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US upgrades safety level of Kenya’s airspace

The United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has declared the airspace of Kenya to be safe, two years after it was placed on a blacklist.

The development is a timely one with US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, visiting the country.

The notice would also be a huge boost to the country’s national carrier, Kenya Airways, which is getting ready to launch direct flights to the US in October.

The FAA, through a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), made the declaration regarding Kenya’s airspace, but still cautioned airlines when flying below 26,000 feet over the border region of Somalia.

Back in 2016, the US deemed Kenya a conflict zone, cautioning airlines to be wary when flying over its airspace.

A NOTAM is filed with the International Civil Aviation Authority to warn pilots of possible threats along a flight route or at a location that could impact the safety of the flight.

War-besieged nations such as Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, South Sudan and Afghanistan comprise most of the list of nations whose air spaces are blacklisted.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia lauded the move by the US, saying. “The upgrading of the safety level of Kenya’s airspace is indeed a reflection of the efforts that have been expended in Kenya’s attainment of Category 1 status.

“These endeavors include the signing of the JKIA service charter where all service agencies, including security and safety, have one chain of command,” Macharia said.

“Further, there was an amendment to the Civil Aviation Act, which has resulted in the enhanced professionalism and independence of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, especially on matters touching on aviation safety,” Macharia added.

The US occasionally updates its evaluation of the air safety records of all nations in order to safely guide US operators. However, since only four countries in the world provide essential information with regards to airspace security, all foreign carriers depend on the information given by the US in order to make rational decisions.

“This NOTAM applies to: all US air carriers and commercial operators; all persons exercising the privileges of an airman certificate issued by the FAA,” said the FAA in its latest evaluation.

“The justification for this advisory will be re-evaluated by February 26, 2019. Operators are advised to take this information into account in their own risk assessments and routing decisions,” the NOTAM indicates.

The Government, however, claims that despite the retaining of a security advisory on the airspace bordering Somalia, it is perfectly safe for American airlines to fly to Kenya.

“Kenya has now been cleared of any threats. Therefore, US air carriers can freely fly in and out of our airspace and Kenya Airways can fly freely to the US once the final steps are complete with the US government,” reported Transport Principal Secretary, Paul Maringa.

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