RwandAir's first Boeing 737-800 sits in a hangar at Boeing Field.
What does a Boeing 737 mean to you? For most, it is a common airliner found around the world. For many airlines, it is an reliable revenue-making machine. However, for others it is more than just the sum of its parts. For RwandAir and the country of Rwanda it represents progress and national pride that no one can put a price tag on.
Rwanda is a country with a troubled past (I will go into more about that in a future story), but they have come so far in a very short amount of time. It is a land locked country, looking to grow. To successfully do so, they need a viable air transportationÂ infrastructure. RwandAir operations were started in 2003 to help Rwanda achieve that goal.
Boeing gave RwandAir keys to the plane. No, they are not needed to start the plane.
RwandAir recently took delivery of their first new airliner ever: a Boeing 737-800 with Sky Interior. I was invited to tag along for the delivery and the flight of the aircraft from Seattle (SEA) to Kigali, Rwanda (KGL). I was able to stay a few days in Rwanda and learne more about theÂ culture, the people and the drive to grow as a nation. I will share these experiences in a multi-part series from the pre-delivery dinner to my experiences in Rwanda.
How does an airline get a plane made to only fly about 3,000 miles from Seattle to Rwanda? I did not know, but I surely wanted to find out. The adventure started with a special dinner held at the Museum of Flight under an SR-71. It did not take long for me to realize that this was not only about getting a new airplane, but it was about celebrating the progress that Rwanda as a country has made.
Before leaving, the 737-800 was pulled in front of a 787 Dreamliner.
During his passionate speech during dinner, the CEO of RwandAir, John Mirenge, stated that he knows “what aviation can do to change lives and nations.” Mirenge hopes to continue to build his airline with additional aircraft (including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner) and vows to come back to Seattle, “We will be regular visitors in this town. It is a dream come true.” As previously reported, RwandAir hopes to reach 12 aircraft in the next five years and to 18 aircraft by 2020. The dinner eventually wound down and people prepared for the long flight starting the next day.
Originally, the delivery flight was supposed to take off at 11am on Thursday August 23rd. There were two delays that happened, but since we were only a group of about 30 and we had no formal plans, it did not matter too much. The first delay of 2pm was because the airline wanted to install their in-flight entertainment software, which takes three hours and they cannot start the process until the money is exchanged. However, there were some computer issues and a power blackout at the bank, which resulted in a delay in transferring the money. Luckily it finally came through, but the flight ended up being delayed an additional 3.5 hours to about 5:30pm.
The new Boeing Sky Interior is pretty slick, especially for a flight which will take about 20 hours.
This was okay since Boeing had RwandAir’s 737 in a hangar with food, drinks and music, giving us an opportunity to check out the aircraft. After we realized how long the delay was going to be, Boeing got a shuttle van and drove everyone to a local bar to have some drinks. It was quite awesome to have the CEO of RwandAir serve you a beer.
We were not there too long before we got the word it was time to go. We all piled back into the shuttle bus and headed back to the Delivery Center. Before being able to board the aircraft, everyone has to go through security, just like you would at the airport, but these security guards Â seemed nicer than those found in airports. While we were enjoying our beer, Boeing had the 737 towed right in front of the delivery center. After a few more photos, it was time to get on board to start our adventure.
Our flight taxiing at Boeing Field. Taken by Andrew W. Sieber.
Seats were not assigned and I had the pick of almost any row in economy. I first went straight to the exit rows, thinking I was being smart, but darn it. The armrests in those rows did not move, so they were no good. I decided on Row 14 and I took over seats A through F for me and all my stuff. Even with having an entire row, I wasn’t too sure if I would remain comfortable during an almost 20 hour flight.
I could feel the excitement and enthusiasm on the aircraft as we were pushed back to taxi out. As we moved down the taxi way, I could see Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 747-8’s out the windows — that never gets old. We taxied to the end of the runway and took off quite quickly due to the light load. We were off on our big adventure — next stop Iceland, then a night in Istanbul before arriving in Kigali, Rwanda to a cheering (and dancing) crowd.
RWANDAIR BOEING 737-700 DELIVERY FLIGHT
Part 1Â |Â Part 2Â |Â Part 3Â |Â VideoÂ |Â 737 PhotosÂ |Â Rwanda PhotosÂ |Â Destination StoryÂ |Â All
At RwandAir's headquarters at Kigali Airport, they have mutliple images of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in their livery around the office. This mock up shows a hopeful operation date of 2015.
I have been learning a lot about Rwanda and RwandAir over the past few days and will be sharing everything over the next week or so. I wanted to give a quick update on RwandAir’s aircraft and route planning, since it is quite surprising and involves a few Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
The airline has just taken delivery of their first new aircraft ever, a Boeing 737-800 with Sky Interior. According to RwandAir CEOÂ John Mirenge this is just theÂ beginning. He stated that they hope to increase their current fleet of six aircraft to 12 over the next five years and up to 18 by 2020. Currently they operate a fleet of two Boeing 737-500s, one Boeing 737-800 (a second one coming in October), two CRJ-200s and one Dash 8. By 2020, they hope to take delivery of additional Boeing 737s, ATR-72, Embraer regional jets and Boeing 787 Dreamliners — new.
Mirenge told AirlineReporter.com that he hopes to fly the Dreamliners to China, Europe and possibly the eastcoast of the United States. The airline hopes to create a hub of air transportation in Kigali, providing the demand for the larger aircraft.
It seems that flying the Dreamliner by 2015 might be a bit optimistic. It might be difficult to get a delivery slot by then and Kigali is in the process of building a new airport to better handle the expected increase of traffic, but is not set to be completed until 2018.
It is unusual for an airline to be so candid about their future plans of aircraft purchases and future routes. However, RwandAir is a different sort of airline and definitely have created a positive momentum.
I am currently at a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey and so far the trip to Rwanda has gone very well. Our flight leaving from Boeing Field ended up being delayed about six hours due to a power black out and computer issues for the bank in Africa. It turned out okay, since it gave us more time to check out the 737-800 (9XR-WF) on the ground and we were even rounded up and taken to a dive bar (Stellar Pizza for any of you locals) where the CEO or Rwanda Air, John Mirenge served us beer — right on.
The flight from Seattle to Keflavik, Iceland only took about 6hrs and 40minutes and after about a 2 hour layover for fuel, we were on our way to Istanbul. I got to test out the Boeing Sky Interior on a short flight from Seattle to Dallas with American Airlines, but I have to say I love it even more after spending about forteen hours with it now.
We rest in Istanbul tonight and tomorrow we are on our way to Kigali, Rwanda. Unfortunately this is one of those trips where I don’t get to go outside the airport or hotel, but I want to be well rested for Rwanda. Of course I will have a full report on the trip and plenty of photos later.
How does an airline get a plane made to fly only about 3,000 miles from Seattle, WA to Kigali, Rwanda? I am not really sure, but I bet it involves a lot of fuel stops. This Thursday, RwandAir is set to take delivery of their first Boeing 737-800 with Sky Interior. The airline isÂ very excited to operate the first Boeing aircraft with Sky Interior in Africa. The new interior option is a feature for 737s that gives it an updated look. I have previously had the opportunity to fly from Seattle to Dallas to check out the Sky Interior with American Airlines and was very impressed. Now, I will have the ability to experience the Sky Interior and RwandAir’s newest 737 for a bit longer, since I am lucky enough to be invited for the ride from Seattle to Rwanda.
The 737-800 will leave Boeing Field at about 11am on Thursday and we are supposed to land in Kigali sometime during Saturday. This is going to be a long flight for sure and one probably only an airline geek could love. What is it going to be like to ride in an airplane half way across the world that is designed to barely fly across the US? I am not sure, but I feel an adventure coming on.
At this point, I do not even know what route we will take. I am assuming we will fly over to the eastern side of the US, then over to Iceland and Greenland before getting to Europe. I know that we will be stopping in Istanbul, then down south to Rwanda. Anyone want to take a guess to the exact route (I will update this post with FlightAware tracking information when it is posted)?Â You better believe I will be taking a lot of photos and sharing some stories when I am done. Until then, I will be running some guest blogs and pre-written content.