KENYA’s fate on direct flights between Nairobi and the United States now lies with America, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has said.
The country’s aviation industry has to undergo a final audit by America’s Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates and oversees the American civil aviation sector.
According to KCAA, Kenya has to score a minimum 80 per cent in the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment audit set for later this year, to qualify for category one status.
Kenya qualified for the IASA audit after the International Civil Aviation Organisation gave Jomo Kenyatta International Airport an 88 per cent score in its security audit, conducted between September 17 and 24, 2014.
“We are ready for them (FAA). With the measures in place and the performance in the ICAO security audit, we believe we will make it,” KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe said on phone.
ICAO, a world specialised agency of the United Nations , sets standards and regulations necessary for aviation safety, security, efficiency and regularity, as well as for aviation environmental protection.
Any country seeking to have direct flights to the US however must have its facility audited by FAA, before a category one status is issued.
The IASA programme focuses on a country's ability, not the ability of individual air carriers, to adhere to international aviation safety standards.
JKIA has to meet eight critical elements in the IASA assessments among them aviation legislation, regulations and the state’s civil aviation system and safety oversight functions.
“The date for the IASA audit will be known in April,” Kibe said.
Kenya has implemented several recommendations by the US to enhance security, among them separation of passenger arrival and departure terminals, clearing the flight path and fencing off the airport.
KAA has spent nearly Sh9 billion to build Terminal 1 (previously Terminal 4) and fabricated Terminal 2.
The government has also invested Sh1.3 billion in new security equipment.
Currently, air travelers have to connect through Europe or Middle East.
If successful, Kenya will join Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa, the only countries with category one status.
US President Barack Obama’s bilateral talks with president Uhuru Kenyatta during his visit last year, renewed hopes for direct flights between the two countries.
It is expected to boost trade and Kenya’s tourism sector as the US remains the country’s second international tourism market after the UK.