They are flying high in the aviation industry

Alice Kamweru - Base Maintenance Aircraft Technician [Courtesy]

A few weeks ago, Kenya Airways’ Captain Ruth Karauri was widely lauded for expertly landing a Boeing 787 at London’s Heathrow Airport during a storm.

She executed a near-perfect cross-landing under raging wind speeds of over 70 knots during Storm Eunice. It was a proud moment for Kenya and an even prouder moment for women.

The aviation industry is one of the least balanced when it comes to gender, especially at the technical and top leadership levels.

Often, women are under-represented in many areas of aviation.

The Standard talked to three more women at the national carrier, who are shattering the glass ceiling in other areas of aviation.

Alice Kamweru-Base Maintenance Technician

“When we were in Class Two or Three, we went for a field trip to Wilson Airport. We got into a hangar, something we had never seen before. The planes were so intriguing, and I was amazed that they were so big yet they could fly. I think that was where my interest in aviation was born,” she said.

“We also used to live along Lang’ata Road and we would pass by Wilson. My dad would tell me if that’s what I wanted to do, then I should work hard and he would take me to school. That was how I got into aviation.” 

She is now living her dream, working as a Base Maintenance Aircraft Technician at Kenya Airways and is one of the few women technicians among many men.

Her work is to ensure that the aircrafts are airworthy according to the regulator’s standards.

She has been a technician for nine years.

To women who want to join aviation, she says, “Work hard, stay focused, be patient and be disciplined. With discipline, you can achieve anything. If you take shortcuts, they will come back to bite you. It is a nice industry and it is growing.”

Fiona Apuu Losike – K9 security operator

Impressively, Fiona is the only woman qualified as aviation dog handler in Kenya. She handles detection dogs in the area of narcotics and explosives at the airport.

“In narcotics, the dogs identify illicit substances, while in explosives, the dogs search for traces of bomb-making materials,” she said. “We also do routine trainings for the dogs, so that they can be sharp and not forget what they’re supposed to do.”

The job is regarded as a man’s but she encourages women to join.

“I have a small quote for them: ‘Fear and faith are two sides of the same coin. Whichever way you focus it will dominate your life’,” she said. “A lot of women fear this job but if you have that faith and you take that step to risk it, it has its rewards.”

Phylis Wanjiku Mburu – Load Master

As a load master, Phylis’s duties include mathematically preplanning the correct placement of the load on the airplane, providing passenger comfort and safety, securing cargo and taking part in airdrop operations.

“We ensure the safe loading and offloading of the aircraft and we have to accompany the flight from one station to the next. The loadmaster has to be onboard to do the weight and balancing of the aircraft,” she said.

She is one of the only two women in the department which has 30 men. She loves her job and encourages other women to go for it. “There is nothing that is too difficult about it. Everything is doable. You just need to be focused and go for it. You will get all the support that you need,” she said. 

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