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Meet Ruth Karauri, wife of Kasarani MP elect and Sportpesa boss Ronald Karauri

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 Captain Ruth Karauri and her husband Ronald Karauri, Kasarani MP-elect (Photo: Courtesy)

When SportPesa CEO Ronald Karauri was declared winner in the Kasarani Constituency election, garnering 32,406 votes followed closely by his opponent John Njoroge who got 30,444 votes.

His wife Ruth Karauri took to social media to congratulate him and assured Kasarani residents that they had made the right choice.

Ruth asserted that her husband would deliver on his promises and thanked all those who elected him for believing in his vision.

Who is Ruth Karauri?

Many know Captain Ruth Karauri for her crosswind-landing on February 18 at London’s Heathrow Airport during Storm Eunice. It was at 4.01 pm. 

“As skilful as people said it looked, it was a normal landing to me. The technique I used is one I apply daily but to varying degrees depending on the strength of the wind,” she says of the video that went viral.

With the winds up to 60 knots on that day, the landing technique came in handy.

“Wind speed is measured in Knots. On a typical day, the most one would encounter is about 20 knots or 25 knots if it’s really bad.”

On this day she went viral, the winds were at 45 knots gusting to 60 knots, a wind magnitude you don’t experience every day. This is where the skill really comes out.

Starting out

Her interest in flying started when in class two when she saw a Kenya Airways (KQ) advert on TV. “What caught my attention was the pilot’s uniform. I wanted to wear that uniform, especially the hat. At the time, I didn’t even know pilots flew planes.”

In high school, having conceptualised what flying was all about, she discovered that flying wasn’t quite affordable. But that didn’t stop her from dreaming. After completing high school (Alliance High School) and scoring an A, she was called to Moi University to pursue a course in Electrical Engineering.

In the two-year gap prior to joining the university, KQ advertised positions for ab initio pilots.

“I applied and qualified to be among the 15 from over 3,000 applicants, after three rounds of interviews. We were then flown to Addis Ababa for the 20-month training,” she says wondering where she’d be had she gone to Moi University.

 Ruth met Ronald Karauri in flying school (Photo: Courtesy)

Meeting Karauri

“I met my husband in flying school. The first time I saw him, he was wearing cream trousers and a blue shirt,” she remembers fondly.

“My first impression of him was that he was a gentleman. He was walking ahead of me and when he got to the door he held the door open until I got there. That has stuck with me to date,” she says unsure whether this gentlemanly act meant she had never met a gentleman before, “but at 19, straight from high school, I don’t think it would have taken much to impress me.”

“As he stood holding the door ajar, I wondered what he was waiting for,” she says of the only thing she recalls from their initial encounters. 

His decision to run for MP was also discussed between them, as it would change the family dynamics if elected into office.

 “We felt that it was time to stop sitting on the sidelines and blame everyone else when things go wrong. As Mahatma Gandhi put it, Be the change you want to see in the world.”

First-off

As a matter of firsts, the 737 was the first jet aircraft, she ever flew as a first officer. Her first day was September 1, 2004.

 “I flew the 737 for a year, then flew the 767 for two years, the 777 for three years before I became a captain in the 737. Before flying a different kind of aircraft, you have to undergo a six-week conversion training to acclimatize yourself with the particular aircraft system,” she says.

What are her most memorable flights? “My first flight as a passenger, the flight to Addis Ababa for the training, my first flight in flying school and my first flight at KQ come to mind, my first solo flight (without the instructor). I especially cherish these memories because they make me more appreciative and sensitive to first-time passengers who remind me that I was there at one point.”

“My first flight as a captain was so surreal. I was constantly looking at the instrumentation and the fuel and the weather. Usually, as a first officer, you rest knowing that if anything goes wrong you can look to your left where the captain sits. As a captain, when you look to the left it’s a window giving you a reflection of yourself. When we landed, it felt like I had been carrying the plane on my back, and only then did I relax,” she says of that night flight to Accra.

Thriving in a male-dominated industry

First time flying into Cotonou, Benin, was notable. “They could not wrap their minds around seeing a female pilot. And seeing that female pilots make up less than 10 per cent, I understand their shock.”

“But that should not stop any girl from believing that she can be whatever she sets her mind to,” she advises girls keen on joining the aviation industry.

Once you have believed you can do it, she recommends that you go for it. Going for it starts with letting your dream be known and asking questions.

“If I hadn’t let my parents know that I wanted to fly, I’d probably have ended up an electrical engineer. It was my father who showed me the ab initio pilot advert. I don’t know if he was on the lookout, actively trying to get me into flying school, but I wasn’t looking to push him to pay the hefty flying school fees seeing that there were others to be taken care of,” says Ruth who is the second of five siblings.

“I also appreciate the many questions I get from young people about getting into this industry, like which subjects would one should take in school to become a pilot or which flying school to attend – because just like any other schools there are good and bad flying schools –, and financial help questions,” she says especially for women who need to go the extra mile.

Motherhood

With flying taking her away from home, I inquire how she balances between family and work. “There’s no balance.” she gives as the short answer. “In my experience, if you try to balance, you have mediocrity on both ends. One thing has to suffer,” she says. In her case, her work suffers, at least for now. If by suffering she means clocking 9,000 flying hours as opposed to 12,000 which the career-oriented pilots that she was within the ab initio programme have managed, I too wouldn’t mind that kind of suffering. Flying hours is the measure of experience of a pilot.

The flying hours she has seemingly lost are a result of prioritizing family. For instance, she will not work on her days off which could have added to her flying hours or give herself to other bigger roles that would require more of her time. “My decision to start a family cost me an average of 1,000 flying hours per child,” says the mum of three: Nathan, 9; Natalie, 9 and Nia, 2

As she gets into her 40s, she can’t wait to see her children come into themselves. “Nathan is talented in music. He plays the piano and the saxophone and wants to learn the violin. Natalie is full of life and the girliest girl who absolutely loves pink, a colour I cannot stand. She plays the flute. We are yet to figure out Nia’s personality.”

As no situation is permanent, she hopes that when her children are grown up, as she approaches her 50s, she will give more time to advancing her career.

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