KEY FINDINGS SO FAR
. The chopper was repaired by a “mysterious” man
. Pilot in charge, who also perished in the crash, was certified by an untrained examiner
. Eurocopter engineers without the knowledge of Kenya Police Airwing allegedly changed 11 components
. It has also emerged that a scheduled removal and checking of the helicopter’s battery that was scheduled for March 6 this year was not done
. A gadget that records engine activity was faulty
. The tender committee did not verify safety record
By Ally Jamah
Investigations into the crash that also ended the lives of former Internal Security Minister’s assistant, Joshua Orwa Ojode and four police officers have so far unraveled a series of strange coincidences, including what appears to have been casual handling of the chopper, and a flawed tendering process. As the team led by Justice Kalpana Rawal progresses with the arduous task of getting an answer for Kenyans on whether the crash was an act of sabotage, engine failure or other accident, what the commission has so far unearthed is unsettling and disturbing.
Top aviation and Government experts have made ridiculous confessions, including admissions that the chopper was repaired by a “mysterious” man and that the pilot in charge, who also perished in the crash, was certified by an untrained examiner who went ahead to give her high marks.
The commission has also heard that Eurocopter engineers, without the knowledge of Kenya Police Airwing allegedly changed 11 components.
It has also emerged that a scheduled removal and checking of the helicopter’s battery that was scheduled for March 6 this year was not done. That was barely a month before it crashed. The Saitoti family’s lawyer indicated that such an oversight was significant with regard to the chopper’s safety since batteries are used to restart the aircraft if engines fail during flight.
The commission has also been told the chopper had only one primary plight display (PFD) instead of two as agreed in the tender documents before the purchase, meaning what was supplied isn’t what had been tendered for. PFDs help in controlling various crucial aspects of flight including altitude and vertical speed. Each unit is placed in the pilot and copilot’s compartment.
These “gaps” and “incidents”, the commission has so far been told will be crucial for Rawal’s team probing the June 10 crash of police Eurocopter AS 350 in Ngong Forest. They include the admission by Office of the President’s procurement officer Mwangi Njoroge that the right procedure might not have been followed when acquiring the helicopter.
Njoroge stunned Kenyans when he also revealed he did not know whether the special security tender committee verified the safety record of the chopper before it was bought last year.
The account of a mysterious engineer who “repaired” the helicopter two days before it crashed was even more confounding because senior police officers in charge of the plane only knew only one name (Aristide) of the South Africa’s manufacturer’s local contact who is said to have taken the mysterious repairman to the plan to work on some malfunction noticed.
Also curious is the revelation that a gadget that records engine activity was faulty, yet the manufacturer reportedly assured the Government that the chopper could continue flying for at least 200 more hours with the defect. A secret flight by the commandant of the Kenya Police Airwing Rodgers Mbithi, a day before the crash, has also featured in the Commission’s hearings.
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