Ethiopia Detains Foreign Pilots In A Vintage Air Rally

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Ethiopian authorities have detained several foreign pilots, including Americans, who were participating in a trans-Africa air rally, the United States Embassy said.

Embassy officials are working with Ethiopian authorities to secure consular access to see the American pilots, the embassy said in a statement.

The Vintage Air Rally billed itself as a “flying rally across Africa, from Crete to Cape Town,” for planes built in the early 20th century.

Wossenyelah Hunegnawm, the head of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, said the pilots entered Ethiopian airspace illegally Tuesday and are under investigation.

“This group entered into Ethiopia without getting permission to access our airspace,” he said.

He said the pilots are in Gambella town in Western Ethiopia, where they landed their aircraft during their journey as part of the air event.

One of the pilots in detention is Briton Maurice Kirk, who had earlier been reported missing.

It is unlikely the air event will proceed to Nairobi at the weekend because the crews are still held up in Ethiopia, said Tom Burns, a publicist for the air event, in a statement Thursday.

In the rally, teams from around the world are attempting to cross 10 countries in 37 stops and 35 days.