* Ownership of the ultimate status symbol is catching on among the political class as they hop from one rally venue to another or pay a quick visit to their constituencies in their very own helicopters
Be it a business venture with an eye on sky-high profits, a fast and convenient means of transport, the ultimate status symbol or a tool to rocket one’s political standing, one thing is for sure — owning a private aircraft is the preserve of a select few and comes with an air of pride.
After a high and low search of the aviation industry, Saturday Nation can reveal the identities of high-flying Kenyans who claim membership to the elite club.
Labour Minister John Munyes owns a fixed wing Cessna plane, which he uses to fly between Nairobi and his Turkana North Constituency on weekends.
The six-seater Cessna U206 (registration 5Y-MJK) was manufactured in 1979 and registered as a private plane by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
Took a loan
Mr Munyes denies allegations that the Sudanese government gave him the plane to help champion Khartoum’s agenda against South Sudan.
On the contrary, he says, he took a loan from KCB to buy it.
According to a pilot at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport who did want to be named, this kind of plane uses about 240 litres of Jet A1 fuel for the Turkana flight — at an average price of Sh82 per litre, it costs Mr Munyes Sh36,000.
Whereas Mr Munyes is the proud owner of a single plane, Mr Gideon Moi is among a few Kenyans with a fleet of aircraft. The son of retired president Daniel Moi reportedly owns three helicopters under the company Sicham Aviation, two six-seater Eurocopters AS350B2 and a two-seater Schweizer model 300C.
A single Eurocopter costs about Sh300 million, including the cost of assembling it in Kenya, as all helicopters are flown in as parts.
The Eurocopter has a capacity to remain in the air for over four hours and can carry loads of up to 1,000kg with a performance ceiling of up to 20,000 feet.
The helicopter is designed for external load operations, filming, scenic flights and VIP transportation.
The Schweizer model 300C is reputed to be one of the finest and most versatile piston engine helicopters. It is mostly used at Wilson Airport for training.
Former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae owns two helicopters, a Eurocopter AS350B2 and a Eurocopter AS350B3, both manufactured in 1999 and registered under Aircraft Leasing Services.
As early as the 1997 General Election when helicopters were a rarity on the campaign trail, Mr Nyachae literally ensured change was in the air when he took to the sky in one.
His choppers, which operate under Aircraft Leasing Services, are regularly hired by politicians and other VIPs.
Mathira MP Ephraim Maina owns a Bell 206B (4638) helicopter registration number 5Y-MNW. It was manufactured in 2006. Mr Maina often uses it to fly around his constituency and back to Wilson Airport.
Juja MP William Kabogo is well known for his Eurocopter AS350B3.
Aviation firms usually charge those hiring aircraft between Sh40,000 and Sh150,000 per hour. This can sometimes go up to sh200,000 per hour depending on the season, and the cost could be even higher depending on the event. Flying at night is more expensive.
According to an employee of a helicopter hiring company, this is a 500 per cent increase in prices from a decade ago.