Africa Leaders Magazine

CAPTAIN RUTH KARAURI – “I Was Told I Couldn’t Fly Planes”, Kenyan Pilot who heroically landed a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Heathrow during Storm Eunice

In an interview, Captain Karauri revealed that she had to qualify for multiple tests with Kenya Airways after applying for their Ab Initio pilots programme. These are pilots who have no experience with flying.

She applied and KQ called her for her first interview. When she arrived at the interview, she realized there were 3,000 applicants.

“I was so intimidated because among those 3,000 there were people who had done architecture on campus, there were people who had done engineering someone had done aviation maintenance and I was there a Form Four lever,” she recalled.

A month later Captain Karauri, who got an A in her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination, received a call from KQ and she was informed that she had made it to the second round of the interview process.

She went in and they had to do a written exam. Two weeks later she was invited again for a psychometric exam which was attended by 60 people. After another two months, KQ called again and asked Captain Karauri if she had a passport.

“I told her I don’t have a passport and I ran to the kitchen to tell my mom. I was also informed that I was among the 15 people who had made it for the training in Addis Ababa,”

“Nyayo House we all know we can’t get a passport in 3 weeks. I’m sorry to say we had to shake hands, but I managed to get my passport and two months later I was on a plane for the first time and the whole village came with matatus to see me off and I went to Addis,”

When she started her training an officer who was also her instructor asked Captain Kararuri if she could ride a bicycle and she told him no. His response to her was disappointing. She recalled that the instructor told her she couldn’t fly a plane.

“So, you go you meet the instructors, and they are ex-military pilots. I remember the first question the instructor asked me, do you know how to ride a bicycle? I said no and he told me you can’t fly.

“I was like “why didn’t my parents buy me a bicycle when I was a child?” I thought it was the end of all my hopes and dreams. It turns out he was wrong,” she told Standard Digital.

Captain Karauri was not discouraged by remarks from her instructor and years later she made it on the heroines’ list after she showed her expertise in the skies.

While winds of more than 80mph forced other pilots to abandon their descents, captain Ruth Karauri pulled off a textbook cross-landing and brought her Boeing 787 Dreamliner down safely – with barely a wobble.

The manoeuvre was filmed on YouTube planespotting channel Big Jet TV, which drew nearly 7 million viewers with a live stream of aircraft struggling to touch down at Heathrow in the storm.

The governor of Kenya’s central bank Patrick Njoroge tweeted: “You’ve seen the videos of planes struggling to land at LHR yesterday with #StormEunice. The exception was KQ’s Capt Ruth Karauri who landed the 787 like a boss.”

Before making a return flight to Nairobi, Ms Karauri recorded a short video from the cockpit explaining how she managed to land flight KQ 100. She said: “The flight conditions were strong gusting winds and it was quite a bumpy ride.

“However, thanks to the training we have had at Kenya Airways, particularly in the simulator, it prepared us for such a scenario”.


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