The Wilson airport plane crash on Saturday is no indication tourist flying is dangerous.
The pilot was killed and the three passengers were seriously injured last Saturday when a small plane of the sort which ferries tourists about Kenya crashed into an apartment building near Wilson airport.
The indications from Nairobi are that the crash was pilot error, and there have been a few other such crashes in the last decade all attributed to pilot error. Admittedly, many of the pilots flying East Africa’s small commercial aircraft are kids who can’t get jobs back at home.
There are especially many Americans, Brits, Australians and South Africans. Even before the economic downturn, the demand for new pilots was weak in the developed world. And one way to raise your name in the queue was to get as many commercial flying hours in as possible, anywhere in the world.
It’s not an unreasonable way to get experience, and while I might call them “kids”, I’ve never felt they were anything but completely safe. Many are recently discharged from armed forces.
And statistically, the average of about one small plane crash annually in East Africa is very good, given the number of flights that occur, and compared to other parts of the world. The rate, for example, is twice as good as for Alaska.
In this particular case, it appears that there was a small film crew aboard trying to get closeups from the air of the Kibera slums, which is right across the road from Wilson Airport. The plane flew too low.
Fortunately, no one on the ground was hurt.
Small aircraft are essential to operating a good safari. This particular crash was of a plane owned by the African Inland Missions (AIM), an outfit that rarely charters out to tourist groups. The main tourist group airlines: AirKenya, Safarilink and Boskovitz, have had no plane crash for more than ten years.