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September 23, 2011

Delivery Flight Adventure: Onboard RwandAir’s First New 737 from Seattle to East Africa

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Traditional Rwanda Dancer at Kigali International Airport

Landing in Kigali, the capital of the tiny east African nation of Rwanda, is like descending into a green ocean. Perched atop one of the city’s ubiquitous tall, tree-covered hills, Kigali International Airport (KGL) is the hub and headquarters of RwandAir, the landlocked country’s national airline.

By most economic measures, Rwanda would be considered a developing nation — with a GDP of $6 billion, population of 11.3 million and a land area only about the size of Maryland. The sole knowledge most Americans have of the country is the horrific genocide of 1994, which left nearly a million people dead. As such, Rwanda may seem to many like one of the more unlikely places to be delivering a state of the art, $65 million airliner. So how did I get here?

The short answer: About 19 hours of flying, leaving Seattle on a Thursday evening and arriving in Kigali on Saturday afternoon. We fly seven hours from Seattle to Iceland, six hours from Iceland to Istanbul, and another six from Istanbul to Kigali, with a night in Istanbul thrown in for crew rest. Very long segments for a 737 under normal circumstances, but with only 35 people on board and about a ton of books (provided by the Rwanda Girls Initiative, a US-based educational charity), not a problem.

Approximate flight path for the delivery trip. Total distance: 9167 miles

Approximate flight path for the delivery trip. Total distance: 9167 miles. (Map by gcmap.com)

The longer answer: Rwanda has in recent years become a stable and prospering nation relative to some of its neighbors, and the government is betting on transportation improvements and its geographic location in the heart of the East African Community’s Common Market zone to further boost its economy. Two years ago, the airline ordered two 737-800s, the first to be delivered to Africa fitted with the Boeing Sky Interior. After taking delivery of the second aircraft in October 2012, they plan on ordering new Embraer 190 jets and, in the longer term, Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The tail section of Whiskey Fox, RwandAir's new 737-800, registered 9XR-WF.

The tail section of Whiskey Fox, RwandAir's new 737-800, registered 9XR-WF.
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A more detailed story about RwandAir and its role in the nation’s future will come soon, but in the meantime, I’ll let the photos and video tell the story of their first new 737.

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  • nice TR matt, i hope that you enjoyed your trip to rwanda. It’s confirmed for ERJ190s?