East African Airways

East African Airways Corporation, more commonly known as East African Airways, was an airline jointly run by Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It was set up on 1 January 1946, starting operations the same year. The airline was headquartered in the Sadler House in Nairobi, Kenya.[2] The corporation was dissolved in 1977 amid deteriorated relations among the three countries.

East African Airways
IATA ICAO Callsign
EC EC EastAf
Founded1 January 1946 (1946-01-01)
Commenced operations1946 (1946)
Ceased operations1977 (1977)
Secondary hubs
  • Simbair Ltd.
Company slogan
  • Fly among friends (1964)[1]
  • The safari airline (1976)
HeadquartersNairobi, Kenya


The 1943 Conference of Governors of Britain's East African Territory was attended by government officials, aviation and railroad experts, businessmen, and British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) officials. They formed a committee to plan for the handling of airline services following the end of the Second World War. Present at the meeting was Philip Euen Mitchell representing the Uganda Protectorate, who was the only governor interested in aviation that could also provide his expertise after an airport in Kampala was established by him. It was believed by the governors that the promotion and control of civil aviation should be run by a single enterprise, which would provide feeder flights, connect intermediate points along the trunk lines, and operate local traffic and charter services. A £18,000–50,000 annual budget would be required. There were two different recommendations from the committee regarding the future company's fleet: 13 six-seater aircraft or nine six-seater machines and five Dragon Rapides. No actions were taken until the war was over. Routes in the region were operated by BOAC using DH.89 equipment.[3]:89

A draft proposal for the creation of the airline was made public in June 1945.[3]:89–90 The aims had changed a bit since 1943, but the needs for the formation of the company were almost intact. The enterprise that was about to be set up should link England with South Africa via Cairo, Khartoum, and Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia, should provide another trunk, yet slower, service departing from Nairobi to the south, should establish a link between East and West Africa via the Belgian Congo, should run feeder flights that connected with all the previous services, and charter operations should be undertaken as well. On 30 October 1945, the act that called for the creation of the East African Air Transport Authority, the organism that among other things would create East African Airways (EAA), was signed. With an initial £50,000 capital, ownership of the company was split between the Kenya Colony (67.7 percent), Uganda (22.6 percent), the Tanganyika Territory (9 percent), and Zanzibar (0.7 percent). BOAC provided management and technical expertise, and it was also hired to operate six Dragon Rapides. Charles Lockhart was the first chairman of the corporation.[3]:90

Following test flights in late 1945, operations started from Eastleigh Aerodrome on 1 January 1946. The regional Nairobi–MombasaTangaZanzibarDar es Salaam–Nairobi, Dar es Salaam–Zanzibar–Tanga–Mombasa–Nairobi–Dar es Salaam, Nairobi–Moshi–Dar es Salaam–Nairobi, Nairobi–KisumuEntebbe–Nairobi, Nairobi–EldoretKitale–Nairobi, Dar es Sallam–Zanzibar–Tanga–Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam–Lindi–Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam–MorogoroNduli–Southern Highlands–ChunyaMbeya–Dar es Salaam routes opened on 3 April. Reginald Robbins succeeded Lockhart as chairman on 28 June 1946.[3]:90 Six more D.H.89As were purchased for £5,700 each.[3]:90–91 Doves were also ordered that year, but because these aircraft could not be delivered until 1948, the corporation arranged the delivery of Lodestars from BOAC for £6,000 each including spares. Despite the company expecting the Lodestars to arrive earlier, both types of aircraft arrived the same year, with five Lodestars entering the fleet on 22 February 1948 followed by the first of four Doves (at a cost of £13,300 each) four days later. The Lodestars were deployed on the Nairobi–Dar es Salaam service on 21 March, whereas the Doves started working on the Nairobi–Entebbe run on 14 April. A day later, Lodestars were deployed on the Nairobi–Mombasa–Lindi service.

Alfred Vincent succeeded Robbins as chairman on 1 January 1949. That year, the carrier's capital was increased from £50,000 to £221,500. Three more Lodestars from Sabena in the Belgian Congo joined the fleet in June. EAA had operated a service to the Congo in conjunction with Sabena, but the route was dropped because of poor economical performance. On 26 October, the first DC-3 Dakota was phased in, with its first service being a charter flight to Uranbo on 5 November. Likewise, the Nairobi–Durban coastal service route that had hitherto been operated by Skyways Limited was taken over by EAA on 2 November, with a D.H.89 flying the first run.[3]:91 Figures for 1949 showed an increase of 63 percent, year-on-year, for passenger traffic, with cargo and mail increasing by 81 percent and 28 percent, respectively.[4]

Once-weekly Nairobi–Mbeya–Salisbury DC-3 service was launched in August 1950, but the route was suspended the following year because of stiff competition from airlines like Central African Airways and South African Airways (SAA). That year, the first Dove was sold due to the poor performance of the aircraft in hot and high conditions. Three more aircraft of this type exited the fleet in 1951. The Doves were soon replaced with seven ex-SAA Lockheed L-18-08s that were subsequently converted to the L-18-56 model by replacing their engines with Wright Cyclone G.205A ones.

On 6 February 1952, following the death of King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II began her return to the United Kingdom on one of EAA's newer aircraft, a DC–3 with registration VP-KHK. She was carried from Nanyuki to Entebbe, where she connected with a BOAC aircraft. This event marked EAA as being the first airline not based in the United Kingdom to carry a reigning monarch. During 1952, six more DC-3s were purchased.[3]:91 Aimed at replacing the Dragon Rapides, three Macchi M320s were acquired, but these aircraft proved to be inadequate for the airline's operations and were phased out and sold.[3]:91–92 Also during 1952, the airline commenced the flying of pilgrims to and from Mecca in conjunction with Aden Airways. By that time, the airline had decided to replace the Lodestars with more DC-3s, with all ten of them being sold between late 1952 and early 1953. The last service flown with these aircraft was in February 1953. The original three DC-3s were sold, but four new aircraft of the type were acquired. A Consolidated PBY Catalina was purchased in 1953. It was used in the filming of Mogambo and sold the next year.[3]:92

In early 1957, services to the United Kingdom were launched on a once-weekly basis, at first operated by BOAC on EAA's behalf and then in EAA's own right with ex-BOAC Argonauts.[5][6] This tourist-class service had low load factors when it was started, as it competed with same-fare BOAC Britannias and Viscounts.[7] Also in early 1957, the Nairobi–Aden route was started; in mid-September the same year the route was extended farther east, from Aden to Bombay via Karachi, and Argonauts were also deployed on it.[8][9][10]

Following the opening of Embakasi Airport on 9 March 1958, EAA started transferring all their operations from Wilson Aerodrome to the new airport. Upon moving their DC-3 operations in July the same year, all scheduled services operated from Embakasi, becoming their hub since.[11]:281[12]

In late 1968 a number of De Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otters were added to the EAA fleet for the operation of domestic services from smaller airfields in East Africa.[13]:178

In 1960, two Comets ordered by the corporation in 1958 were put into service on the LondonRome–Khartoum–Entebbe–Nairobi, London–Rome–Khartoum–Nairobi–Dar es Salaam, and Nairobi–Aden–Karachi–Bombay routes.[14][15][16] The same year, EAA reactivated Seychelles-Kilimanjaro Air Transport, a 1952-founded airline otherwise known as "SKAT" that had previously ceased operations, as a wholly owned subsidiary that flew some routes for EAA.[17] SKAT was later re-christened Simbair Ltd when it was decided that EAA would no longer operate charter services; the renaming effectively took place in May 1971 and became an EAA's wholly owned subsidiary that took over SKAT and EAA passenger and cargo charter operations.[18][19]

As in the early 1960s, the airline was running short of capacity and the fleet was growing old. Three Fokker F27s were ordered as a replacement for the DC-3s and the Argonauts.[20] The airline had not yet taken delivery of the third of these aircraft, when in late 1962 a fourth was ordered.[21] In May 1965, an order for three VC-10s worth GB£11 million was placed.[22] Likewise, another VC-10 was ordered in 1969.[23]

By March 1975, employment was 4,700. At this time, the fleet consisted of sixteen aircraft (five DC-3s, three DC-9-30s, four F.27s, and four Vickers Super VC10s) that worked an extensive domestic network within the three member countries plus international services to Aden, Addis Ababa, Athens, Blantyre, Bombay, Bujumbura, Cairo, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Karachi, Kigali, Kinshasa, London, Lourenço Marques, Lusaka, Mauritius, Mogadishu, Rome, Seychelles, Tananarive, and Zurich.[24] Management assistance from Aer Lingus was contracted in mid-1976 amid deteriorating relations between the three countries that ran the airline.[25] Financial difficulties deepened when both Tanzania and Uganda struggled or failed to pay their outstanding debts for the operations of the airline.[26][27][28] EAA operations came to a total halt in January 1977.[29][30] The airline had incurred in a debt of US$120,000,000 (equivalent to $496,144,975 in 2018) when it went into liquidation in February 1977, with the Kenyan government being one of the major creditors.[26] Both Kenya and Uganda had established their own national airlines before the folding of the corporation, with Uganda Airlines forming in 1976 and Kenya Airways in 1977.[29] Tanzania followed in April 1977 with the formation of Air Tanzania.[31]



The airline operated the following aircraft at some point during its history.[32]

Accidents and incidents

According to the Aviation Safety Network, the airline experienced seven events during its history, two of which had fatalities. The total death toll was 63.[33] All occurrences shown below resulted in hull-loss of the aircraft.

Date Location Aircraft Tail number Fatalities Description Refs
18 May 1955 Mount Kilimanjaro Douglas C-47B VP-KKH 20/20 Crashed on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro while operating a scheduled passenger service from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi as Flight 104. [34]
11 April 1962 Nairobi Argonaut VP-KNY 0/3 Struck the ground and caught fire at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport during a training flight. [35]
29 August 1963 Francistown Douglas C-47B VP-KJT Unknown Destroyed by fire at Francistown Airport. [36]
18 April 1972 Addis Ababa VC-10-1154 5X-UVA 43/107 Overran the runway at Bole International Airport following an aborted takeoff and then broke up and caught fire. The aircraft was due to operate the Addis Ababa–Rome leg of an international scheduled passenger service as Flight 720. [37]
5 July 1973 Mbeya Douglas C-47B 5H-AAK 0 Ground-looped at Mbeya Airport during the landing roll. [38]
27 August 1975 Mtwara Douglas C-47B 5Y-AAF 0/19 Skidded off the runway on landing at Mtwara Airport. [39]

See also


  1. "East African Airways Timetable (Effective 1 July 1964)—International Route Map  EAA and associates". Airline timetable images. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  2. "World airline directory – East African Airways Corporation (EAA)". Flight International: 923. 10 April 1976. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  3. Guttery, Ben R. (1998). Encyclopedia of African Airlines. Jefferson, North Carolina, U.S.: Mc Farland & Company, Inc. ISBN 0-7864-0495-7.
  4. "The African Market". Flight. Vol. LVIII no. 2175. 31 August 1950. p. 233. Archived from the original on 19 July 2014.
  5. "Long-haul economics". Flight: 619. 2 May 1958. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012. Last year saw E.A.A.C. start services between East Africa and the U.K. using three Argonauts purchased at reasonable terms from B.O.A.C.
  6. "Brevities". Flight: 360. 22 March 1957. Archived from the original on 20 October 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012. For the first time, East African Airways are to run services to the United Kingdom. Starting on April 2, they will be operated by B.O.A.C. until E.A.A. receive their three ex-B.O.A.C. Argonauts.
  7. "E.A.A.C.'s London service". Flight. 74 (2600): 813. 21 November 1958. Archived from the original on 31 January 2014.
  8. "Brevities". Flight: 525. 27 September 1957. Retrieved 27 January 2012. East African Airways have inaugurated a new Canadair Argonaut service to Karachi and Bombay via Aden.
  9. "Brevities". Flight: 249. 23 August 1957. Retrieved 27 January 2012. East African Airways are to start new Canadair Services to Aden, Karachi and Bombay on September 15.
  10. "Civil aviation..." Flight: 194. 8 February 1957. Retrieved 27 January 2012. East African Airways will start weekly services from Nairobi to Aden on February 13.
  11. John Stroud (22 August 1958). "Air Transport in the Commonwealth – East Africa". Flight: 208–282. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  12. "Brevities". Flight: 93. 18 July 1958. Retrieved 28 January 2012. East African Airways have vacated Wilson Aerodrome and are now based entirely at Nairobi Airport (Embakasi).
  13. John, Roach (1998). Turbo Prop Airliner Production List. The Aviation Hobby Shop. ISBN 0-907178-69-3.
  14. "Brevities". Flight: 199. 5 August 1960. Retrieved 28 January 2012. East African Airways Comet services between London and Nairobi are now scheduled to start on September 17 and to Dar-es-Salaam on September 22. The twice-weekly Nairobi services will be routed via Rome, Khartoum and Entebbe, and the weekly service to Dar-es-Salaam via Rome, Khartoum and Nairobi.
  15. "Brevities". Flight: 883. 24 June 1960. Retrieved 28 January 2012. August 18 is the date announced by East African Airways for the introduction of their Comet 4s, the first of their order for two being due for delivery soon.
  16. "Civil aviation – Comet 4s for E.A.A.C." Flight: 389. 5 September 1958. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  17. "World airline survey – Seychelles-Kilimanjaro Air Transport Ltd". Flight International: 591. 10 April 1969. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  18. "Sensor". Flight International: 911. 24 June 1971. Retrieved 13 January 2012. East African Airways Corporation is to go flat out for charters as a matter of top commercial policy. The airline's subsidiary SKAT is being renamed Simbair.
  19. "World airline directory – Simbair Ltd". Flight International: 981. 9 April 1977. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  20. "Friendships for EAAC and DTA". Flight International: 362. 7 September 1961. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  21. "EAAC Friendship Repeat-order". Flight International: 775. 15 November 1962. Retrieved 13 January 2012. East African Airways, who have taken delivery of two of their three Fokker Friendships, have placed a contract for a fourth.
  22. "EAA VC10 Contract Signed". Flight International: 799. 20 May 1965. Retrieved 13 January 2012. On May 10 East African Airways signed its £llm contract to buy three Super VClOs.
  23. "Last VC10 Order?". Flight International: 998. 19 June 1969. Retrieved 13 January 2012. East African Airways has converted its option on a Super VC10 to a firm order, delivery of which is planned for next February.
  24. "World airline directory – East African Airways Corporation (EAA)". Flight International. 108 (3445): 484. 20 March 1975. Archived from the original on 4 January 2014.
  25. "Aer Lingus sells management". Flight International: 1481. 5 June 1976. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  26. "East African Airways debts total $120 million". Flight International: 1713. 10 December 1977. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  27. "EAA still grounded". Flight International: 509. 5 March 1977. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  28. "East African Airways survives". Flight International: 1821. 25 December 1976. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  29. "East African Airways Corporation (EAA)". Flight International: 949. 9 April 1977. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  30. "East African suspends flights". Flight International: 267. 5 February 1977. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  31. "Air transport". Flight International: 1173. 30 April 1977. Tanzania has taken the first steps towards setting up a new airline to be known as Air Tanzania. The country has been without an airline since East African Airways collapsed.
  32. "SubFleets for: East African Airways". AeroTransport Data Bank. 7 January 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  33. "Accident record for East African Airways". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  34. Accident description for VP-KKH at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  35. Accident description for VP-KNY at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
  36. Accident description for VP-KJT at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 January 2012.
  37. Accident description for 5X-UVA at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 January 2012.
  38. Accident description for 5H-AAK at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 30 January 2012.
  39. Accident description for 5Y-AAF at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 28 January 2012.
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