As Parliament embarks on investigations on Skyward Express, a leaked internal email by the company has raised serious questions on the operations of the domestic carrier.
This is even as it emerged that the airline was already undergoing a safety audit by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) before parliament raised an alarm last month after a flight operated by Skyward was forced to make an emergency landing at Moi Airport in Eldoret.
The plane tail number 5Y SMK flying from Lodwar in Turkana was forced to make an emergency landing in Eldoret on October 15. The mishap is what caused Loima MP Protus Akuja who comes from Turkana to petition parliament for a thorough investigati0n into Skyward’s operations.
“I have received concerns from citizens regarding the safety standards of the planes as they have experienced incidents such as mishaps in landing gear, uneasy sounds from the engines and parts of planes during mid-flight and smoke emanating from the wings,” said the MP.
Contributing to the petition, Robert Pukose who is the MP Endebess said the matter at hand is weighty and needed to be addressed immediately.
“It is scary to see a plane emit smoke on its wings. Safety measures should be put in place immediately and inspections should be done to all the aircrafts. The earlier this matter is acted upon the better,” said Pukose.
Although Skyward Express has a near 100 percent safety record since it was rebranded in 2015, one of its planes was forced to crash land at Burahache Military camp in Somalia after developing mechanical issues July 2021.
The previous year, a Skywards Express plane with 50 passengers was forced to make an emergency landing shortly after taking off from Lamu’s Manda airport.
The plane had left Wilson Airport on Wednesday morning but suffered a mechanical problem, forcing the pilot to land.
But even as Parliament embarks on its investigations on Skyward we have established that the airline was already being investigated by KCAA. The authority is expected to present its findings to Parliament later in the year.
KCAA spokesman Salim Ali Bakari said: “We have an appointment with the parliamentary committee where we shall make our official position known”. Asked if he could confirm any of the concerns, he said: “That would be pre-empting our report”.
It is still not yet known for how long KCAA has been investigating Skyward Express. A leaked email from the company which we have seen shows that the investigation mainly borders around safety.
Worryingly, it appears that Skyward has from the email been allowing non authorised personnel to its airside. The airside is a part of the airport used by aircraft for loading, unloading, take offs and landings. The area is beyond security checks, passport and customs control. Only people with special passes are allowed on the airside.
“Kindly note that KCAA will be visiting our office for security inspection and follow up on the last audit findings,” said the email from Augustus Mogoi, the head of Safety and Security to his team that was sent on October 24.
“Kindly ensure that all interns and casuals without airside passes are not on duty during this period as the auditors will access and sample our level of compliance on access control,” he said.
For safety reasons, access to airside areas is restricted to authorised personnel only.
“Access shall be granted only to those with an operational need or other legitimate reason to be there. Identity and authorization shall be verified at designated checkpoints before access is allowed to airside areas and security restricted areas,” says the Civil Aviation Act.
Skyward Express was founded in 2013 from the ashes of Skyward International Aviation. Based out of Nairobi Wilson Airport, it operates on domestic routes with an in-house fleet of two Fokker 50s, one Fokker 100 chartered to its virtual subsidiary Premier Airlines, one Dash 8-100, and one Dash 8-300. It recently took delivery of its first Fokker 70.
Although the company claims to be separate from Skyward International, the transfer of name was nothing more than a rebranding.
Skyward International suffered a loss of reputation following several air accidents, with four of its Fokker 50s destroyed, according to ATDB.aero.
Data from ATDB shows that one F50 was crashed in Nairobi when the landing gear would not lower, causing it to make a belly landing. Another crashed near Utawala after crew ignored multiple alarms during the takeoff roll, killing all four onboard.
A third crashed during a forced landing at Aweil-Uwayl, where one of its wings was sheared off, while the fourth veered off the runway at Mogadishu after the landing gear collapsed on landing.