Africa’s aviation industry is not complete without mentioning Kenyan women pilots. Besides Captain Ruth Karauri of Kenya Airways is a perfect example of brilliant female pilots from Africa.
More women continue making huge strides in Africa’s aviation industry. They are rewriting the long-held narrative that only men can excel in certain sectors.
See Africa Today sheds focus on celebrated Kenyan women pilots. Here they are.
Captain Ruth Karauri
Captain Ruth Karauri hit the headlines in March due to her piloting prowess. Together with First Officer, Ayoob Harunany, they skillfully landed a KQ Boeing 787 amidst Storm Eunice at Heathrow Airport.
Surprisingly, on the off chance that you bump into her, you would never tell she is a combination of beauty and brains – she is among the best Kenyan women pilots Kenya Airways (KQ) has.
Capt. Karauri is among the pioneer Kenyan women pilots working for Kenya Airways. She is a mother and a dotting wife to Sportpesa CEO Ronald Karauri.
The Sportpesa CEO worked as a Kenyan pilot for KQ for years but resigned to focus on his betting firm. The two met in the line of work, got hitched, and went on traversing the globe as high-ranking pilots.
Jerry Dyer, an aviation enthusiast, first filmed the KQ Boeing 737 plane making its way to the airport.
The landing was carried live on his Big Jet TV channel, which had more than 200,000 live viewers at the time Captain Ruth Karauri touched down.
Storm Eunice did not make it any easy for pilots heading to Heathrow. It was so awful that some planes had to re-route and others had to circle Heathrow before landing, due to bad weather.
Kenya Airways carrier praised the great skills the duo showed at a time when heavy winds were blowing in London. Hours before landing, an alert for delayed flights was issued by the British Weather Service.
Growing up, Capt. Karauri aspired to be a pilot. Not because she liked flying but rather because of the stylish outfits pilots of all genders wear every day.
A KQ commercial that aired on a local TV station piqued her interest and sparked her ambition to become a pilot. She was only eight years old at the time.
Captain Irene Koki Mutungi
Captain Irene Koki Mutungi is Africa’s first black female captain of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The 47-year-old is remembered for landing KQ’s fourth Dreamliner in Nairobi in August 2015.
She started her flight school when she was 17. She studied at the Kenya School of Flying and completed at Crabtree Aviation, Guthrie, Oklahoma, U.S.
Koki joined Kenya Airways as the first female pilot in 1995 and rose through the ranks to become a captain. Incidentally, her father was a KQ pilot and he was opposed to her daughter taking up piloting as a career.
He feared the stigma that came with being Kenyan women pilots then, and drastic lifestyle changes. But she proved naysayers wrong.
Koki loves flying to Europe, Far East and the US. Flying exposes her to different cultures and different places.
Captain Peninah Karanja
Captain Peninah Karanja may be working for Rwanda’s national career RwandAir but she remains a Kenyan at heart.
She is the first woman to command RwandAir. When Karanja, a native of Nairobi, Kenya, was in high school, she attended Loreto High School Limuru in 2000.
In 2003, she sat for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). Then, one would wait for a year to join university.
Karanja, on the other hand, decided to set her own course. She enrolled in a pilot training program in 2004 at the 43 Air School in Port Albert, South Africa.
She completed the course and obtained all of the necessary licenses and certifications in aircraft maintenance and security, as well as airline and flight safety.
She began her career with RwandAir as a First Officer in September 2012. She became more conscientious about her work, which impressed her coworkers as well as her boss.
As a result, on May 12, 2013, she was elevated to the rank of captain, being the first female pilot to hold such a rank in Rwanda.