During a meeting yesterday(Wednesday  22nd May 2019) at the Technical University of Kenya which was attended staff and students, I made a response to the question on whether engineering students can become members of professional bodies. Taking a broader international outlook, and giving the example of United Kingdom, I did explain that this is not only possible but actively encouraged by both professional and industry. The status of Student Member is typical among the professional bodies. Further, on application for employment, many employers insist on the evidence of the graduate’s involvement in professional affairs as part of a more comprehensive development during studies.

However, on an immediate rejoinder, it was emphasized by no less than two engineering professors that under Kenyan law, nobody can legally call themselves an engineer or indeed practice as such before achieving registration by the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK). Apparently, the individuals were purporting to have superior knowledge on the subject matter and thereby implying that my statement was misleading and my answer inappropriate. Nothing can be further from the truth.

With a 45 year career in engineering in and the academia, I find kind of statement baffling and can only sympathize with students who need professional guidance from such professors.  This is regrettable and to put matters straight, here are the facts:-

  1. In compliance of relevant provisions of the Kenya Civil Aviation Act (no. 21 of 2013), on an hourly basis, hundreds of Aircraft Engineers in Kenya perform engineering tasks which allow airworthiness and safety of the aircraft to be maintained and enhanced. Possession of EBK registration is not required or even implied and therefore it is wrong to state otherwise;
  2. Under the Kenya Civil Aviation Regulations (KCARs) an Engineer or Technician can only certify an aircraft as fit to fly if there are appropriately Authorised or Licensed by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority or another National Airworthiness Regulatory Authority acceptable to KCAA. EBK registration is not required. This means that an EBK registered professor with so many degrees cannot even certify a two-seater aircraft to fly;
  3. Apart from direct certification roles, aircraft engineers from the critical mass of talent that his needed by every Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMTO) under Pt. 145 regulations. The aircraft Maintenance & Repair Organisations (MROs) need to produce a KCAA-approved Maintenance Organisation Exposition (MOE0 and requisite supporting procedures manuals before they can be granted an approval to undertake intended maintenance activities. No EBK registration or accreditation is needed; and
  4. It must be appreciated that regulation of aircraft engineering functions originate solely with the applicable mandates and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), as specified in its Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS). These have all been domesticated into the Kenyan and are operational as such.

In light the above, it is totally unacceptable that somebody should state that it is illegal to practice as an engineer in Kenya without having registered first with EBK. People who harbour such misguided views are obviously unaware of the broader range of engineering professional functions and especially key segments of industry such as aviation. But the real tragedy is the absence of initiative for research, and worse presenting false information to students who expect much better. Obviously the term ‘half–baked’ is perhaps more widespread than we thought.

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Faustine Ondore
Licensed/Approved Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (1974) Fellow of Institution of Mechanical Engineers, MRAeS, MAeSK Associate Professor in Aerospace and Aviation Engineering

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