(Touchdown and KARIBUNI KENYA Dreamliner)
Boeings revolutionary aircraft, as one of the accompanying senior executives put it yesterday in a discussion with this correspondent, touched down yesterday at 11.44 hrs local time at Nairobis Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to the thunderous applaus and roars of approval from hundreds of invited guests, airport staff and spectators outside the perimeter fence. At the end of the taxiway the traditional aviation welcome, an arc of water showered across the rolling aircraft by fire engines stationed on both sides of the taxiway, was bestowed on production number 003 of the B787 Dreamliner, before the Kenyan flag then emerged from the cockpit window as the plane reached parking position.
Flown home by Kenya Airways Chief Pilot Capt. Paul Mwangi, the B787 visit is a precursor of things to come, as The Pride of Africa has ordered 9 of these new birds with options for a further 4 of them, for now that is.
The inevitable speeches, kept thankfully short and to the point, already indicated that there may be more orders coming, but Kenya Airways CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni was swift to ask his Minister of Transport and the Head of the Kenya Airports Authority to speed up the expansion and modernization of the airport so that by the time the first B787 arrives in Kenya by late 2013, there is enough space for all our new aircraft and the passengers. The applause of those in the know also showed that this was a matter of broad concern for most of those present and more than just a hint to the government, which has dragged its feet for too long to match Kenya Airways ambition and expansion drive with new and added facilities on the ground.
After lunch was a walk through arranged showing the new plane in her full majestic beauty, the interior outfitted with a business class section and two different types of demonstration seating in economy class.
The galleys in particular were of an impressive size, as was the crew accommodation or crew rest spaces in the ceiling, both forward and aft, where up to 3 crew each can take rest periods on very long range flights with extended crew complements.
Ahead of the promised demonstration flight, due to take place this afternoon when the routing will take invited guests alongside Mt. Kilimanjaro, on to the coastal city of Mombasa before returning to Nairobi, was excitement building amongst the reportedly only 50 invited guests who were selected from across Africa and represent the crème de la crème of the travel trade and the media regularly, and I was told competently reporting about aviation in general and Kenya Airways in particular. Watch this space for that upcoming report on how the B787 Dreamliner handles inflight and how the lower pressurization and higher humidity in the cabin influence the comfort of passengers.