By Abdulaziz Al-Mejren
KUWAIT, March 15 (KUNA) -- Kuwait Airways Corporation commemorates Thursday the anniversary of the Kadhema aircraft, the first airplane delivered to the national carrier on March 16, 1954.
The twin-engine bluebird Kadhema was the first locally owned plane that was officially received, while landing in the old airport in the Nuzha area, which has become a residential suburb later.
The 32-seat Dakota DC-3 then inaugurated its flights with a demonstration test in Kuwait airspace with a number of VIPs onboard. The plane's pilot was a British national.
Kadhema, built by Douglas Aircraft Company, was one of two DC-3 aircraft airlifting passengers between Kuwait and city of Basra, Southern Iraq.
Kuwait Airways could not operate flights to other countries because it did not have agreements with other airlines.
The carrier started operating three flights a week to Basra, one to Beirut, Lebanon, and then started flying to Al-Quds (Jerusalem), Damascus in Syria, and Abbadan in Iran.
Kuwait Airways decommissioned the DC-3 in 1959 and gave it to Bahrain where it was operated for two years, then was given to the Fire Department for training on aircraft accidents.
Kuwait asked Bahrain to return the DC-3. Kuwait Airways Corporation then restored the plan and put it on display in the Scientific Museum in 1986.
The plane retired but the name, Kadhema, returned on a new plane. Kuwait Airways bought new planes in the early 1980s and one of them, an Airbus-300, carried Kadhema name.
A group of terrorists hijacked Kadhema on December 4, 1984 when the plane was on route from Kuwait to Karachi, Pakistan, via Dubai. The terrorists forced the captain to land in Tehran, Iran, and held the plane and passengers hostage for six days, during which hijackers killed two Americans.
Security forces stormed the plane, liberated remaining hostages and arrested the terrorists. The plane remained grounded in Tehran for 17 months, and flew back to Kuwait on May 4, 1986.
Kuwait Airways suffered from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Iraqi forces looted 15 passenger planes causing USD 1.2 billion losses.
The carrier, immediately following the liberation in February 1991, began the rebuilding of its fleet by purchasing planes from Boeing and Airbus.
The company also named one of its new planes, an Airbus-300-310, Kadhema reflecting the importance of the name to the carrier's history.
The very plane, ending 13 years of Kuwait Airways' non-flying in Iraqi airspace, started on May 18, 2003 delivering medical supplies for the Iraqi people. The plane, carrying 20 tons of aid, was the first civilian Kuwaiti aircraft landing in Baghdad airport since the invasion.
The airlines launched its new vision in 2014, aimed at purchasing 10 long-range Boeing-777 ER 300 planes, each with a capacity of 334 passengers.
The planes started arriving and the third one was received on January 31, again named Kadhema.
Rasha Al-Roumi, Kuwait Airways Board Chairperson and CEO, said the name Kadhema "was nationally and historically symbolic for our country.
"We are proud to have this name placed on one of our new planes," Al-Roumi said in a statement to KUNA.
Kadhema is a historic site in northwest of Kuwait Bay, used to be inhabited by Arab tribes in ancient times. The site witnessed the famous That As-Salasel battle when the Muslims defeated the Persians in the year 633.
Asked about the new planes, Al-Roumi said Kuwait Airways has received five Boeing-777 since last December and the entire 10 would be delivered in the third quarter of 2017.
The five planes carried the names of Kuwaiti Islands: Failaka, Umm Al-Maradem, Kubbar and Warba, in addition to Kadhema, she said.
The carrier, she added, was also awaiting delivery of 10 new Airbus 350 and 15 Airbus Neo 320. Delivery is scheduled to start in 2019 until 2021.
Al-Roumi said the new fleet would fly to long-distance destinations as well as busy routes like London, New York, Paris and Bangkok.
Kuwait Airways Company was born in March 1954, but suffered financial difficulties in a year time, forcing the government to purchase 50 percent of its shares, doubling its capital and changing its name to Kuwait Airways Corporation.
Having entered the rough and tumble world of aviation, the government finally took out 100 percent share in Kuwait Airways.
Kuwait Airways entered the jet age in 1962 by leasing a Comet 4-C, the world's first jet-engine airliner.
In the 1960s, the national carrier rapidly expanded its route map, and scheduled services to London begun three times a week. To keep pace with fast-moving aviation needs, three Boeing 707s were delivered in 1968. Ten years later, Kuwait Airways had an all-Boeing 707 fleet of eight aircraft.
The carrier continues connecting Kuwait with major cities like Paris, Dubai, New York, and Manila. (end) aam.bs