Visit to Nairobi-Wilson Int'l Airport (HKNW / WIL)

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

I was fortunate to visit Nairobi-Wilson IAP, Kenya on 16Feb05, and although the visit was brief, by the kind cooperation of the Airport Management I was able to photograph a nice selection of aircraft here.

The airport has various ramps and it is such locations as this ramp that always seem to hold a pleasant surprise for me: F-GHNU is a Max Holste MH.1521 Broussard and has c/n 92. It still carries Morocco Air Force markings.
I found a 1996 image on
Next time I should ask what it is doing here: collector's item or for sale ?


Douglas C-47A N47AZ (c/n 13019) was described in some reports as "derelict", but I have seen worse return to the skies !
It was registered VT-CYG but reregistered N47AZ for MLP Aviation at Elstree in Jun94. It was reported at Nairobi-Wilson in Apr98 and Jun99. First reports storage (as far as I know) date from 2003, but looking at its condition the previous reports could have meant inactivity as well. Think it was last reported for a firm called Sofair.

click on the images for a larger size--
N47AZ  N47AZ

C/n 13019 was delivered to the USAF as 42-93140 on 14Apr44, transferred to the RAF as KG536 on 30Apr44 and it relocated to India that same year. The Indian Government used it as transport and at some point it transferred to Dalmia Jain Airways; it entered the Indian registry as VT-CYG in Aug48. It continued its career in India, joining Indian National Airlines on 21May51, Indian Airlines Corporation (being renamed ?) on 01Aug53.
We take a long leap: it was registered to Chemicals Ltd on 20Apr71, joined Safari Airways in 1978 and seen at Delhi, still VT-CYG, in Delhi May85. In the early 1990s it seemed to be registered to the "J K Group" .

click on the image for a larger size--
ZS-OJJ This Douglas C-47TP Turboprop is ZS-OJJ (cn16213/32961), registered to Dodson Air of South Africa, on contract for relief flights.

ZS-OJJ This Douglas transport was delivered to the USAF as 44-76629 on 28Mar45, transferred 03Apr45 to the RAF as KN483 and briefly operated in the Middle East.
It found its way to the South African Air Force (SAAF) on 06Oct45, registered with the number 6881. In Nov53 it entered the civilian register as ZS-DIV for Africair (Wenela Air Service).
It was reregistered as VP-YSN on 28Oct60 and to A2-ZEN for Africair/Wenela Air Service on 01Dec68. And again to ZS-DIV (again for Wenela) on Feb75, which again was altered to A2-ZEN (for Wenela) in Feb77. It was reported stored without further use at Johannesburg-Rand in March 1979.
Apparently it found use again with the SAAF, this time with registration 6855, until it was registered to Dodson Air as N8194Q on 14Jul98. It was registered under the present ZS-OJJ tailnumber on 15Nov99, though completion of the Turbo Conversion may have been on a later date.

As N467NS it ended up with Dodson (@Rantoul,KS 04May09, as 'ZS-OJJ') and in August 2016 it was acquired by Preferred Airparts LLC (associated with Priority Air Charter, both based Kidron,OH) for which it was reg'd as N561PT on 30Aug16 (other sources speak of 30Jan2017).

During Sep.2006 I received a message from Graham Seale:
"Imagine - there I was looking at your pictures of the ex Wenela Air Services DC-3 (Dakota) that I flew in as a youngster in my very first job working for Africair (Rhodesia) Ltd. You bring a lump to my throat!
No doubt if I look more, I will find the rest of them.
After I left, DC-4 transport A2-ZER crashed (04Apr1974) at Francistown shortly after takeoff, trying to circle and return with engines failing because of Avgas fuel being contaminated with Jet A1 (Avtur). I dont know what happened to the other planes. There were 7 in all."

"Wenela Air Services flew both cargo as well as passengers. Mainly, it was Mining labour destined for the Johannesburg area. The history of the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA), also known as Wenela, starts way back around 1905 (1909?). It was partly a business and partly political thing that is well documented on the net. Their labour recruiting operations made a big impact on the land and culture. So ingrained that there is a place called Wenela in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia, close to Zambia-Botswana border).
I think even now there survives the Wenela Bus Station in Blantyre, Malawe.
The use of DC-3 and DC-4 aircraft to bring in mine labour from distant parts started sometime in the 1950's.
The planes were based in Francistown Botswana (then the Bechuanaland Protectorate). They would be flown to recruiting stations at Maun and Shakawi and Orapa, and to Lillongwe and Blantyre. The employees were then taken on by rail from Francistown to the Johannesburg area. There are soul-tearing stories around this aspect alone.
The entire airport, buildings, traffic control, runways, plus a whole lot of money into the local economy was all built on Wenela.
The aircraft and maintenance services, and pilots were supplied by Africair (Rhodesia) Ltd. based in Bulawayo, though most who lived and worked in Francistown were transferred to Wenela employ. I worked for Africair, and was hired out to Wenela to keep radio Communications and Navigation equipment working as well as ground transmitters maintained.
I shared a company house at Monarch Mine with a Wenela first officer. I did end up with a few ad-hoc flying lessons, but my job was in flight engineering and maintenance. I had to sign before the planes could fly.
The main airport feature at Francistown I recall was the huge semi-circular shaped hangar, with a full control tower built perched on top of it, and the part-steps, part ladder arrangement up the side of it to get to the tower.
My very first radio transmission was from DC3 A2-DJZ. On my first flight of any sort, I had to sign a form of indemnity absolving the company of any liability before clambering into a DC-3 which had only just had its wings put back on.
After the test flight it landed with 158 "snags", and I had aquired the experience of "floating about" inside a DC3 with no seats while it was being "test stalled"...
I can remember my embarrasment while my mother was giving the Africair boss a piece of her mind in Bulawayo Airport concourse while I was being taken for medical attention for blood poisoning contracted after a misadventure with a DC-4 parked at Maun. The rescue from Jubilee Hospital, and the "mercy flight" to Bulawayo in a Piper Cherokee with faulty nav equipment is a story in itself !
Plenty of stories to tell...
Getting a DC-4 up to 110 knots over a grass field on a hot day is exciting. Running hell for leather while carrying heavy kit to pile into a DC-3 with its engines running, to get away from an angry mama elephant is maybe even a little more than exciting!
I got to see the last big herds of wild buffalo around the Okavango. We would fly low to raise huge flocks of pink flamingos with the propeller noise.
You haven't lived until you have had to clean out a DC-4 floor of the pile of chewed out husks of sugar cane after a flight from the bush, or had to sneak oxygen from the pilots because they were flying higher to "calm" the passengers after fights break out during in-flight gambling sessions in the space near the door...
For all that, until A2-ZER crashed in 1974, that airline had an excellent safety record. No mishaps of any kind except for when a silly passenger hurt his wrist while clambering out to retrieve a bag on the ground. Even then, it was not Wenela's fault."


"Turbo-Dak" ZS-MFY seems to be down on its luck, parked at a ramp where more aircraft have found a destination of storage.
I had seen ZS-MFY in 2004, at Lanseria, S.Africa but have heard news that its owner, Rossair, has gone bankrupt recently.
For historical data on this aircraft, please visit my South Africa 2004 report.
Next to ZS-MFY is DHC-7 5Y-BMJ (c/n 83) of Airkenya, apparently in a similar fate.

5Y-BCJDHC-2 Beaver 5Y-BCJ.
For a close-up on the text ("Desert Locust Control Organization For Eastern Africa"), please click here

C/n of this DHC-2 is 1572, former Kenyan Air Force KAF-106 (thank you Peter Watson and Mick Butt).

Neil Aird added: " Delivered 11Jan/65, KAF-106 Kenyan Air Force, Cancelled Jan79 , became 5Y-BCJ East African Desert Locust Control Organization at Wilson / Nairobi,Kenya. Neil has another photo on his excellent website:

5Y-KRD DHC-2 Beaver 5Y-KRD with the spraying equipment fitted under the wing.
Construction number of this Beaver is 1439, formerly registered as VP-KRD (thank you Mick Butt and Mike Ody).
It was a pleasant surprise to find these Canadian bush-planes here !
Neil Aird added: "Delivered 30Jan60, was VP-KRD de Havilland South Africa and can be be seen on his excellent DHC-2 Beaver website:

Many Grumman G-159 Gulfstream I's have found their way to Africa, but these will go nowhere anymore, I fear.
5Y-BLF has c/n 131 and was registered to Skyways Kenya (delivered 1996) and has been in this condition since at least 2000.
In Oct.2006 I received following email:
"I used to work with the 5Y-BLF from 1996 - 1998 when it was grounded by Skyways Airlines after the FCU on one of the engines had finished its hours and it proved troublesome for the management to get a new one. We used to do flights of Khat to Somalia, and also some relief aid to southern Sudan.
I remember pilots like Dale Roark and others; that aircraft was a nice workhorse!"
Regards Michael Kiarie Ngugi

5Y-JET (c/n 44). One would wonder how it got on the wrong side of the fence ?
Found historic details on S.C. Verbrugge's excellent site--
Changed tailnumber N285A for Air Provence Int'l in Oct88 as F-GFGV. It operated with Air Provence titles and logo. It was registered to Trackmark 23Jun99 and seen at Nairobi-Wilson 30Jul99. At some point JetPet (?) got hold of it, but whether it actually flew them....?
More info would be welcomed.
Here is a photo of 5Y-JET in better days (2000)

A touch of the modern stuff... A lot of trusty old Radial Workhorses see themselves replaced by Cessna Caravans and type likes these, the Mitsubishi MU-2B. ZS-ONC has serial 727SA.
A close up of the titles worn on this aircraft. is Emoyeni Medical Rescue's website.

The yellow colourscheme tells us this is a former Canadian Armed Forces DeHavilland DHC-5 Buffalo.
Mike Ody wrote and told me this DHC-5 5Y-SRD was formerly registered Z-SRD and has c/n 007, indeed ex Canadian Armed Forces.
Wayne Buser, a specialist on this subject, confirmed this DHC-5 to be former Royal Canadian Air Force 115453, reregistered 5Y-SRD to Sky Relief on 05Sep97.
In Oct.2005 Peter Barry wrote me: I just saw the new movie 'The Constant Gardener", which is set mainly in Kenya. In this movie there is a UN aircraft that plays an important part.It is the same 5Y-SRD that you photographed on the ramp at Nairobi.
In the movie it is shown in UN paint. I am from Canada, and thought that I recognized the aircraft type, so I took note of the registration. On returning home I googled and got your page.
Thanks and great to have been of help, Peter!

Click on the image for a larger photo--

This is 5Y-SRK and seeing the colourscheme I knew this was former N37AU of Public Service Aircraft Inc. I saw this Buffalo in 2003 in... Alaska ! The registration N37AU was cancelled 10Sep04. has it as c/n 3 with a photo of it staging through Cambridge,UK 25Sep04.
Joe Baugher's website offered the following information-- De Havilland UC-8A BuNo 161546 (c/n 3) was formerly N13688, previously 63-13688 with USAF. It was transferred to US Army in 1994, still as 161546. Back to civil registry it went, as N37AU. Seen at Teversham AP, Cambridge, UK Sep 25, 2004 on delivery flight to Kenya as 5Y-SRK. Registered Sep 2004 to Sky Relief of Wilson/Lokichoggio as 5Y-SRK.
A good website on the DHC-5 Buffalo is
Sky Relief's website: seems rarely operational. But they did informe me, on 31Mar05, that it had become all-white (I expressed hope it would not remain so !!).
5Y-SRK crashed 30Dec06: "Three crew members survived narrowly Saturday in a plane crash which occurred near a Kenyan police training barrack in the outskirts of Nairobi." The Red Cross charter cargo plane, 5Y-SRK, owned by a Kenyan aviation firm, the Sky Relief Services, was ferrying relief supplies to Somalia's Baidoa.
Kenyan airport personnel, who responded to the distress call from the pilot, rescued the three crewmen.
"The pilot said it was engine trouble, but investigations were still continuing," a Kenyan civil aviation source said. The crash occurred in the early morning Saturday, as light rains and bad weather was reported across Nairobi.
Somalia has seen an escalation of conflict over the past week with Islamic militia fighting Ethiopian and pro-Somali interim government troops, triggering world aid agencies' concern about the mishap of the civilians already worsened by severe floods this year."

ET-AKZ ET-AKZ of ALS Limited is a DeHavilland "Dash 8" (c/n 469) and provides daily flights to Lokichoggio in Northern Kenya. shows it in the colours of Trans Nation Airways as late as 06Jan05 at Addis Abeba, this would explain the Ethiopian registration; so it is either on lease by ALS or hasn't been properly reregistered yet into the Kenyan registry.

Fokker F.50 5Y-VVH (c/n 20203) has been treated by Bluebird Aviation on a very nice colourscheme.
An all-white F.50 5Y-VVK (20213) was present on the ramp as well.

The Douglas DC-3 and its Predecessors (1984, Air-Britain) plus Update 1 & 2., online database

An interesting inventory of airfields in Kenya can be found on--

I would like to thank Mr. Yatich Kangugo, Wilson Airport Manager and Mr. Esman Nyandikah Onsarigo, Deputy Manager Airport in charge of Security Services for their hospitality. Also I am grateful to Anthony, who escorted me over the ramps and cleared the photopermit with the various operators.
I hope to meet them again. Asante sana !!

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