The Romantic Story of Wilson Airport

Wilson Airport was originally called Nairobi West Aerodrome. It’s initial site was in Dagoretti Corner 1927 at the junction, before relocating to it’s present location in Langata in 1929. (Ps. The world’s first airport was built in Croydon, England in 1928). The Nairobi West Aerodrome was co-founded by a wealthy widow, Mrs. Florence Kerr Wilson, after whom the airport was later named and was fully approved by the authorities in 1933. It served as the main airport not only for Kenya but for the East African region when the only other airfield was in Kisumu. Pioneer operators at the Aerodrome were Imperial Airways and Wilson Airways. Wilson Airways and the Aerodrome infrastructure was indeed facilitated singularly and financed by Mrs Wilson at a cost of about £50,000, an equivalent of Sh600,000 at the time. She hired the services of a pilot, Captain Thomas Campbell Black, to run her Aerodrome outfit, with whom she was having an affair that did not last very long. Capt. Black would later die in an air race crash in the late 50s in Europe. Early operations at the Aerodrome were mail delivery services and charter flights. In 1933 saw the establishment of the first scheduled flights from Nairobi to Kampala Uganda, to Dar es Salaam in then, Tanganyika and Nairobi to Cape Town. Wilson Airways began its operations using a DH60G Gypsy Moth, registration PV KAC. By 1938 when operations peaked, they had acquired 17 aircraft which included among others DH 89A Dragon Rapides & Percival Vega Gulls. Clientele included members of the British Royal family, prominent European personalities, Safari hunters and tourist groups. Wilson Airways also pioneered the first air ambulance service in the region as well as establishing the first commercial flight training school. Operations at the aerodrome developed well into the early 1940s when World War 2 put a hault to its activities and the entire fleet of aircraft and pilots were drafted by the then, British Colonial government, into the Kenyan Auxiliary Air Unit and the entire facility was converted into a Royal Airforce base and operation. It was during this war that Kisumu airport was further developed for amphibious lake landings and Mombasa airport was established for military logistics. After the war in 1945 civilian operations returned at the Nairobi West Aerodrome with the resumption of commercial flights. Wilson Airways was later to be taken over in the early 50s by the establishment of East African Airways as an East African Community venture. East African Airways (EAA) stopped operations in 1978 at the collapse of the East African Community charter. Kenya Airways was then established, its base at Jomo Kenyatta international airport, Embakasi. The old Embakasi airport terminal, now Moi Airbase, and runway was built in 1958. In 1962 Nairobi West Aerodrome was renamed Wilson Airport, at a colourful ceremony presided over by the late Masinde Muliro, a Government minister at the time, in honor of Mrs. Florie Kerr Wilson who then died 6 years later at her home in Karen aged 80. At one time Willson airport developed to be one of the busiest general aviation airports in Africa. Now that’s all about history