Fly-past that fueled Kenya’s pride at Jubilee celebrations

Soldiers on an F-5 fighter jet. BELOW: Tucano trainer jet (left) and Mi 17 (right). DOWN: Kenya Airways Boeing 777 300ER. [PHOTOS: COURTESY/STANDARD]
           Soldiers on an F-5 fighter jet. BELOW: Tucano trainer jet (left) and Mi 17 (right). DOWN: Kenya Airways Boeing 777 300ER. [PHOTOS: COURTESY/STANDARD]
By JACOB NG’ETICH

Delay in the Kenya @50 programme and last minute breaking of clouds saved the day for the spectacular fly-past of 23 aircrafts that could have been jeopardised by bad overcast weather.

Possibility of cancelling the entire exercise at the Jamhuri Day celebrations at the Safaricom Sports Stadium in Kasarani had been discussed.

“Had the programme been followed given that cloudy conditions and drizzles were experienced around the Stadium we would have likely forced the fly-past exercise to be dropped,” said a source at the military who sought anonymity.

According to the earlier programme, the planes would have taken off at minutes past 10:10am and hold on air at the Nairobi airspace and fly overhead the stadium at 10:50am.

The delay in the programme saw the planes doing the fly-past an hour later, with the first category of 3 Grob planes leading the pack of the entire 9 sections that were guided by Lt Col Victor Kang’ethe of the Laikipia Air Base (LAB) flying school.

The Nairobi airspace was closed for over one hour as the planes were held up in the airspace waiting for the programme to roll out and their time to fly out.

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Following the Grob Planes were three Y-12 utility transport planes that flew in seconds later.

Away from the military planes that caused applause, were the Blue section’s two De Havilland Canada DHC-8 (Dash 8 VIP) aircraft, and the Presidential Fokker 70 jet airliner.

The Presidential jet acquired by the then President Daniel arap Moi in 1995 is a 70 seater, but has been customised for VIP transport and has a capacity of only 26, with the remaining space created to carry more fuel tanks to increase its flying range.

Seconds later

They were followed seconds later by the smoke emitting Tucano trainer planes, which later gave way for the high sound, faster than sound F-5 fighter jets that flew to Kasarani from the Laikipia Air Base in about five minutes.

Like in the previous celebrations, the F-5 elicited the ululations of those present, though they did not do several manoeuvres because of the weather conditions and the time. The jets are capable of turning upside down, roll and even fly at a 90 degrees position.

Interestingly, during the rolls, the pilots move round with every turn and the would therefore have to be highly trained to withstand the turns, including sometimes being upside down.

One 2-seater F-5 fighter jet flown by Col Eric Kinuthia and Lt Col John Omenda and one-seater flown by Capt Cornelius Maiyo flew past the stadium air at around 11:45am. It is not clear why the F-5 fighter jets that have been used in the Operation Linda Inchi did not fly in a vic formation of three planes as earlier planned.

The Mi 17 used for VIP transport and mostly flown by the President within the country and two Puma helicopters caused excitements among the thousands of Kenyans who braced a chilly weather to attend the celebrations at the 60,000 capacity stadium.

One of the Pumas dragged on air a banner of Kenya @50.

Two ZN 500 Hughes light helicopter designed as a small commuter and training helicopter almost escaped notice as they flew past given their diminutive sizes.

However, the entry of the newly acquired Kenya airways Boeing 777 300ER accompanied by the F-5 was the show-stopper for the fly-past planes.

The huge Boeing plane with the passenger capacity of 400 people and which can carry more than 20 metric tonnes of cargo flew at 6200 feet above the sea level.

Flown by Captain Mwangi and lady Captain Chege, the 777 300ER closed to 800 feet above giving the audience a clear view.

Laikipia Air Base Commander Brigadier Francis Ogolla assured Kenyans that after the celebrations they would continue to make sure that the country was safe.

“We wish to assure Kenyans that as we celebrate 50 years of Independence, the base is proud to be part of those involved beyond the Kenya @50 celebrations to secure the country under the motto of

“Tuko Imara Angani,” said Brig Ogolla.

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Jubilee celebrationsFly-pastfly-past of 23 aircraftsbad overcast weather