Kenya is putting in place a new system for licensing engineers to meet the threshold for direct flights to the US.
The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority yesterday said the structure will be in place by end of March, ahead of the final audit by the Federal Aviation Administration set for April.
Kenya has met the International Civil Aviation Organisation safety standards, but the US Federal Aviation Administration wants the country to set up the new licensing system before it is given the Category One status, a requirement for any airport handling direct fights to the US.
“We were planning to put up the system in November but they insisted that we do it now. We are working with speed to have the system before April,” KCAA director general Gilbert Kibe said yesterday.
The FAA officials are expected to visit Kenya in April to assess the progress.
“We are hurrying up. This is the last thing they want us to put in place before we get Category One,” he said, adding the country passed an audit in November.
Kenya has implemented a raft of measures as directed by the US government which include separation of passenger arrival and departure terminals, clearing the flight path, and fencing off the airport to enhance security.
The government has invested Sh1.3 billion in new security equipment at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Kenya had also been tasked to come up with a new Civil Aviation Law, and on September 14 last year President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill 2016.
The country has also set up a civil aviation tribunal as required by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
KCAA has also tackled eight critical elements of safety oversight system by the ICAO.
“We have successfully satisfied FAA,” Kibe told the Star.
The government has begun courting airlines interested in operating flights between the JKIA and the US, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said in an interview on September 24. “The US has requested us to ask airlines interested in flying directly from Kenya to apply.”
Kenya's hopes to start direct flight to the US were raised after scoring 88 per cent in a security audit by the ICAO conducted between September 17 and 24, 2015, above the minimum 80 per cent required mark.
The JKIA had failed in previous audits where it earned 78.42 per cent in February 2015, up from 66 per cent in 2013.
If given the green light, KCAA will apply to have the JKIA upgraded to Category One. Airlines interested to fly directly to the US will also seek licences.
Kenya had licensed US's Delta Airlines for direct flights from Atlanta in 2009, but the carrier was denied permission by the US government, citing security concerns.
Kenya Airways is also interested in launching long-haul flights to the US.
Direct flights are expected to enhance Nairobi’s status as a transport hub, promote tourism and increase trade between the two countries.
African countries that have direct flights to the US are South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Cape Verde, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia and Nigeria.