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Dutch planespotter visits Kenya to fly classic jets

Andre’ Alders developed a passion for aviation in the fields outside Amsterdam, Netherlands.

From the family home, Andre would watch aircraft climbing out of Schiphol Airport, one of the world’s major air transport hubs. Today, Andre travels all over the world to fly in rare aircraft and write about it.

Andre Alders disembarking from a Fly540 DC-9 during his visit to Kenya.

Andre Alders disembarking from a Fly540 DC-9 during his visit to Kenya.

Andre was recently in Kenya to get a feel for some of the few operational DC-9s in the world. These aircraft are operated by African Express Airways, Fly540 and FlySax.

Specifically, Andre was interested in 5Y-XXA, a DC-9-14 operated by Fly540 and 5Y-AXN, an African Express Airways DC-9-32.

“I wanted to visit Kenya for a couple of flights in the classic DC-9 before they are all history’” Andre told the Kenyan Aviation in Nairobi.

5Y-XXA is currently the oldest, active passenger jet in the world! Airliners.net puts this aircraft’s age at 48 years as of 2014. In comparison, 5Y-AXN is a modest 29 years old.

Andre is a member of the Dutch planespotting community whose work can be seen in such websites as airliners.net and planespotters.net. In Europe, planespotting is a popular activity. Airport authorities work with planespotters to find suitable sites without compromising safety and security.

Andre’s articles and photos are published in Scramble magazine, a Dutch-based, English language aviation news magazine.

To come to Nairobi, Andre took a rather long route from Amsterdam to Dubai, then to Hargeisa, Mogadishu, Wajir and Nairobi. He did this in order to fly with African Express DC-9s that ply the Dubai – Nairobi route.

Two African Express DC-9 aircraft at the Aden Adde International Airport, Mogadishu.

Two African Express DC-9 aircraft at the Aden Adde International Airport, Mogadishu.

Due to the numerous stops that African Express makes on the Dubai to Nairobi route, the flight takes the better part of a day. The flight departs Dubai about 6am arriving at Nairobi’s JKIA at 4pm. However, the cost of the ticket compares favourably to those of airlines that fly non-stop between Dubai and Nairobi.

Andre had been advised to buy African Express tickets at Dubai because the airline’s website was not functioning at the time. At Dubai, Andre met very helpful staff who processed a ticket for him and organized a meeting with the pilots for his flight to Mogadishu.

On arrival at the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, passengers proceeding to Nairobi disembarked to board another African Express aircraft. While in Mogadishu, Andre was allowed to take pictures at the ramp, quite surprising considering the security situation there.

From Mogadishu to Nairobi, Andre flew in 5Y-AXF, another DC-9 classic. As is required of all aircraft flying into Kenya from Somalia, African Express made a stopover at Wajir International Airport for security checks. Contrary to his experience at Mogadishu, Andre was expressly forbidden from taking photographs at Wajir.

In Nairobi, Andre did more planespotting at JKIA and Wilson Airports. He managed to fly in 5Y-XXA, the Fly540 DC-9. Afterwards, Andre took another flight to and from Mombasa in a Jambojet Boeing 737.

Cockpit of Fly540 DC-9, 5Y-XXA, the oldest DC-9 still in active service anywhere on earth.

Cockpit of Fly540 DC-9, 5Y-XXA, the oldest DC-9 still in active service anywhere on earth.

Andre has flown to many parts of the world in pursuit of his interest in aviation. He has been across Europe and visited the United States, Caribbean, Russia, South Africa and now, Kenya. Travelling to far off places while looking for rare aircraft is challenging but Andre succeeds by finding local persons that can point him to the right places.

Of course, flying costs money. How does Andre afford it? It comes down to hard work and planning. “I run a supermarket in a small village in the Netherlands. I co-manage the supermarket with my brother,” he explains.

Andre is really excited about his just-concluded trip. “I am very happy with all the help I got from pilots and airline staff during my trip to Kenya,” he says. Tusker beer was one of the highlights of his stay in Kenya.

For his trip back to the Netherlands, Andre opted to fly Kenya Airways so as to experience one of the new Boeing 777-300ER on the Nairobi – Amsterdam route. That day’s flight was performed by 5Y-KZY, Kenya Airways’ second B777-300ER.

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