Every year when the Secondary Education exam results are announced the media interviews top students and ask them what careers they would like to pursue.
The eager young scholars usually flanked by their parents or teachers generally would like to be doctors, usually neurosurgeons.
I’ll be the first to admit that medicine is indeed the noble profession, mentally challenging, commanding respect and as such a solid choice for any candidate.
However, a general lack of information means that many graduates choose medicine when there are plenty of challenging careers out there.
Generally, the path to any career that involves going through university is fairly straightforward. To become a pilot in Kenya is slightly more complex.
Traditionally, there has always been three ways to become a pilot in the world and in Kenya. You could join the military as an officer cadet. You could join from the beginning a programme run by an airline or you could simply pay for your flying. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages.
The first two involve institutions paying for your training and therefore, usually, have a high number of applicants. You will have to beat the other candidates initially on the strength of your grades.
As a bare minimum, an applicant should need to have scored a grade of B+ in KCSE, usually better is an added advantage. Both the military and an airline puts one through specific psychometric tests, mostly designed to examine your spatial reasoning, ability to learn, adaptability to new information.
And of course, there is the medical which tests for depth and color perception. Being short-sighted does not rule you out, but it must be corrected at the time of the medical test.
The institution paying your fees needs to be sure you’ll be healthy for a long time before investing any money in you. In the military, you to go through physical exercises tests your mental resolve and instill military values in their cadets.
In exchange for paying for your flying, expect to be bonded to work for a period of time usually about four years for the airline and nine years for the military.
The advantage is that once you make it through the selection process you are essentially guaranteed employment. This is more important than it might seem.
Private sponsorship is a lot easier, you just simply need to find a school and enroll. There are various schools to choose from, some in Kenya, others abroad with South Africa and the US being relatively popular choices.
Training in local colleges takes longer, about 18 months, while abroad it takes anywhere from six months in the US to 14 months in South Africa. However, to complete training on time requires diligence and adequate cash for fees.
The disadvantage of cause is that you don’t have a job once you have completed your course and are down Sh5 million. If you did your training outside the country, you still have to obtain a Kenyan license, a process that might consume another Sh1 million. Then you have to add an additional million to get a useful rating, usually a Cessna Caravan.
Once you’ve trained to fly this plane, no one will trust you with their plane unless you have some experience. This might entail flying for food for a while to gain experience before you can try out a general aviation company at Wilson Airport in Nairobi.
After some time in the trenches in the general aviation market, you may get a job at an airline. If it sounds depressing, it is because it actually is quite difficult and requires motivation and financial resources to succeed.
Whichever route you take, flying, especially in an established airline is a very fulfilling career with tonnes of benefits. Here’s to hoping that the next child prodigy will proclaim that he would like to be a pilot.

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Visual Flight rule (VFR)
Visual Flight rule are a set of regulations under which a pilot operates an aircraft in weather conditions generally clear enough to allow the pilot see where the aircraft is going.

In order for this to happen the weather must be:

  •  Able to operate the aircraft with visual reference to the ground.
  • Better than basic Visual Flight Rule (VFR) weather minima i.e. in visual meteorological condition (VMC), as specified in the rules of the relevant aviation authority. The pilot must be able to operate the aircraft with visual reference to the ground and by visually avoiding obstructions and other aircraft.

One should note that, if the weather is below Visual Meteorological Conditions, pilots are required to use instrument flight rules and operation of the aircraft will primarily be through referencing the instruments rather than visual reference.
Visual flight rule requires a pilot to see outside the cockpit in order to control the aircraft’s attitude, navigate and avoid obstacles and other aircraft.

Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)
Instrument flight rules is one of two sets of regulations governing all aspects of civil aviation aircraft operations. According to Federal Aviation Administration, IFR are rules and regulations established by the FAA to govern flight under conditions in which flight by outside visual reference is not safe. Instrument flight rules flight is dependent upon flying reference to instruments in the flight deck while navigation is acquired by reference to electronic signals.

Visual flight rules are far much simpler than instrument flight rules hence need less training and practice. VFR provides a great degree of freedom which allows pilots to go where they want, whenever they want thus allowing them a much wider latitude in determining how to get there.
On the other hand, when operation of an aircraft under VFR is not safe because the visual cues outside the aircraft are concealed by weather or darkness, instrument flight rule is used instead. IFR allows an aircraft to operate in instrument meteorological conditions which is essentially any weather condition less than VMC but in which aircraft can still operate safely.

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Airspace is the portion of atmosphere controlled by a country above its territory, including its territorial waters. It is also defined as the space lying above the earth or above a certain area of land or water.

There are two kinds of airspace which include: Uncontrolled and Controlled airspace.

Uncontrolled Airspace
In the past, all airspace was uncontrolled, when there were a few airplanes that had no instruments necessary to fly in clouds. Even in the busiest airports, traffic density was very low and airplanes flew slowly. Although there we no conditions that aircraft could fly in, it was agreed upon that if one remained clear of clouds and had at least one-mile visibility you could see other airplanes and terrain in time to avoid a collision. This was known as see and avoid.
Controlled Airspace
Having invented inexpensive gyroscopic flight instruments, travel through the clouds became possible thus see and avoid became useless. Procedures to ensure aircraft separation were needed hence this led to the creation of air traffic control (ATC) and controlled airspace.

There are different classifications of airspace i.e. A, B, C, D, E airspace.

Class A
This is airspace from 18,000 feet mean sea level, flight level 600 and airspace overlying the waters within 12 nautical miles of the coast of the 48 contiguous states and Alaska. All operation in Class A airspace is conducted under instrument flight rules unless authorized otherwise.

Class B
This is airspace from the surface to 10,000 feet MSL surrounding the nation’s busiest airports in terms of airport operations or passenger enplanements. Class b airspace is designed to contain all published instrument procedures once an aircraft enters the airspace. Air traffic control clearance is required for all aircraft to operate in the area and all aircraft that are so cleared receive separation within the airspace.

Class C
This is airspace from the surface to 4,000 feet above the airport elevation surrounding those airports that have an operation control tower, are serviced by a radar approach control and have a certain number of IFR operations or passenger enplanements. Each aircraft must establish two-way radio communications with the ATC facility providing air traffic services prior to entering the airspace and thereafter must maintain those communications while within the airspace.

Class D
This is airspace from the surface to 2,500 feet above the airport elevation surrounding those airports that have an operational control tower. The layout of each Class D airspace area is individually tailored and when instrument procedures are published the airspace is normally designed to contain the procedures. Each aircraft must establish two-way radio communications with the ATC facility providing air traffic services prior to entering the airspace and thereafter maintain those communications while in the airspace unless otherwise.

Class E
Class E airspace is the controlled airspace not classified as class A, B, C and D.
Special Use of airspace
It is the designation for airspace in which certain activities must be confined. Special use airspace consists of: Prohibited, restricted, warning, military operation, alert and controlled firing areas.

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