Kalonzo’s Chopper crashes in Tanzania
The Eurocopter AS 350B3 Ecureuil’s Registration Number is 5Y-DKK5Y-DKK.
It bore the manufacturer’s Serial Number 7027 and had been chartered by Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi for the ongoing election campaigns.
The Eurocopter can carry loads of up to 1,000kg and has a performance ceiling of 20,000 feet.
The helicopter came down last Thursday afternoon in the middle of the Selous Game Reserve en route to the town of Ludewa, in southwest Tanzania.
The pilot, Capt William Silaa, and outspoken parliamentary aspirant Deo Filikunjombe, died in the crash together with members of his campaign team.
Tanzania police confirmed that four people were on board during the accident. Filikunjombe was a CCM candidate.
A search-and-rescue mission dispatched at first light the next morning only discovered the charred remains of the helicopter but no survivors.
According to the Flight Safety Foundation’s online Aviation Safety Network report under the entry “Airplane damage”, the chopper was, “Written off (damaged beyond repair).”
An air accident investigation is underway and debris from the site is being transported to Dar es Salaam to determine the cause of the crash.
The helicopter was among many chartered Kenyan registered aircraft being used by various Tanzanian presidential and parliamentary candidates for their airborne campaigns ahead of the October 25 general election.
Kalonzo bought the executive helicopter after the 2013 general election and has been leasing it out on chartered flight services in and outside the country.
According to online site aircraftcompare.com, a brand new Eurocopter AS350 B3 costs Sh202.8 million or (US$1.95 million). But if you include the cost of assembling it in Kenya, as helicopters are flown in in broken-down parts, it could cost over Sh350 million.
Kalonzo is just one of a growing list of elite Kenyans who own what has become the ultimate symbol for the rich and famous – a personal chopper or plane.
For business or pleasure, aviation is fast becoming the preferred mode of transport for Kenya’s savvy businessmen and top politicians, including those with an eye on the presidency.
Kenya has about 400 privately registered aircraft, owned by the Who Is Who in the business, large-scale farming, corporate and political sectors.
With the battle for the skies among politicians expected to reach new heights ahead of the 2017 polls, even Kenyans living in the farthest corners of the country are more likely to see a helicopter land in their backyard with a dignitary than have them arrive in the four-wheel-drive vehicles that were the status symbols of yesteryear.
Some VIP travellers combine both, hopping from chopper or plane and into motorcades of SUVs.
Besides Kalonzo, other prominent politicians who own aircraft include Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who has at least three helicopters – two six-seater Eurocopters AS350B2 and a two-seater Schweizer model 300c.
Former Cabinet minister Simeon Nyachae owns a Eurocopter AS350B2 and a Eurocopter AS350B3.