Kenyans imported 325 helicopters, 519 chopper engines

The helicopters are valued at Sh3.6 billion and the engines at Sh1.6 billion.

Nyeri senator Ephraim Maina's helicopter

According to documents from South Africa's tax department, Kenya imported 325 helicopters from South Africa in 2020 as the country prepared for elections on August 9.

The report shows that no helicopters were imported from South Africa in 2021, but 519 helicopter engines were delivered to Kenya.

The 325 choppers were valued at Sh3.6 billion while the engines were said to be worth Sh1.6 billion.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) slapped a 25% import fee on helicopter imports, allowing the government to profit from the billions of shillings spent on them.

The number of choppers and parts imported could be higher because the recent data is only from South Africa. Also, some of the helicopters may be destined for other countries via Kenya.

With increased political activity ahead of the August 2022 General Election, it is expected that politicians have invested heavily in aerial transport.

The campaign trail sometimes demands aspirants to make quick errands and cover more ground with very limited time.

Helicopters are not only a means of transport but also a status symbol that attract crowds during political rallies as well as entertainment events.

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) told members of the public to observe safety protocols around landing sites.

KCAA Director-General, Captain Gilbert Kibe advised that the safest distance to keep during a helicopter landing is 30 metres (approximately the length of two 56-seater buses).

Capt. Kibe noted that the Authority expects an influx in the use of choppers for travel as politicians conduct their campaigns, toward the 2022 General Election to be held on August 9 this year.

"We expect an increase in air passenger movements, including VIP movement that will fly to Kisumu and its environs, and KCAA is ready for the task of managing the anticipated increased volume of air traffic.

During the 2017 General Election, a man from Meru County clung to the landing skids of a chopper that was carrying former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, a presidential candidate at the time.

The man was seen waving to the crowd beneath as he rode dangerously on the chopper’s landing gear for several minutes before the pilot landed at a primary school's playing field.

The man, Julius Mwithalii, would later be nicknamed 'the Meru James Bond' and was arrested and charged with attempted suicide.

When asked for the reason behind his absurd action, Mwithalii said that he had wanted to follow Raila in order to be given a job since he had no means to earn a living.

He had attempted the move just a year after another man from Bungoma County pulled a similar stunt. The Bungoma man hung onto a helicopter that had transported the body of businessman Jacob Juma to his funeral.

A wealthy Kenyan businessman later offered to fly the man from Bungoma on a fully paid ride to any destination in the country.

"A minimum radius of 30 metres from where it lands or takes off should be maintained. No person or object should be within this area," the KCAA boss emphasized.

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