Nairobi — "I flew the first ever jet for Kenya Airways on a DC9 aircraft to Mombasa and back. So far I think I have flown for 45 years. Initially, I was with the East African Airways. I have flown for 26,500 hours, plus or minus 100 hours since I joined the aviation industry in 1969," said Senior Captain Francis Mwangi who has served the longest at Kenya airways (KQ) since its inception in 1977.
"Those days we used to have different ways of doing things. As captains we were doing it more like the Royal Air Force, because most of the pilots had come from the British Royal Air Force. I have seen the airline change from a military type of operation, State and finally to a commercially controlled company," Mwangi added during KQ's 36th anniversary celebrations on Friday.
The airline launched its first flight in February 1977 following the breakup of the East African Community and disbanding of East African Airways.
With only six aircraft when it was launched by the Kenyan government - four inherited from the collapsed regional airline and two leased ones - the airline has since been privatised, besides growing its fleet and route network significantly.
KQ flies to over 50 destinations across the world and operates a fleet of 41 aircraft.
"Our 36th anniversary is an opportunity for us to celebrate the achievements that we have had so far, learn from our experiences, and re-energise for the future," KQ CEO Titus Naikuni said.
The anniversary which coincides with Kenya marking 50 years of Independence will be followed by a series of activities and events including rewarding loyal customers with Range Rover sports utility vehicle among other prizes.
The reward promotion will go for the next three months and any customer is eligible to win the grand prize of the Range Rover with those travelling regularly with the airline standing a better chance to win.
"We will also have several draws. The first draw will be on February 8, the second one will be on February 22, the third on March 8, the fourth will be on March 24, the fifth on April 4 and the final one for the Range Rover, on April 26. In these other draws, customers will be winning the return tickets and the international holidays," said KQ chief operations officer Mbuvi Ngunze.
The anniversary comes as the airline implements its 10-year growth plan, Project Mawingu, which aims at operating a fleet of 119 aircraft from 35, besides increasing its destinations from 58 to 115 routes by the end of 2021.