Harambee One, the Kenyan presidential jet , that has been in the news recently after being forced to return back to Kenya on its way to the US is a Fokker 70 ER that has served the country for the last two decades.

The plane that is managed by the Kenya Air Force was acquired in 1995 due to the need to boost V VIP transport. The Kenya Air Force Story 1964-2014, a golden Jubilee Commemorative Publication, details how the presidential jet was acquired. Before 1977, government and state dignitaries visiting local and international destinations were transported using the Aero Commander and Navajo aircraft.

In 1978, the air force started using the Buffalo aircraft which was acquired a year before. It could take years until January 12 1990 when the VIP Squadron was formally launch after the air force acquired the Canadian Dash 8 aircraft that has advanced technology and twin fuel-efficient turbine power plants.

“These features provided the ruggedness, reliability and performance to meet the requirements of the Air Force. With its pressurised capability, its ceiling is 25,000 feet above mean sea level and is powered by Pratt and Whitney engines,” the book notes.

Although the Dash 8 was painted in white and grey, the whole fleet was repainted to white and grey with a strop of the national flag in 1996 and 1997. Despite the Dash 8 being a reliable aircraft for VVIP travel, it still was not efficient in long distance travels.

“The idea of acquiring a new aircraft to cover more distance around the African continent and even to other countries was then conceived. This was due to the cost and convenience of having a Presidential jet as opposed to hiring a plane from an airline like Kenya Airways which was then undergoing privatization,” the book states.

The first steps could be taken in 1994 when the air force decided to acquire the Fokker 70 ER, a medium sized aircraft manufactured in the Netherlands. On September 20, 1994, the air force sent Lt Col S Githinji to Netherlands with a mission to oversee the construction of the Fokker ER (Extended Range) Presidential aircraft.

Source: Standard Digital

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