NAIROBI Kenya, Apr 6 – After sixteen hours and 10 minutes, the much awaited Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner dubbed ‘the Great Rift Valley’ landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where it was welcomed by a thrilled audience.
Though it landed at 11:50am, media crew had pitched camp at the airport as early as 7.30am to receive the aircraft. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Somali Counterpart Hassan Sheikh Mohamud led the huge audience of enthusiastic Kenyans who wanted to catch a glimpse of the new plane.
“It will land in the next 20 minutes so set your cameras for the best photos,” a Kenya Airport Authority staff told journalists who had started complaining of the scorching sun outside, just next to the state pavilion.
To get the best shot for both video and still cameras, we boarded an airport bus to go to the runway to capture the moment the plane touched the ground.
“It’s a huge plane but I hope I got the landing point,” a reporter said; he had missed a good shot.
After it taxied to a halt and dignitaries disembarked after a long trip from Seattle, it was time for speeches.
Cabinet Secretary for Transport Michael Kamau was to welcome the President for his speech after a brief address.
“I have a written speech Mr. President, but because of the excitement that I have, I will not read it,” he said amid laughter from the audience.
On his part, the President in addition to saying the new plane will boost the economy, praised Kenya Airways as “the best in the whole world, and this I say out of experience over many years.”
“And this is as far as commercial airplanes are concerned. The only people who beat Kenya Airways are the Kenya Airforce pilots and crew who indeed are the best that the world has to offer,” he said, paying tribute to his official air travel crew.
“That is why Titus Naikuni (Kenya Airways Managing Director) keeps on ‘poaching’ them,” he said, this time leaving people in laughter.
“I hope he realises that poaching in Kenya became illegal many days ago; it has heavy penalties these days.”
The plane is the first of six 787s which Kenya Airways has ordered as part of its modernization programme.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is expected to form the backbone of the airline’s future long-haul fleet, providing greater range, improved efficiencies and outstanding passenger comfort.
“I am informed that today our labour is less productive than our closest competitor, the Ethiopian Airline. Any legacy arrangements that may have worked in a fairly stable operating environment need to be challenged in this period of rapid growth to ensure that we get the best possible results from a productivity perspective,” the President said.
Somalia president also had kind words for the plane. “It is a great opportunity for me to stand here and celebrate the Pride of Africa. This will link Africa further which was not easy for many years.”