NASD in yet another tragedy as head dies

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 00:00 |
Head of National Air Support Department Brig Chrispin Odhiambo (right) with colleagues at a past event. He died yesterday at the Karen Hospital. Photo/COURTESY

Brigadier Chrispin Odhiambo, the head of the National Air Support Department (NASD), died yesterday at the Karen Hospital.

Odhiambo’s demise brings to four the number of senior officers attached to the Police Air Wing who have passed away in the last four months.

Last December, President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled NASD to foster effectiveness in the management of the national aviation assets.

It created a fleet of 36 aircraft manned by 273 personnel by merging the National Police Air Wing, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (KETRACO) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) among others.

Uhuru then appointed Odhiambo as its head, deputised by Col (Rtd) Rogers Mbithi. 

Mbithi, a Senior Assistant Inspector General (S/AIG) was the head of the police Airwing and was deputised by Assistant Inspector General (AIG) Evans Ochieng, who died last month after he fell sick while attending a course at Loresho College. He was buried on August 28.

The following day, Chief Inspector Dickson Kachilla, a long serving Mi-17 helicopter flight engineer was also buried after he died after a short illness. Kachilla was early this year transferred to Central region from the Airwing in unclear circumstances.

Another senior officer who was attached to the Airwing as the Director, Eng John Patrick Ochieng also died in May this year.

Flight engineer

The NASD, based at the Wilson Airport, is a multi-agency unit within the Ministry of Defence charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating Kenya’s national air response services.

“The NASD is a multi-agency approach to service delivery that we, as a Government have adopted.

This reform initiative was necessitated by the compelling need to foster effectiveness in the management of the national aviation assets; with a view to optimise on safety, efficiency and improved availability of aircraft,” the President said during the launch.

The President pointed out that in the past, lack of proper maintenance of aviation equipment within the civilian air fleet had brought tragedies to the nation claiming lives of citizens including those of prominent leaders.

Among those who have died from police aircraft crashes are former Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and his assistant Orwa Ojode, police officers Luke Oyugi, Nancy Gituanja, Joshua Tonkei, and Thomas Murimi among others.

In the past, utilisation of national air assets has been managed in an unco-ordinated manner, leading to inefficient training, un-optimal utilisation and maintenance of air assets and air related facilities.

Then, the management of Police Air Wing was characterised by turf wars and was operated in a very opaque manner.

The issues revolved around procurement of aircraft parts, maintenance and the training of pilots.

Serious claims were made but no proper investigations were initiated. Some of the allegations included embezzlement of funds and reports that the aircraft were used in training civilians, contrary to the regulations.

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