Aviation History of East Africa

The history of aviation in East Africa, went something like this, around 1924 the possible air link between Britain and East Africa was among those which were thought out. Among those interested were directors of North Sea Aerial & General Transport Ltd, a subsidiary of the Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Company. Captain Norman Blackburn and Tony Gladstone who acted as a prospector went to Cairo, Khartoum, to Kisumu. Later Governor William Gowers then Governor of Uganda set the ball rolling. Sea Plane “Pelican” was launched in 1926 for physical survey of the Khartoum-Kisumu route. Later in 1929 Mrs Florence Wilson began to operate a service linking Kisumu, Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam with Nairobi. Wilson Airways was ready to connect with Imperial Airways when the first regular service began on Feb 28 1931.


It is also understood, that at the outbreak of the Second World War pilots and Engineers joined the Kenya Auxiliary Air Unit, and later the RAF, and Wilson Airways ceased to function as an independent Airline. It was later merged into East African Airways.

A person by the name of Campbell Black was the first person to fly from Nairobi to Mombasa and back in a day.

Click above (This is a Boeing 314 operated by Pan American,such models were not used in East Africa).

When Lake Naivasha was an international airport

A flying boat landing in the water. Above, Naivasha’s Sparks Hotel ( now country club) hosted the immigration and boarding facilities for new arrivals. FILE 

Forget Kodak, the latest entrant in the graveyards of technology, – but who would have ever thought that Lake Naivasha “International” Airport would be lying desolate, virtually unknown and with little historical acknowledgement.

It is hard to imagine how technology trashes some businesses and lifts others. Let us look at Lake Naivasha for starters.



To The Victoria Falls

Development of the Victoria Falls

The Flying Boat Service



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The de Havilland DH.51

The de Havilland DH.51 is a 1920s British three-seat touring biplane built by de Havilland at Stag Lane Aerodrome, Edgware.




G-EBIR first flew in September 1925, and early in the following year went to Nairobi to become the first aircraft to be registered in Kenya. Registration systems changed with the expansion of civil aviation, and after four months in which ’IR flew as G-KAA, Kenya was allocated its own prefix and this long-lived machine became VP-KAA for the next forty-three years. Through a co-operative venture which included considerable help from Hawker Siddeley Aviation– later absorbed into today’s BAE Systems – (as successors to the de Havilland Aircraft Co) ’KAA was airfreighted home to England in a vast Blackburn Beverley for permanent preservation by the

Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden in Bedfordshire. H-SA refurbished G-EBIR at their

Hawarden (Chester) works and, after a long time away from home, the last DH51 came

back to live only about forty miles from where is had been built fifty years previously.



Following the D.H.37 two-seat tourer of 1922, de Havilland's next aircraft in this category was the de Havilland D.H.51. As a result, only three were built; the first two enjoyed reasonably long and active lives, being written-off in 1931 and scrapped in 1933 respectively, but the third, built in 1925 and shipped to Kenya, became the first aircraft on that country's civil register. Dismantled during the war, it survived to fly again and now, after several rebuilds, is again back in the country of its birth, maintained by the Shuttleworth Trust at Old Warden as the oldest airworthy design of the de Havilland Aircraft Company.


Aerodrome Nairobi, Kenya, 1926 arrival of RAF Cape to Cairo Aircraft

Elspeth Huxley & Arnold Curtis

Happy Valley love affair that led to the birth of Nairobi’s Wilson Airport

The story of Nairobi’s Wilson Airport cannot be told without looking at the short love affair that blossomed between millionaire farmer Florence Kerr Wilson —whose husband had died — and a handsome twenty-something British pilot, Captain Thomas Campbell Black.



Other related stories...





Tom Campbell Black, who trained Beryl Markham to fly; Beryl first meets him trying to fix a broken down car by the roadside.

The Africa House by Christina Lamb

G-AETX 'Ceres' at Mombasa, Kenya 1939. Short S-23C Empire Flying Boat, c/n S.840. Delivered to Imperial Airways 20th July 1937. To BOAC 22nd August 1940. Destroyed at her moorings in Durban when she caught fire and blew up, 1st December 1942.

Click on Photo

Click on Photo





The mainstay of the East African Airways fleet on the internal routes until the early 60s was the C47B.

By 1961 direct internal flights between Nairobi and Entebbe were being operated with the Canadair 4s - ex-BOAC Argonauts which had been displaced from the international routes by the brand new de Havilland Comet 4s - VP-KPJ and VP-KPK. The Comets were soon augmented by a third - VP-KRL



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East African Airways

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Early days

The predecessor of East African Airways was an airline called Wilson Airways. This was formed by a lady named Mrs Florence Wilson in July 1929. This was shortly after she had flown from Nairobi to England in a Fokker Universal (VP-KAB). She realised the need to develop air transport in East Africa and had the capital to start it. The first aircraft flown was a DH60G Gipsy Moth (VP-KAC) and was based in Nairobi. The initial operations were charter work as there were only three airstrips in existence at that time.



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Nairobi Embakasi


Nairobi Embakasi was opened in May 1958 by the Governor. The Queen Mother was unable to undertake the official opening owing to her QANTAS Constellation being delayed due to engine trouble. The Queen Mother had been on an official visit to Australia.




Interesting photos by Derek Kershaw

These photographs originate from the private album of WW2 SAAF fighter pilot Bob Kershaw. It was kindly made available to me by Derek Kershaw, Bob's son. I copied and placed the photographs on this web site in order to share these gems to enthusiasts and the wider public as a gesture of homage to these brave men of past glory. Please respect the copy rights of these photographs and contact me to obtain the necessary permission if you want to duplicate some of this material in other web sites or printed matter.


Tinus le Roux

Februaryl  2014







The first and last VC10 flight of Captain Richard King



Nairobi Embakasi Nairobi Embakasi was opened in May 1958 by the Governor. The Queen Mother was unable to undertake the official opening owing to her QANTAS Constellation being delayed due to engine trouble. The Queen Mother had been on an official visit to Australia.



On finals for Rwy 06 on 14 November 2004.   Air Mauritius A319 and Air India A310 is holding short. The terminal is now the right, but the runway is still the original built at Embakasi in 1957-8. Ol Donyo Sabuk dominates the skyline to the east. PHOTO - Hannes Meyer

Courtesy of and credit to Mr Anton Starling, Captain Lew Starling East African Airways. Click on Photo below, to enlarge.

East African Airways: Vickers Super VC10 Srs1154 5X-UVJ (cn 884) The aircraft has just been fitted with a 5th pod, spare engine in North Pen Technical Block A at the BA engineering base at Heathrow.


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KAA (Kenya Airports Authority)