Cross-Africa Rally Teams Released in Ethiopia: Organisers

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Nearly 60 people taking part in a vintage air rally from Europe to South Africa were released on Thursday after being detained by authorities in Ethiopia, organisers of the journey said.

Pilots of a dozen biplanes and their teams were allowed to leave the airport in Gambella, two days after arriving at the outpost in western Ethiopia, close to the border with South Sudan.

“They have been released. We hope to leave Ethiopia.

A Waco YMF-5D biplane sits on the runway on November 20, 2016 in Khartoum airport during the Vintage Air Rally ©Ashraf Shazly (AFP/File)

“They have a hotel because they cannot fly when it’s dark. So they have to wait, so they should leave at first light tomorrow,” a spokesman for organisers Vintage Air Rally told AFP.

The reason for their detention at the airport was unclear and the organisers were not expected to give more detail before the planes were air-bound and out of the country.

The teams included participants from France, Germany, the US and Britain, whose foreign ministry said it had been involved in the Gambella incident.

“We are providing assistance to a group of British nationals in Ethiopia who are taking part in the Vintage Air Rally. We will remain in contact with the local authorities,” a spokeswoman for the UK’s foreign ministry told AFP.

Dating from the 1920s and 1930s, the biplanes set off from the Greek island of Crete on November 12.

The first few days of their journey saw them touch down in Egypt, where they were the first group of aircraft to land at the country’s famous Giza pyramids for 80 years.

The group had arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Sunday and had been due to travel onwards to Kenya after the stop in Ethiopia.

A British pilot who joined the tour on Sunday, 72-year-old Maurice Kirk, was reported missing during the flight from Sudan to Ethiopia. Vintage Air Rally said on Wednesday that he had been found and had joined the other pilots at Gambella airport.

The 13,000-kilometre (8,000-mile) journey had originally been scheduled to end on December 17 in Cape Town, South Africa, travelling through countries including Tanzania and Zimbabwe along the way.

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