“Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we could not see too far down the road’ Karin Blixen – Out of Africa
The Oscar-winning movie Out of Africa conjures images of the quintessential African setting: breathtaking savannah plains, bountiful wildlife and glimpses of Kenya’s rich tribal cultures. At the centre of all of this, who can forget the yellow biplane soaring high above dramatic landscapes, flown by Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) as he showed Karen Blixen (Meryl Streep) his deep love of Africa? This heart-stopping performance captured filmgoers the world over. And don’t even let us get started on the soundtrack.
Out of Africa’s 1929-model Gipsy Moth G-AAMY biplane was shipped to Kenya in 1985 in the back of a DC8 for the filming of the movie. Sir Henry Dalrymple-White, a noted Royal Air Force Wing Commander in WW2, piloted it, soaring high above the Maasai Mara and the Great Rift Valley. He lived in Kenya and continued flying until his death aged 80 in 2006. The biplane was used for 50 hours of filming, during which it roused a large flock of pink flamingoes – a scene which the cinematographer, the late David Watkin, specifically attributed his Academy Award for lens work.
In 2013, G-AAMY was sold at a Paris auction to Segera in northern Kenya’s Laikipia. Fitted with a new engine and delicately re-assembled at Segera (as shown in this dreamy video), G-AAMY has been given a new lease on life and once again soars over Kenya’s beautiful landscapes.
The movie, based on Blixen’s memoir of her time in Kenya, immortalised the scene of Finch Hatton’s last fateful flight. On the morning of 14 May 1931, Finch Hatton's Gipsy Moth took off from Voi airport, circled the airport twice, then plunged to the ground and burst into flames. Finch Hatton and his Kikuyu servant Kamau were killed.
“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story” Karen Blixen – Out of Africa
Postscript: G-AAMY is an American made Gipsy Moth and it has an other unique characteristic – it’s made of steel rather than wood. Many of the Gipsy Moths destined for warmer climates were made of steel-tubing. This did add a little to the weight but it also lengthened the service life in countries know for their termite populations.
Filed under: Travel East Africa