|Inside Kenya Airways’ Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner. [Photo: Joe Ombuor/Standard]|
By Joe Ombuor
Kenya: A fortnight ago, 287 Kenyans, some flying for the very first time, got a memorable treat from Kenya Airways aboard the carrier’s newly acquired Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner.
The two-and-a-half hours roundabout demonstration flight started at the KQ hub in Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
The wide-cabin aircraft, touted as the aviation industry’s latest offering, is imposing and technologically advanced. And it is only Africa’s second Dreamliner, after Ethiopian Airlines acquired one last year.
On take off, the futuristic jetliner nosed its way towards Thika before taking a left to cruise towards Nakuru in the Great Rift Valley.
Fifteen minutes later, Menengai Crater panned out before us, and the flight purser announced we were overflying Nakuru town en route to Magadi and Lake Amboseli. The speed reading on the flight-path screen was 847 kilometres per hour, and the plane was 28,000 feet above sea level.
Frequent flyers will notice the subdued noise levels and mood lighting in the Dreamliner.
Lunch was served as the plane flew over the Amboseli National Park and approached the Kenya/Tanzania border.
Soon: “To your right is the beautiful view of Mount Kilimanjaro,” came the purser’s voice through the loudspeakers.
Many passengers with cameras, tablets or smartphones clicked away at the “roof of Africa”. It was truly a sight to behold from that vantage position above the clouds.
Another turn and it was a southward glide to Mombasa. We flew over this first capital of Kenya, turned right above the blue waters of the Indian Ocean and headed for Malindi.
The crew and passengers, who comprised travel agents, tour operators, journalists, KQ staff and corporate executives, had joined the lucky few with birthdays falling on May 15 for a truly unique celebration.
The crew, including the pilot, Captain Eugene Musundi, was all Kenyan, and KQ Chief Executive Titus Naikuni mingled with passengers during the flight to get their opinions on the carrier’s newest addition, which takes its fleet to 46 planes from “about 20 when I took over 11 years ago”.
From takeoff at 11.30am, the sleek aircraft with wings spanning 197 feet (60 metres) touched down smoothly at JKIA at 2pm.
As for the cost of the aircraft, which has 20 per cent more fuel efficiency than similar-sized competitors, Mr Naikuni said it was anywhere between $150 million to $170 million (between Sh13.2 billion and Sh15 billion).
He said KQ has ordered nine such aircraft, with six of them to be delivered this year.
Naikuni said the Dreamliner is poised to make its long haul debut in early June with scheduled flights on the Nairobi/Paris route.
“Besides Paris, we are looking to open Shanghai and Beijing routes this year with the ordered Dreamliners. The Bangkok/Hong Kong route has also been identified for the Dreamliner, as has a West African route,” he said.
The ultra-modern “plane of the future” landed in Kenya on April 5, 2014, after a 16-hour, 14,456-kilometre non-stop flight from the Boeing plant in Washington, USA. It was received by, among others, President Uhuru Kenyatta.