Friday, November 15, 2013

Cape Town to Goodwood Day 14: Kenya's first air crash

* The team has arrived at Wilson airport, Nairobi to great fanfare. Phoenix Aviation (suppliers of the Cessna Caravan chase plane and pilot, Johnny) and Artemis were there to greet them. "We had a great night at the Aeroclub." Next stop Lewa today weather allowing.

When Mary Heath flew into Nairobi, its large aerodrome ten kilometres south of the city, was as good as any aerodrome in Europe; the days of holes on the runway, wandering zebra and oil flares for lighting had long gone.
To their horror, she saw a crashed aeroplane near the aerodrome - it was the plane of Maia Carberry, ‘our dear little friend who had so pluckily flown from Mombasa to Nairobi only a week or two before’.
Maia Carberry had met Lady Mary at Stag Lane in August 1927 when she came to London with her eccentic husband, John (originally from Castle Freke in Co Cork)
and quickly acquired a pilot’s licence. Back in East Africa, she  set herself the target of becoming the first person to fly non-stop from Mombasa to Nairobi, bringing the first Coast-Highland mail with her.
Just a fortnight later, Carberry was dead. At Kenya's first air fair, she had brought young aviator Dudley Cowie up for a joyride. When circling to descend at 1,500 metres, the small DH Moth lost speed and then spun out of control before diving to earth with a sickening crash. The two occupants were killed instantly; Maia was just 24; her passenger 22. It was Kenya's first flying tragedy. 
After laying a wreath on Maia’s grave, Lady Mary sent a letter to the East Africa Standard asking that an aerodrome be built at Mombasa and called after Mrs Carberry.
It was in Nairobi that she was robbed of £50 and a gold cigarette-case. "A man entered my room in the middle of the night, awakening me as he did so. I merely thought I had forgotten to lock the door and that he had mistaken his room and didn't discover my loss till the morning," she says in her book "Women and Flying". 

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