Kenya Air Force to take over police and parastatal planes

NAIROBI |

Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai disembarks from a new police helicopter at Wilson Airport in May 2019. Plans are under way to put all police aircraft under the Kenya Air Force. [File, Standard]

Plans are at an advanced stage to hand over the management of State-owned aircraft to Kenya Air Force in the latest move to involve the military in civilian affairs.

Officials privy to the plans revealed to The Standard that President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to issue an Executive Order to effect the changes once the plans are completed.

With the changes, all planes owned by the Kenya Police, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS), KenGen, Kenya Power, Ketraco and other State agencies will be managed by personnel from Kenya Air Force.

This will be the latest move by the president to transfer civilian operations to the military in a trend that has seen KDF personnel entrenched in major State institutions.

Executive order

Kenya Air Force Commander Major General Francis Ogolla and Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai met police pilots and engineers on Tuesday at the National Police Service (NPS) air wing based at the Wilson Airport, Nairobi, to announce the plans.

“They are now awaiting the Executive Order to effect these planned changes. The military will run our fleet,” said an officer aware of the plans but who asked not to be named.

Mutyambai refused to comment on the matter.

Maj-Gen Ogolla had earlier on met officials from the State agencies that own planes to discuss the way forward.

Officials privy to the plans revealed that the planes, which include helicopters and fixed wings aircraft, will be rebranded and placed under the command of Kenya Air Force for accountability.

According to insiders, the move is informed by the belief that military discipline and the insight of intelligence officers are necessary to run the air wing.

The Kenya Defence Forces and National Intelligence Service appear to have earned the trust of President Kenyatta.

The insiders also said there is a view that military and intelligence personnel are better suited for security-related positions and investigative agencies as they can tap into vital networks.

Those aware of the developments said the perception that these men are clean and disciplined has convinced Uhuru to put his trust in them as he hinges his legacy on the war against corruption.

Further, commanders from the two agencies are said to have lobbied to have one of their own lead the security dockets, which insiders claim have been abused in the past, exposing the country to danger.

There are plans to also bring in military personnel to run key dockets under the Ministry of Lands.

All the planes to be placed under military command operate from Wilson Airport where the agencies have hangars.

NPS has seven serviceable choppers, one of them dedicated to the Presidential Escort Unit, which protects the president and his family.

The air wing has 21 pilots and 39 trainee pilots in its 150 staff. Last year, Mutyambai said the government was keen to shore up the capacity of the service in line with NPS modernisation drive that has so far added new choppers to the air wing.

New planes

Under the strategic plan to revamp the police air wing in a Sh10.5 billion plan, the NPS planned to acquire new planes and choppers and recruit new personnel.

Police work has in the past been affected by lack of aircraft, with many in its fleet grounded.

Also targeted for military takeover is the KWS Airwing, which was established in 1990 and has more than 40 pilots. The air wing, also based at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, provides a diverse range of services in support of wildlife management and protection activities with its fleet of 12 light and three larger aircraft.

Besides Wilson Airport, KWS has other hangars in Meru, Tsavo West National Park and Mweiga in the Aberdare.

KWS is the only parastatal licensed by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to maintain aircraft from the public and private sector.

Its pilots are specialised in security and patrol flights, veterinary support services for research and translocation purposes, animal tracking, wildlife census, firefighting, rescue work, and transportation of rations and supplies, including ammunition.

With 59 parks and reserves spread across the country, the KWS Airwing is on permanent standby.

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