Last week, I traveled on an Astral Aviation B727-200F flying from Nairobi, Kenya to Mogadishu, Somalia. It is one of only a few active B727s still flying!
The B727 freighter, registration 5Y-MWM, is 46-years-old but still going strong, operating frequent flights in harsh terrain from difficult airports.
Our aircraft carried 14 tons of food and general cargo, destined to supply the United Nations and other NGOs in Somalia.
Nairobi to Mogadishu
Our flight departed from Nairobi's Runway 06 around 9:00 am local time. Flight time was 1 hour 30 minutes, cruising at 27,000 ft. Astral flys regularly into Mogadishu; operating at least twice a week.
It took some time to become airborne, owing to Nairobi's runway sitting 5300 feet above sea level. The high altitude reduced the aircraft's performance naturally. Watch the full video on the engine start and takeoff scenes. Listen to the JT-8D engines roaring!
Captain Rafael conducted a special pre-landing briefing for Mogadishu, as the coastline of Somalia came into view. Aircraft must land from the sea in order to avoid rocket attacks.
It was Captain Rafael's first time landing in Mogadishu, as he recently joined Astral and was operating a check flight under the supervision of Captain Oscar.
Mogadishu, Somalia stop
Aden Abdulle Int’l Airport at Mogadishu was really busy this time, with a lot of regional and international flights in and out; it is the main aviation hub and the gateway to the rest of Somalia. We saw a lot of turboprops, such as Fokker 50 and Antonov 26s. A lot of passengers arrive from Nairobi, Djibouti, Addis Ababa, Dubai and Istanbul.
I was there once in 2014 flying African Express transiting Mogadishu from Dubai to Kenya.
Mogadishu to Nairobi
After all the cargo being offloaded, we return to Nairobi cruising at 28,000 ft. There was no cargo out of Somalia except empty crates.
What a great adventure to fly on the 46 year-old original Boeing 3 engine jet and a day in the life of a cargo pilot.
Captain Rafael made a butter landing in Nairobi (See it in the video). Here is a photo with the loadmaster, engineer, ground staff, security and pilot of Astral Aviation.
Our B727 parked next to a 46-year-old DC-9-34F. That will be my ride next.
Thanks to Astral Aviation for the access.