Well that’s exactly what we were promised and what was delivered, we experience the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on a short flight around Mount Kilimanjaro with the dynamic Capt. Paul Mwangi, Director Flight Operations, Kenya Airways. An exhilarating experience indeed
Our five hour flight from Dubai to Nairobi is smooth, with the staff of Kenya Airways ensuring that we are comfortable. As we land at Nairobi, we are greeted by pleasant weather and gracious people.
We have a quick shower and get ready for the high profile event. We find the crème de la crème of Nairobi hobnobbing with the special invitees being flown into Nairobi for a glimpse of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that will soon be inducted into the Kenya Airways fleet.
This Boeing is certainly a harbinger of things to come, and will revolutionise the airline industry with its fuel efficiency, innovative design and passenger friendly ambience.
Some wonderful music, brief speeches by top government officials and delicious cuisine in a chalet at the airport tarmac keep us busy till the much awaited blue plane arrives. We understand Kenya Airways Chief Executive Titus Naikuni is behind the push for speedy airport renovations in time for start of commercial flights in 2013 of the ordered Dreamliners.
Captain Mwangi is flying the sleek 787 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi as part of the aircraft’s world tour to familiarise customers with the aeroplane’s technological advancements.
When it arrives, the vision in blue is symbolically welcomed by sprays of water from both sides. The rhythmic sounds of African drums and frenzied lion dance by tribals add to the excitement.
The Dreamliner, with its superior design and structure, can carry between 210 to 290 passengers on routes up to 15,750 kilometres, while consuming 20 percent less fuel than its peers. The twin Rolls Royce Trent 1000 or GEnx low-emission, low-noise, high-efficiency engines; the innovatively raked, lighter and stronger, aerodynamic wings; the carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic and composites used for the fuselage; and other features result in a cruising speed close to the speed of sound at Mach 0.85, apart from significantly reduced maintenance costs.
We are among the 50 people, including invited media and VIPs, who take the demo flight over Mount Kilimanjaro later in the day.
The luxurious interiors of the twin-aisle 787, with increased headroom and spacious overhead bins, are illuminated with an LED lighting system that enhances passengers’ mood as it simulates a full flying day for longer flights, gradually changing through a spectrum of lighting from the glow of sunrise to sunset, enabling the body-clock to keep track of the changing hours.
Conventional window shades are replaced by an electronic window dimming system, allowing passengers or cabin crew to change the tint of windows from fully transparent to completely dimmed. Even with low cabin lighting, passengers can still enjoy the view through deeply tinted windows without disturbing others.
More humidity in the cabin’s cleaner and healthier air control system removes bacteria, viruses, fungi as well as odours, irritants and gaseous contaminants, resulting in fewer complaints of headache, eye irritation and dryness. Optimised cabin-pressurisation, simulating a maximum level of 6,000 feet – 2,000 feet lower than usual, results in over eight per cent more oxygen absorption into the blood so passengers experience less dizziness and fatigue.
Kenya Airways, which has ordered nine Dreamliners and plans to purchase four more, will use the new planes to replace the ageing 767 aircrafts in its fleet, reinforcing its growing status as the pride of Africa. With the new aircraft, ideally suited for long-haul flights, Kenya Airways plan to open six new destinations in India and China, among others.
The next day, a tour of the wildlife around Nairobi awaits us. We visit the Giraffe Manor, where giraffes roam freely. We are thrilled to see one walk elegantly towards us – like a sensuous dancer with beautiful dark limpid eyes and fluttering lashes. But we realise she’s a tough one too, when her rough tongue reaches out aggressively for the pellets of compressed food that we feed her. The thick saliva and her persuasive manner make the whole ritual quite funny.
The Giraffe Manor is impressive, it was built by Sir David Duncan of the Mackintosh Toffee family. Its wood panelled rooms, parquet floors and imposing staircases seem to echo accents of the Happy Valley culture that author Karen Blixen revealed to the world. But the real attractions are the towering four-legged ones, who welcome arriving guests.
Our next stop is the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi Game Park, where baby orphaned elephants, adopted from all over Kenya, are raised together until they are old enough to survive on their own.
The Orphanage was started by David Sheldrick and run by his wife, Daphne, after his demise. Due to the rise in ivory poaching, many elephants end up there because their mothers have been killed by hunters or they have been separated from their mothers. The elephants, ranging in age from a few months up to three years, are raised with the intention of gradually re-integrating them into the wild.
Each elephant is assigned a keeper, who acts as a surrogate mother and stays with the elephant until its release back into the wild. Looking after the elephant involves feeding it, providing shade so that it doesn’t get sunburnt, and, as the elephant gets older, taking it for walks in the park. Once the elephant is old enough, it is transferred to Tsavo Park to begin the final part of its release back into the wild.
Some of the other pleasant moments include dining at the Carnivore restaurant, where you see all sorts of meats being roasted. We are told that earlier they used to serve game meat, which now, mercifully, they don’t. Braver guests can get to taste ostrich and crocodile meat.
We return with wonderful memories of the beautiful Dreamliner and a country where people are kind, gracious and hospitable – a land that begs you to return to its fold again.
*Gulf Connoisseur’s trip from Dubai to Nairobi and back was courtesy of Kenya Airways.