Vintage airplanes take off for race through Africa

File image of a Blériot vintage plane. Photo: via

CRETE, Greece - Twelve vintage biplanes from the 1920s and 1930s set off from the Greek island of Crete on Saturday (November 12) on a race covering over 12,800 kilometres from Greece to South Africa.

It's the first time this kind of flight has ever been attempted by such a large number of antique planes.

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The planes are recreating a route travelled by Imperial Airways, a British commercial air transport company that served the routes of the British empire to its colonies in Africa during those two decades.

The trip is expected to take 35 days and teams are representing 18 countries, including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa, the United States, and Britain.

The planes will travel through 10 countries including Egypt, Botswana, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, making 37 stops before finishing in Cape Town.

"Hopefully, we'll all get there and have a massive party when we arrive," said Vintage Air Rally organiser, Sam Rutherford.

The planes will make a stop at the Giza pyramids in Egypt, the first time a group of aircraft have been allowed to land there in several years.

The plane flown by Robert Redford in the film "Out of Africa", which he starred in with Meryl Streep, will join the journey in Kenya.

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The pilots will be challenged by the weather elements in open cockpits, stretching their flight limits with the long distances. They will be sleeping in sandy deserts, under the wings of their planes in tents, and on riverboats on the Nile.

Seven modern planes and three helicopters will be flying next to the group for support.

The winner of the rally will receive a "Crete2Cape" winning cup. The event is for charity.

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The pilots are composed of professionals and those that fly as a hobby.

The oldest plane is from 1928. The planes can fly as low as 150m above the ground and will pass over the famous landmarks of the African continent such as Victoria Falls. They can fly 450km before refuelling.


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