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Wilson Airport builds Sh163m tower amidst land grabbing claims

By Peter Muiruri | July 28th 2016
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia (right) and Kenya Civil Aviation officials inspect plans for the new control tower complex at the Wilson Airport last week. [Photo: Peter Muiruri/Standard]

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia has given assurance that Wilson Airport in Nairobi will not be relocated despite the grabbing of some of its land.

Speaking during the groundbreaking ceremony for the airport’s new control tower complex worth Sh163 million, Macharia refuted rumours that the alleged systematic grabbing of the land was meant to make the airport untenable and precipitate its closure.

“The fact that we are here for the groundbreaking ceremony of a new control tower is proof that this airport is here to stay. This airport is busier than Jomo Kenyatta in terms of frequencies. We cannot let it go,” said Macharia.

Wilson handles 182,500 landings, takeoffs and training flights annually. Despite the heavy traffic, the current control tower is a short structure built 50 years ago that cannot scan the airport’s environs effectively due to obstruction by buildings.

Macharia said his ministry had instituted a probe through the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and Kenya Airports Authority to determine the extent to which Wilson Airport land has been grabbed.

“My ministry works very well with the Ministry of Lands and action will be taken on anyone who has encroached airport land. If it means demolishing structures built on such land, we will do so. Safety is the primary concern in the aviation industry,” said Macharia.

Wilson is the oldest airport in the region, having been established in 1927. It offers air transport services to the entire region and is the main training ground for pilots in East Africa. However, it continues to be hemmed in by residential developments as human population rises. According to Kenya Association of Air Operators CEO Colonel (Rtd) Eutychus Waithaka, the airport’s 1993 Master Plan had a parallel taxiway whose land has since been grabbed.

“This (taxiway) is now history as the land is gone. They now want to take the approach path as well. The land should be reclaimed,” he said.

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