BY Fredrick Ngugi, 1:00pm November 25, 2016,

Vintage Rally Flyers Announce Release After Being Detained in Ethiopia

Members of the Vintage Air Rally team detained in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: VAR

A team of pilots detained in Ethiopia while on a mission to fly vintage planes across Africa announced on Facebook Wednesday that they are finally allowed to leave the East African nation. Western diplomats from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Ireland had been negotiating the release of the pilots, according to the Guardian.

One of the aviators, Maurice Kirk, went missing earlier this week near the border between Sudan and Ethiopia, prompting a search-and-rescue operation by the Vintage Air Rally (VAR) organizers.

However, after Kirk and the other 40 pilots landed safely in Gambella, Ethiopia, they were detained by Ethiopian authorities under reportedly unclear circumstances.

“The Ethiopian authorities have elected to allocate accommodation at the airport rather than permit them to proceed to their pre-booked hotel. The reasons for this, at this time, are not 100 percent clear,” VAR organizers said.

VAR went on to accuse the Ethiopian authorities of confiscating the crew’s communication gadgets, including mobile phones and computers.

One of the pilots is reported to have contacted his wife in Europe, though, before his cell phone was seized.

“The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth office is aware, is talking with other embassies, and is negotiating on their behalf. We have no further information because of the lack of communications,” VAR added.

Flying the Length of Africa

Vintage Air Rally is a special project involving a team of 40 pilots from 10 countries attempting to fly more than 8,000 miles across the African continent in vintage airplanes that are designed for short flights.

The team is made up of families who are accompanied by two helicopters and six modern airplanes flying alongside the vintage planes. VAR organizers have also sent special fuel to various filling points along the route. Ultimately, they hope to recreate the 1931 Imperial Airways Africa route.

The precarious journey started on November 18th in Cairo, Egypt, and is expected to end in Cape Town, South Africa, on December 17th.

Aviators Released   

After a seemingly tumultuous incident, VAR announced that the vintage aviators were released, writing, “VintageAirRally crew are allowed to fly on from Ethiopia! Aviators who were detained in Ethiopia are now free to continue their journey. The adventure continues!”

The reason of their detention is still unclear as the organizers of the rally have refused to disclose further details before the planes are air-bound and out of Ethiopia.

Last Edited by:Charles Gichane Updated: June 19, 2018


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