Vintage aircraft perfom aerial show in Kenya

Biplane flying over spectators. (Photo courtesy of Reuters video file)
Biplane flying over spectators. (Photo courtesy of Reuters video file)


NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) — Aviators flying vintage planes the length of Africa were in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Sunday (November 27), a day after one aircraft had to make a forced landing that wrecked the plane although the crew escaped without injury.

The Vintage Air Rally includes biplanes built in the 1920s and 1930s which have flown from Europe, past Egypt’s pyramids and through Sudan and Ethiopia, where they were briefly detained because of a dispute over whether they had proper authorisation.

The planes are recreating a route traveled by Imperial Airways, a British commercial air transport company that served the routes of the British empire to its colonies in Africa during those two decades. The race, which is being held for charity, is expected to cover over 12,800 kilometres, with the oldest plane from 1928. The route ends in Cape Town, South Africa.

“These old airplanes are still capable of are still capable of doing this difficult and arduous journey day after day and in hard conditions in particular in this age where we tend to upgrade, change, buy new things every six months or a year. So it is to show that 90 years ago we really built some stuff that was built to last and it is still working properly and safely today. The other element of course is to join Europe and Africa in a shared passion for Africa aviation, this is really the out of Africa experience,” rally organiser Sam Rutherford told reporters inside the game park as the planes flew overhead.

On Sunday, the vintage planes performed an aerial demonstration over a game park on the outskirts of Nairobi.

The pilots will be challenged by the elements in open cockpits, stretching their flight limits with the long distances. They will be sleeping in sandy deserts, under the wings of their planes in tents.

“I was asked sometime ago before the rally if I was expecting all the aircrafts to make it to Cape Town and I said I would be surprised if they did and I will be surprised if they did not. Unfortunately we did loose an aircraft yesterday, very pleased to say that the crew are absolutely okay but the aircraft has been written off. So we have lost one which a great shame as I said though, nobody hurt and that is the important thing. They are tough conditions, they are tough conditions for the airplane, it is hot , it is high, in the afternoons we get thunderstorms, all these things are bad for airplanes and anything that is bad for an airplane is stressful for the pilot,” added Rutherford.

Nick Oppegard, an Alaskan native, said heavy rains lashing the Kenyan capital in recent days has made it even harder for pilots to land on airstrips. The team lost an aircraft on Saturday’s when one of the teams flying a vintage Boeing Stearman suffered an engine failure and made a forced landing northwest of Nairobi.

“The real direct problems are rather more technical such as the aircraft maintenance and the navigation and the fact that it is not just one biplane but many old biplanes which means that we do not go until we are all ready. So organisational challenges but there is no problem and no challenge in keeping enthusiasm because we are having a wonderful time,” said Oppegard

The remaining vintage planes and support aircraft continue their journey south on Monday, heading to Tanzania, with the aim of reaching Cape Town, South Africa in about two weeks.