liable for having ignored the problem, especially after being issued with a “notam.”

Questions are being asked again as to why there are problems again with the runway lights only a week or so after a complete failure and subsequent repairs. The blame is already being laid squarely on the doorstep of the Kenya Airports Authority for their repeated failure to keep the key airport installations up and running at all times and ensure the safety of passengers and aircraft. The same source was also swift to point out that the complete lighting failure earlier in the year in Mombasa, when operations were restricted for days on end to daylight hours after an underground electrical duct had flooded due to poorly maintained drainage, causing severe interruptions of the flow of tourists and business travelers to and from the Kenya coast at that time.