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Passengers and crew praise smooth first return flight from US

By Gloria Aradi | Oct 31st 2018 | 3 min read
By Gloria Aradi | October 31st 2018

Traditional dancers entertain travellers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport upon arrival aboard a Kenya Airways aircraft from New York. [DPPS]

On Monday, as Kenya Airways senior captain Joseph Kinuthia and his cockpit crew of three successfully landed ‘Magical Kenya’ to a grandiose welcome at JFK International Airport in New York, another team was readying for an equally important challenge.

The team of four; captains George Muli and John Mahugu and first officers Rajesh Varsani and Hussein Adam, together with a dozen flight attendants, were preparing to depart JFK airport for Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in less than six hours.

Not only did the team safely return the flight to JKIA, but they did so in 12 hours 51 minutes, an hour and nine minutes less than the estimated flight time of 14.

Two women

According to Kenya Airports Authority, the flight, KQ 003 was marshaled to landing by two women; Jackie Omare, a Ground Safety Officer at KAA, and Evelyne Ilahalwa, the former’s supervisor.

Some of the ground crew at JKIA told The Standard the aircraft navigated the flight more easily than they had earlier imagined.

“We had great tail winds coming back. That is why we got here in under 13 hours instead of the scheduled 14 hours,” they said.

Tail winds means the air around the aircraft is moving in its direction, making it move faster.

The flight arrived at 9:19am instead of 10:30am as earlier expected. “It is very costly to keep a plane on the ground. It is more economical when the aircraft is in the air longer,” a crew member said.

The flight and ground crew that oversaw the successful return of the aircraft were, like their counterparts who flew the inaugural KQ flight, honoured with a grand reception overseen by Deputy President William Ruto.

Kenyan and American flags carried from Kenya to the United States during the inaugural flight were brought back, signalling a successful return.

The crew and passengers of KQ’s first flight from JFK Airport to JKIA were excited by the welcome; a red carpet descent to a musical band and traditional dancers at JKIA’s presidential pavilion.

The celebration involved cake cutting and a buffet brunch reception.

“The new route will strengthen our position as a regional hub for business, situate Kenya as the gateway to East and Central Africa, boost the aviation industry and open up new horizons for our people,” Ruto said.

US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec was among passengers on the first return flight. He praised the new route as a critical development that will unite Kenyans and Americans even further, while fostering the growth of business and tourism.

“KQ have done really well. The flight was very smooth. The staff gave excellent service,” Herb Wallen, a passenger, said.

Mr Wallen works with the Boeing Company, the manufacturer of the two Boeing 787-8 planes that KQ will be using for the flights between Nairobi and New York.

Even as KQ and the country celebrate four successful flights on the new route, KQ appears to be just getting started with its ambitious plans for the future.

KQ chairman Michael Joseph said they were working on new American flight destinations.

Captain Kinuthia and other crew members are, according to colleagues, set to return by the end of the week.

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