The government says 67 helicopters are registered in Kenya, but admitted that it does not licence choppers imported by the military, nor those being re-exported.
Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) Director General Gilbert Kibe (pictured) told KTN that the aviation regulator only registers civilian helicopters.
“Military are State aircraft, which means that they are under the Government of the Republic of Kenya. They have their own different registration system for the military,” he said. Choppers meant for re-export are also not licensed.
Analysis of import data for the last 10 years shows that exports of small helicopters from Kenya to neighbouring countries did not exceed four per year.
During an earlier meeting with helicopter owners, an official of KCAA, Mary Kai, said Kenya had an average of 70 helicopters.
However, data from the South African Revenue Service (SARS) shows that Kenya imported 325 helicopters with a custom value of South African Rand 488,904,000 (about Sh3.6 billion).
All the choppers were imported in November and passed through the OR Tambo International Airport, SARS said.
The cost of a chopper in South Africa can range from a low of Sh35 million to a high of Sh300 million.
In January 2020, the Kenya Defence Forces received six choppers from the US government, which were never registered by KCAA. Capt Kibe told The Standard in a text message that KCAA only licensed one chopper in 2020.
Other data from World Bank’s World Integrated Trade Solution shows that in 2005, Kenya imported 212 helicopters weighing less than 2,000 kilogrammes. About 202 were from South African.
During the meeting, Kibe said the regulator was on high alert to ensure operators adhered to safety regulations, especially in this period when there are increased political activities.