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Overworked airport staff 'a risk to lives'

By Macharia Kamau | Jan 28th 2020 | 2 min read
By Macharia Kamau | January 28th 2020

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director General Capt.Gilbert Kibe at County Hall, Nairobi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The personnel working in the Kenyan airspace operate under strenuous conditions, compromising the safety of passengers.

The staff include those who help pilots take off, land and steer aircraft.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), in its 15-year Airspace Master plan between 2015 and 2030, said officials, especially the air traffic controllers work long hours due to inadequate personnel.

This puts at risk the thousands of flights that they steer in and out of Kenya.

The regulator said officials such as marshals deployed to work in airports were assigned other roles in addition to their primary work.

This, it noted, has affected the morale of the aviation workers, contributing to high employee turnover across airports. It also expressed concerns that this could affect the safety of Kenya’s airspace.

“The current situation exposes some of the air traffic control officers to long periods of work on the controls, sometimes with high exhaustion levels. In busy airports such as JKIA, Moi International Airport and Wilson Airport, the controls are understaffed and even with shift schedules, there is still limited rest,” said KCAA in the master plan submitted to the National Environmental Management Authority.

“In this situation, there are possibilities of stress and exhaustion that could compromise on the safety of the aircraft as well as possible effects at their family levels. This has potential risks of concentration lapse and related aircraft safety, low staff retention leading to loss of key and experienced staff.”

The Authority said there were 172 air traffic controllers at various airports as of June 2017, which was inadequate.

The officials have to report back to shifts before getting enough rest.

While the KCAA report does not link the staff shortage to the mishaps in the Kenyan airspace, it could be among the factors that have contributed to some of the incidents. Airlines that reported incidents in the recent months include Silverstone, Kenya Airways, Safarilink, Phoenix, Jetways, Easax and Fly540.

KCAA proposes reduced workload by hiring more people and offering opportunities for staff to improve skills.

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