Africa: US aviation authority raises safety alert on 10 Kenya Airways Boeing 737NG aircraft as carrier resumes operation to 15 countries

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The United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), has raised safety alert on 10 Boeing 737NG aircraft in the fleet of Kenya Airways, warning that the aircraft could stall mid-air after being grounded for months.

The warning is coming as the African carrier is set to resume commercial flight operation to some destinations across the globe.

According to, Kenya Airways is among global airlines that will be forced to inspect afresh the engines of its 10 Boeing 737 New Generation aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) said the Boeing 737NG aircraft that have been idle since the outbreak of Covid-19 could form corrosion on the air check valves, an anomaly that can lead to stalling of the two engines when the airplane is flying.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe said they had received communication from the FAA, adding that the agency will ensure local carriers such as Kenya Airways are in compliance.

Kenya Airways has 10 Boeing 737NG — mainly used for mid-range flights such as the Africa routes — in its fleet of 42. The FAA safety notice will affect more than 7, 000 of 737NGs planes that Boeing has delivered to carriers globally.

“We have received communication and Kenya Airways too has the alert. We shall monitor the task,” said Mr Kibe in an interview with the Business daily.

The FAA said should the airlines must replace the engine valves ahead of flying if they are corroded.

In a statement last week, Boeing Company, the manufacturer of the planes, said it had advised operators to inspect the aircraft that had been grounded for long or used infrequently in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

Boeing reckons that the valves can be more susceptible to corrosion.

Kenya Airways said it was addressing the issue before taking to the skies in a move that will assure passengers of their safety once international flights resume this Saturday.

“KQ has a process and has put measures in place to ensure all its affected aircraft have the recommendation accomplished before they get back to the skies,” said the airline in an e-mail response to the Business Daily.

Kenya Airways normally uses these type of aircraft on Africa routes with higher passenger numbers because of its high capacity compared to the Embraer 190.

The Boeing 737-800 has a flying range of 5,665 kilometres.
KQ grounded its international flights on April 6 after Kenya closed its airspace to passenger planes in order to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The carrier has, however, been operating its fleet of Boeing 787 that it had converted into cargo flight for long-haul services, especially to Europe and Asia.

This is the second time that Boeing has issued an airworthiness directive on this type of aircraft since late last year.
Last September the FAA wrote to Kenya Airways directing it to inspect its fleet of Boeing 737 New Generation aircraft for potential cracks.

The carrier will resume passenger services on international routes this Saturday with 27 destinations having been earmarked. This is half of the routes that the airline was servicing before the Covid-19 pandemic.

KQ reported a Sh12.9 billion loss for the financial year ended December 2019, up from Sh7.7 billion in 2018, with losses attributed to increased cost of operations.

The airline estimates it lost Sh10 billion in the six months to June this year.

The airline, which resumed domestic flights two weeks ago, is now banking on the resumption of the international flights to generate more income and be in a position to meet its financial obligation.

Meanwhile, Kenya Airways is set to resume international flight operations to some destinations globally.

The airline said it will be resuming its international passenger services on Satyrday August 1, following the easing of movement restrictions as directed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In a statement, the airline said the first international flights on Saturday will depart to London, Dubai, Addis Ababa, Kigali, Dar es Salaam and Lusaka.

According to, it said during the month there will be a gradual increase in the network with flights to Paris, Mumbai and Amsterdam.

In Africa, the airline will operate flights to Accra, Dzaoudzi, Freetown, Harare, Kilimanjaro, Lagos, Monrovia, Moroni, Nampula and Zanzibar. Based on demand and other factors, resumption of services to other destinations around the globe will occur.

According to KQ’s chief executive Allan Kilavuka, the Airline plans to start operations to the USA, China and Thailand from October.
These destinations require the bulk of the network to open up so as to sustain adequate traffic on the routes.

”We have been monitoring the adherence to the protocols that we have in place to ensure the health and safety of our customers and staff, and I am pleased that they are being enforced and followed strictly,” Kilavuka said.

Some of the safety measures the airline has put in place to ensure the safety of passengers include; the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) by the flight crew and airport workers where necessary, and limited interaction between crew and passengers.
The airline is also providing sanitizer stations onboard and washing of hands will be encouraged by the crew onboard the flights., aircraft are fitted with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. The filters ensure that the quality of air onboard is kept clean by constant filtration and replacement with air from outside the aircraft.

They also trap particulates such as viruses and bacteria, and as the air flows primarily from the ceiling to the floor, it helps minimize particulates spreading throughout the cabin.

The airline will continuously review the protocols in place and update where necessary to ensure the health and safety of all.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the tourism and aviation industries, globally.

According to IATA, demand for travel is forecast to fall by 58 per cent this year, while passenger revenues will decline by over $6 billion (ShSh648 billion) compared to the previous year.

Kenya’s tourism industry meanwhile has lost Sh80 billion shillings ($752 million) in revenue so far due to the crisis.

”While we do not expect these sectors to immediately resume business-as-usual in a world where travel restrictions are still a reality, the resumption of international flights is an important step for Kenya towards bringing these sectors back to life,’’ Kilavuka said.

According to the Kenya Airways chairman, Michael Joseph, the global economic and geopolitical context remains uncertain and it will take another two to three years to gain the confidence of travelers.

“However, the resumption of international flights from Nairobi to the world is a major step towards recovery, as it will enable local businesses to connect with global markets,’’ he said.

In a related development, Kenya Airways Pilot Association as written to President Uhuru Kenyatta decrying the move by the airline to downsize its workforce.

According to, the pilots state that they understood the measure that the government undertook to nationalize the airline in order to safeguard the economic value of the airline which contributes an estimated 5% to the country GDP.

“What if we told you that there is some wisdom in the expansion of Kenya Airways? Wisdom that goes far beyond the deliberate short-sighted efforts from within the company to downsize the pride of Africa.”

KALPA wants the president to intervene: they say that the planned issuing of letters of redundancy from Kenya Airways will affect at least 4000 families.

They want the airline to reposition itself to fill in the gaps left by Air Mauritius and South African Airways.

The pilots further state that the downsizing will see Kenya lose home grown talent to foreign carriers.

KALPA wants the President to consider equitable representation of experts in the aviation sector on the board of KQ in line with best global practice.

In the letter, KAPLA says its members sacrificed their wages and are ready to make further sacrifices because they acknowledge the importance of KQ and the predicament that the aviation industry is currently in.

The open letter comes a day after KQ fired about 400 workers on contract in a downsizing program.

Kenya Airways attributed the layoffs to the coronavirus pandemic which it projects will heavily trim annual revenues by December.

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