Jambo Nairobi!

I got up at 2.30 am, quickly washed my face and put on my uniform and off I was to the airport. I just made it to the briefing room in time, where my captain was already chatting to one of our dispatchers. It was a cold and rainy day in Frankfurt, but where I would be going, the weather would be just right – Nairobi!

The rotation from Frankfurt to Nairobi and further to Johannesburg is one of my favourite trips in the network. I love Africa and Nairobi is such an interesting place to be with a surprisingly high number of excellent restaurants! Even though I had to get up early, I was filled with excitement to finally get there! The weather en-route promised a smooth ride and as we were expecting some strong winds in Johannesburg the next days, I got to fly to Nairobi first. We were soon ready and loading was already well advanced as we got to the aircraft.

MD-11 Cockpit early in the morning

We finished our cockpit preparation very quickly, but had to wait for more than 30 minutes still, due to the night curfew in Frankfurt. The earliest departure time is 5 am and there is no way of departing earlier. We had two “passengers” today (there are no passengers on cargo aircraft), two colleagues flying down to Johannesburg. Passing the time with some chatting about the company, flying and Africa, our off-block time got closer and finally we were given start-up clearance! We were the first aircraft of the day to depart, closely followed by two Condor aircraft bound to Antalya. As we were standing on runway 18, we could already see eight aircraft on final approach to runway 25L and 25R and at 05:00:00 the tower radioed: “Lufthansa Cargo 8296, Wind 120 degrees, 6 knots, Runway 18 cleared for take-off!”

Off we were heading south, getting short cuts all the time, as there was no traffic in our way at all. Somewhere over Southern Italy the sun finally rose and we got a great view on the coastline of Libya, as we passed Bengazi:

Coastline near Bengazi, Libya

The next hours we only saw sand, sand and sand again. There is literally nothing out there, except for a few small villages that just seem to be lost in this huge wasteland! Southern Libya is also the place were the IATA Inflight Broadcast Procedure for Africa starts, which I will explain some when later on. Aircraft are coordinating themselves, as ATC is too unreliable and you have to maintain a constant listening watch on a special frequency. However with little traffic on our route, we encountered no problems at all.

After leaving the Tripolis FIR, we were in Sudanese airspace, but rarely got in contact with Khartoum, as we could not reach them over the radio. After hours of flying over the Sahara, the landscape finally looked a bit friendlier again and as the land below us got greener, we finally reached Kenya! The flight took us over some high terrain and Lake Nakuru, before heading towards the famous Ngong Hills west of Nairobi and straight to runway 06. The autopilot did not want to capture the glideslope and the flight director gave some false indications, so I took the matter into my own hands and simply switched both off. Flying manually with raw data indications only, I really had to fight the strong up- and downdrafts, which is especially difficult in Nairobi due to the high altitude and the aircraft being close to its maximum landing weight of 222.900 kg.

After landing we gave ATC our aircraft registration, departure airport and the number of people on board and were greeted with a friendly “Welcome to Nairobi!” Kenyans and East Africans in general are very kind and friendly people and that makes it a lot easier. On the way to the terminal I was able to take a few snap-shots and as photography in Nairobi is actually kind of forbidden, I had to be really quick and careful…

Some good old friends: Jubba Airways, D-Connection and Kenya Airways.

Qatar Airways A319 and South African Airways 737-800 at the gate.

As we drove home we saw some Impala and two Giraffes next to the airport access road. Nairobi National Park is bordering the airport and chances are good that you see some game when going to Jomo Kenyatta Airport. Within 30 minutes (which is quick) we were back in our beautiful hotel, the Serena in downtown Nairobi, just next to Central Park. The view from my hotel window was excellent, overlooking the park and the Nyayo Memorial, as well as the junction of Kenyatta Avenue (the main street of Nairobi) and Uhuru Highway, which is part of the Panafrican Highway! I could see many of the city’s major buildings, such as the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (tower to the right) or the Ministries of Energy and Immigration (right yellow building). Truly a great view and a great day that was ended by some good Indian food and chocolate dessert…

Nairobi skyline with Central Park in the foreground and some of the cities most famous buildings in the back.

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2 Responses to Jambo Nairobi!

  1. Bogdan M. November 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Man, I love reading this kind of stories from you. Thanks for sharing! Some tremendous pictures aswell.

    Does it happen often that the AP does not want to capture the glideslope? Does it only happen in Africa and if yes, why?

  2. Felix Gottwald November 5, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    Usually it does not happen, but there is always an exception… We were on a very close vector to the descend point and I had to use vertical speed to get down initially and maybe the computers choked on that… That is why we have pilots in the cockpit that can fly the aircraft without any fancy guidance tools 😉

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