Investors around Mt Kenya are preparing for business to take off — with the newly improved Nyaribo airstrip at Nyeri nearly ready for use.
The airstrip received its first customers when military planes landed there ahead of the official opening of the Nyeri ASK show.
Now with the runway and aircraft parking bay completed, the strip is expected to be open by the end of this month.
Kenya Airports Authority site supervisor Peter Nyangena said that all that remained was for the runway to be marked and reflectors installed.
With no airport in Nyeri for many years, people had to use the Nanyuki strip, which can handle only small planes.
Improvements to the Nyaribo strip saw the runway extended to 1.3 kilometres, meaning bigger planes can now land. It might be extended by a further 200.
This will be a major boost to the many horticulture and flower farms in Nyeri County.
Tourists visiting the Aberdare and Mt Kenya National parks could also fly into the area, which is only half an hour’s drive from hotels like The Ark and Outspan.
“The airstrip can accommodate planes up to Dash 7 and Dash 8. One Dash 8 plane has landed here already, and this is the size we expect will be landing often. They carry between 30 and 60 passengers,” said Mr Nyangena.
Flower farms had sent representatives to the strip to assess how they could use it.
“The demand for services by these firms will determine the speed at which facilities are put up here. We have enough room to put up hangars and warehouses where they can package their products,” he added.
Unnamed investors have also enquired about setting up a flying school to serve the wider central region.
Nyeri businessman Daniel Kinyua reckons that a lot of goods destined for the area and for Northern Kenya can be flown to Nyeri from places as far as Mombasa, saving a lot of time and expense.
“Personally I fetch goods all the way from Mombasa, and if I can fly them in I would save a lot of time now spent on the road. You will also be surprised how many people would prefer to take a 20-minute flight to Nairobi rather than spend three hours on a jammed road. This airstrip will open up new opportunities for us,” he said.
The development of areas around the strip has also accelerated in the last few months, with land prices going up as people anticipate the opportunities to come.
The anticipated Tarmacking of the road to Kabiruini-Chaka through Nyaribo has also drawn people to the area.
They are a mixture of business people angling for a piece of the pie and residents who wish to settle away from the hustle and bustle of town.