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Ethiopia says it will Free Vintage Plane Aviators Soon


Aviators detained in Ethiopia while retracing a historic flight route along the length of Africa in 24 vintage planes should be freed in a few days along with pilots of support aircraft, an Ethiopian aviation official said on Thursday.

The Vintage Air Rally crew, flying aircraft that include biplanes built in the 1920s and 1930s, are being held in Gambela, western Ethiopia, after traversing neighbouring Sudan.

They have already flown from Europe and through Egypt and plan to end the tour in South Africa. The oldest plane taking part dates to 1928, while the oldest pilot in the group is 72.

"They did not have proper authorisation," Wesenyeleh Hunegnaw, director-general of the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, told a news conference in Addis Ababa.

"They are not under arrest. They are safe and will remain in Ethiopia until the review (of their situation) is concluded," he said, adding the group had requested permission to overfly Ethiopia but had not followed rules and had stopped in Gambela without authorisation.

When asked if that review would be completed within the next few days, he said: "Of course" but did not give further details.