The plane that disappeared on Tuesday evening was serviced regularly and had flown to Homa Bay and Maasai Mara early in the day prior to the ill-fated journey to Nairobi.
The two pilots were reported to be experienced and it is feared the aircraft flew into bad weather over Aberdare Forest around Kinangop in Nyandarua County, where signals were last traced to 5pm.
Captain Barbra Wangeci Kamau and First Officer Jean Mureithi’s last communication with the control tower at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was when the aircraft was about 60 kilometres from its destination.
The plane was due to land at 5pm following the one-hour flight from Kitale.
They lost contact after that and it is believed that they flew into a bad storm.
The eight passengers about the ill-fated plane were named as Ahmed Ali Abdi, Karaba Sailah Waweru Muiga, Khetia Kishani, Matakasakarai Thamani, Matakatekei Paula, George Ngugi Kinyua, Pinuertorn Ronald and Robinson Wafula.
The FlySAX plane, registration number 5Y-CAC, was flying from the Kitale airstrip in Trans Nzoia County to JKIA when it lost contact with the control tower at 5pm on Tuesday.
Frustrated relatives and friends of those missing joined the search for their loved ones in Aberdare Forest in Njabini, Nyandarua.
Some of the relatives drove from Kitale to the site even as teams using a helicopter for the mission cited bad weather as the reason for rescue delays.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority had on Tuesday night announced that it stopped the search due to bad weather.
Rescue teams from the police and Kenya Wildlife Service concentrated on the search area stretching to Aberdare Forest after signals showed the plane could be there.
According to officials, the plane operated by East Africa Safari Air Express, a subsidiary of Fly540, left Kitale shortly after 4pm with eight passengers and two crew members and was to land at about 5pm.
The two pilots were reportedly redirected to land at JKIA instead of Wilson Airport, and were to approach from the direction of Nairobi’s Utawala area. According to officials, this forced the pilots to use the Kinangop route, which is considered dangerous because of weather condition.
Others in the search mission included Kenya Red Cross Society, National Disaster Management Unit and Kenya Forest Service. East Africa Safari Air Express had asked relatives and next of kin to convene at Weston Hotel for more information.
In Kitale, family members, friends and business partners of those aboard the flight flocked to the airstrip to find out the fate of the missing passengers and crew.
A source interviewed by The Standard at the airport said some people, including a local MP, who were expected to board the plane cancelled their trip due to delayed landing.
“The plane was expected to land at noon but it was delayed to almost 4pm. This forced some people who had booked to cancel their journey,” the source told The Standard.
A man who had arrived from Kapenguria declined to board the plane reportedly because of bad weather.
The plane landed at 3.45pm from Homa Bay County and dropped off five passengers.