2015/16 Yearbook Early History

Airports

Jomo Kenyatta International airport

The initial Embakasi Airport was built between 1953 and 1958 by Mau Mau detainees. It was the first international airport built by hand and had four runways. The Mau Mau suspects were forced under guard to excavate a million tonnes of soil, filling trenches and laying half million tonnes of stone.

On December 8, 1978, the new Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (known as Nairobi Airport for a few months) was opened. Funded by the Government and the World Bank, the £30 million circular complex had been on the drawing board since 1972 and was designed to cater for the increasing number of arrivals at both Embakasi and Wilson airports.

Embakasi Airport was designed to cater for much smaller Boeing 707 and DC8 aircraft, when they took over from the British Overseas Airline Corporation flying boats that used to land on Lake Naivasha.

Today, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is Kenya’s largest aviation facility, and the busiest airport in East Africa. It serves a daily average of 19,000 passengers from Africa, Europe and Asia.

Moi International Airport

Located in Mombasa, the Moi International Airport is today the second biggest aviation facility in Kenya. Previously known as Mombasa Airport, it was built during World War II, with only two runways.

Currently, the airport, which handles more than one million passengers annually, is undergoing a major upgrade, which includes a new runaway, apron expansion, new terminal buildings at a cost of $84.36 million financed by Agence Francaise de Development and the World Bank. Following the expansion, the airport will increase its passenger handling capacity to 2.4 million every year.

Built to handle DC aircraft and similar sizes, the airport has over the years gone through some upgrading. The most notable was between 1974 and 1977 when it was expanded to accommodate B474 aircraft. A new terminal was also built and in 1978, it received its international status and renamed Moi International Airport. A second terminal was added between 1994 and 1996 due to traffic pressure.

The airport now has four terminals. They include a cargo terminal and a general aviation terminal used for local departures to tourist destinations and local airstrips and airports. Terminal 1 is used as an international and domestic departures and arrivals terminal while Terminal 2 only handles international departures.

The other two terminals include a general aviation terminal, which is used for local departures to tourist destinations, airstrips and local airports and a cargo terminal. It is also used for cargo imports and exports.
The airport has three aprons: the main passenger apron, the general aviation apron and the military apron.

Eldoret airport

Located some 16 kilometres from Eldoret town and on the Eldoret-Kisumu road, Eldoret Airport serves the great Rift Valley region, especially in exports and imports. It has three scheduled international cargo flights and several unscheduled freighters.

While the construction began in 1995 and the airport was opened in 1997, it did not attract international flights as intended and operated at a loss in its first decade. The airport also did not have capacity to handle cold and dry cargo, and it therefore welcomed private investors to build warehouses.

Thus, Eldoret Airport now has a warehouse that can handle 150 metric tonnes of dry cargo and a cold storage of 230 metric tonnes. This has now enabled the airport to handle exports of perishables and fresh cut flowers.

Besides the exports, the airport is also seen as a future booster of the tourism sector in the region, which is largely unexploited.

Kisumu International Airport

The recently elevated Kisumu International Airport is the third busiest in Kenya. It serves the Lake Victoria region and is located on the shores of the lake. Due to its strategic location, Kisumu serves the East African region
For years, Kisumu was serving only domestic routes due to lack of capacity. It was, however, expanded in 2011 and now has a terminal that can serve 700 passengers an hour, translating to two million passengers annually.

The length of the runway was also extended from two to 3.3 kilometres, enabling the facility to handle large capacity passenger and cargo aircraft. During the next phase of expansion, which is estimated to cost Kshs4.9 billion, the airport will have a parallel taxiway, a cargo apron and other facilities.

Wilson Airport

Wilson Airport is one of the most convenient gateways to the tourism destinations of Maasai Mara, Mombasa, Lamu, Nanyuki, Kilimanjaro and Diani.

Located to the South of Nairobi, the airport also offers cargo flights to Somalia and South Sudan.

Named after a pioneer aviation investor, Florence Wilson, it relocated to its current site from Dagoretti in 1927 and is one of the busiest airports in terms of aircraft movement in East and Central Africa. Domestic flights constitute 90 per cent of the total flights from the airport with international flights accounting for 10 per cent.