Aircraft imports surge in poll year
9 months ago, 11 Jan 18:49
Kenya aircraft imports rebounded 57 per cent in nine months to last September, aided by a tax waiver in an election year that saw politicians take the battle for votes to the skies. Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows aircraft and associated equipment imports increased by Sh3.7 billion to Sh10.1 billion in the year to September from Sh6.4 billion recorded in the previous year. The 2017 political campaigns were characterised by branded helicopters as politicians took to the sky in style in order to boost voter appeal. Aside from the ultimate political statement, the air machines are preferred for their speed which is a convenience for politicians to shuttle across the country. Northwood Aviation chairman Raval Guru said demand for choppers ahead of the August 8 poll was higher compared to weeks to the 2013 General Election. Stakes in the August 8 General Election were high going by revelations by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) that politicians owned nearly half of the registered choppers in the country. Kenya had a total of 86 helicopters and more than 100 trained pilots as at April 2017, according to the aviation regulator. The increased use of choppers emerged in a year of recovery for the national carrier. Over the years, the national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) #ticker:KQ and government have been the drivers of aircraft import bill given their big-ticket purchases compared to individuals and corporate bodies. Emerging security threats like terrorism have seen Kenyan military and police focus on upgrading their fleet over the years to boost preparedness. Last year, the troubled national carrier sold two Boeing 737-700 airplanes, marking its latest efforts to reduce its fleet in a bid to shore up its financial position. Restructuring its fleet, including selling aircraft and sub-leasing to other airlines has been one of KQ’s focus areas in recent years as it seeks to return to profitability. The company sub-leased two B787-8 Dreamliners to Oman Air and three B777-300ERs to Turkish Airlines in the year ended March, booking a Sh2.6 billion loss in the deals. Last year, the Treasury removed value added tax (VAT) on the importation of aircraft spare parts to ease the burden on aircraft operators.
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