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Friday, November 19, 2010

What you will never know about some Kenyan pilots

If you are about to fly off somewhere I strictly recommend that you do not read this post until you get back from your trip.

I want to discuss Kenyan pilots. There is no better time to discuss them than now. It is certainly better than trying to discuss them after a major air disaster.
Kenya Airways’ Captain Irene Koki Mutungi the first woman captain of a passenger jet aircraft in Africa (flies the Boeing 737-300 for KQ) is a trail blazer in many ways. I dare say that women have proved time and again to be more trustworthy when given grave responsibilities like regularly “holding the lives of passengers in their hands.” Read more about this amazing Kenyan woman.

I must admit that aviation is a subject that really fascinates me. Right from the amazing humble beginnings to the latest developments, I always love anything I can get my hands on that talks about the aviation industry then and now. Then there are countless episodes of Air crash investigations and Seconds from disaster that I have taken in on DSTV and elsewhere. And so as I have been digging around for information on Kenyan pilots, I am not totally ignorant of the subject.

But let’s start this post with a bizarre conclusion from a court of Inquiry probe into the Air India Express plane crash in May this year. The inquiry concluded that the disaster was caused by a “sleepy pilot” who had in fact been asleep for most of the flight from Dubai to the city of Mangalore. He was therefore disoriented as he approached the runaway at the wrong angle and even ignored several warning signs. The plane carrying low cadre Indian immigrant workers coming back home to for their annual holidays overshot the runway, plunging into a gorge and burst into flames. Eight people survived the inferno. Close to 350 people died in the crash. Experts at the inquiry said that because the pilot of the Indian aircraft was suffering "sleep inertia" he made the fatal mistake of trying to take off again when applying emergency brakes would have comfortably saved the situation. Read more about the accident report HERE.

Apparently the Air India Express pilot was a Serbian and everybody knows that pilots from that side of the world (mostly any country that was part of the former unified USSR) have a reputation for being reckless. But let us turn our attention to Kenyan pilots which is what this post is supposed to be about.

I was pleasantly surprised to be informed that Kenyan pilots are considered to be amongst the best in the world. How can I forget what this veteran pilot told me;

“I know a couple of Kenyan pilots who are way too comfortable landing a jet aircraft in freezing conditions where ice can be treacherous. It is as if they were born in those kinds of conditions. Splendid pilots I tell you.”

I have heard many other words of praise for particular Kenyan pilots from many quarters.

However digging deeper, there are some horrifying tales of what really goes on behind the scenes. It is one tyhing to be a talented pilot and quite another to be a disciplned one. Admittedly discipline in a pilot is a very personal thing and trying to supervise it in pilots can even be harder. The truth is that despite the clear rules many of our pilots take to the air when they are drunk or have not had enough sleep.

These days flying a modern jet aircraft is very much an automated kind of thing. So a pilot mostly plays a supervisory role. We have the autopilot mode and fly-by-wire technology that introduces computer precision that no human can match to functions like descending gradually for a landing. At first glance this may appear to be a good thing and it is. But the downside is that a pilot literally “goes to sleep” and staying alert becomes very difficult. So in many ways the old days of manual flying were better because they kept a pilot alert during the entire duration of the flight.

The thing about the sophisticated computers that are today’s jet aircrafts is that if anything goes wrong it will need a very quick-witted alert pilot to quickly take in and understand the situation and make a decision, sometimes with a deadline of split seconds or just a few minutes, which could make the difference between life and death. You don’t want a pilot who is drunk or sleepy in that kind of situation. Or one who is less than fully alert because they were having a good time with some young lasses in some exotic world capital night club most of the previous night.

What makes matters worse is that pilots get away with this kind of thing all the time. One could even be lucky enough to complete their entire career sleeping most of the time without any mishap or unfortunate incidents like the Air India Express crash happening. But what happens the day something goes wrong?

Could disaster have been averted and lives saved when things went wrong in the Kenya Airways aircraft in Abidjan in 2000 (mystery of cause still to be solved) and in Cameroon in 2007 (What the crash investigations report said about pilot error)

See also: Ugly wars in the sky between Kenya Airways and the South Africans

Join the raging Kumekucha debate about drug barons in government.


Anonymous said...

I flew KQ recently to Johannesburg and i can tell you I did not like the way the plane just hit the ground when landing--it was not a landing but an arrival! I could tell that something was not just right with the pilot.

Anonymous said...

Pleasant surprise from Kumekucha. Not the kind of article I would expect. Very interesting though. Kudos Chris you really are a very talented writer my brother.

Anonymous said...


It's not just our pilots who hit the cock pit when drunk, it happens all the time in many cities across the world, which is terribly wrong! I know one pilot who frequents simmers opp 680 hotel hours before his flight! I also totally concur that Kenya has very brilliant pilots. I have an uncle who works for SA airlines as a Captain. We have too many pilots in Kenya chasing very few jobs and that's why they end up in other countries. The whole of Air Uganda looks like a Kenyan affair! I salute Bwana Wambugu who's on that route for doing a fantastic job. See this link about a drunk pilot in US...

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:03 I concur. I have known a few pilots in my time (from all over the world). Being drunk is not the worst thing they do. Some like to have sex 30,000 feet in the air wid hostesses mostly. Pilots r crazy fellows I tell u.

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you that KQ has the best pilots I know. I sleep comfortably on a KQ plane than any other and yes I have worked for three airlines. Afican and two European. Try a crate of beer and enter a cockpit my friend see if you will not sober up! Anon @1220am Aircraft manufacturers recommned a hard landing not a soft one that's how pilots are trained other factors like speed of wind etc are as communicated by ATC (air traffic control) and in some airports one can get wrong info or even sudden change by mother nature. Chris the KQ crash in Cameroon - the same type of aircraft went down same circumstances in Lebanon (Ethiopian Airways). Boeing needs to explain something! Both aircrafts were new and took off in stormy weather. Hundreds of take offs like this daily - no issues except with this equipment as discovered the hard way. FYI the lady pilot you praise is one of the lousiest in KQ. Dad was chief pilot KQ..fill in the rest of the gaps. However, I do know very good lady pilots in KQ and elsewhere. Stick to politics my friend, not aviation.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 3.13

"FYI the lady pilot you praise is one of the lousiest in KQ. Dad was chief pilot KQ.."

just like i thought! this is kenya, there's always a twist in the tale!

"Stick to politics my friend, not aviation."

Nuff said!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 3.13 AM wacha wivu, Captain Mutungi is an excellent, Dad being a former KQ Chief Pilot notwithstanding. Wasn't it her dad who inspired her to join aviation after she dilly dallied with the option of joing KAF!

Stick to serving plates on the plane, wachana na pilots, it's to high-tech for you.

Anonymous said...

Anon@503AM granted dad may have been an inspiration but poor girl struggles..and no I aint an aeroplane waitress buddy! I train them

Anonymous said...

Anon 9AM the way you talk does not show you train pilots. Try another one on someone else.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9.00 AM

Too much bile on Mutungi. The girl doesn't struggle I have flown in a plane where she was captain and it was smooth.

Please don't lie to us that you train pilots! You sound like a porter! To much luggage wheighing you down man.

Anonymous said...


Can you do a post on Somalis? I think we are sitting on powder Keg that is just waiting to explode. Can you confirm from your sources if indeed it's true that over 3million Somalis have infiltrated Kenya in the last 7 years.

Is this what made Al - Amin Kimathi and Sheikh Dor to make the proclamation that Kenya will be an Islamic State in 20years?

I hear that Nairobi, Kajiado, Kisumu, Machakos and Mombasa are being invaded by Somalis. Furthermore, there is a virtual takeover of properties in South C, State House, Eastleigh and South B.

Why is the government not stopping the ID and Passport racket in Eastleigh? And Immigration officials are now charging $ 250 per fake ID.

And how could a community who as per the last census in 1999, had a population of around 850,000 skyrocket to 2,200,000 isn't that mind boggling, over 140% growth.

AP's and regular police have been recruiting Somalis in large numbers. I can only say God help Kenya and God help STOP the Islamisation of our Nation.

Anonymous said...

Folks, he never said he trains pilots he said he trains air waitresses! or am i mistaken?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

i know this is a blog and you can write whatever you like but if you are going to write please just try to write somethig resembling a descend article.

the article is about kenyan pilots and majority of the article you spend talking about your love for aircrafts/flying, computerised flight mode and pilots(not kenyan pilots) you also did not say anything of intelligence value about a kenyan pilot, almost all the things you stated are done by just about any pilot on the planet not just kenyan pilots.

just re-read your article and you might see some glaring things that you can easily fix

i am not just critising your article just for the sake of it, but i hope you take your witting to a higher level. you are almost there just put in alittle bit more effort and you can save us from the kenyan newspaper editors and authors that really need to take classes on how to write.

btw great blog boss.

Anonymous said...

Chris,if you care so much about the welfare of other kenyans like you want us to believe here,then why don't you do something about this evil that is happening in kenya.

Is it not embarrassing to watch this video?

Philip said...

I don't know so much about the KQ accident in Cameroon but rumourmill says that the pilot used to drink a lot and during that time he was drunk. Further rumourmill says that the route used to be a training route so a trainee pilot was left to do everything.

Anonymous said...

well, having lots of air miles done over the past 10 years, i must agree that KQ pilots are just as good as those of other carriers, KLM, United, Thai Emirates, BA, Qatar, Lufthansa, Garuda etc...
What KQ really needs to work on are the rest of their air (and ground) crew. Dreadful! Their uniforms are pathetic too.

Anonymous said...

btw--did anyone see the nation article on ngilu's family biz? Quite illuminating indeed. Hope the bondo bumpkin weighs in on this sooner rather than later. Safi kama pamba!

Anonymous said...

@11/20/10 11:46 AM ,

Hahaha , I pity you !!!Go hang somewhere ...

Anonymous said...

@Anon 6.13 AM

I will not hang!!!! God will see us through and will not allow Islam to take over this great nation.

The Kingdom of the TRUE GOD YAHWEH!

Anonymous said...


I hear that you are so SAD! today, but not to worry, I have a remedy for you. Why don't you put your head under the covers and fart and hope that you can suffocate and die!

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9.43am
He he he you are cracking me up, am LMAO

Anonymous said...

@9:02 AM , God is not a property of yours nor is he mine .Rest assured he will not be part of your personal envy or hatred, but will act in the best interest of all.So I advice go into some ..... and pray really hard instead of asking your god "chris-Kumekucha", to help you.furthermore you believe he as able god .Good luck .Reminder: things will take a natural course which non can control .

Anonymous said...

Charity Ngilu is as white, as white as snow. That's what the 'safi kama pamba' bondo bumpkin told us.

Anonymous said...

yes, she is just as white as uhuru passat, kiraitu triton, saitoti goldenberg, ongeri free education, kimunya grand regency and ...need i continue? mama rainbow is going nowhere ng'o!! just the many tricks being used to isolate agwambo - it will fail just like all the rest.

Joe said...


Somehow you managed to write about Kenyan pilots without saying anything about..... well, Kenyan pilots! I agree, its hard to gauge the quality of pilots in general until one of those thing fall off the sky but please, do a little research.

anon@9AM. Training waitresses and being one is not very different really.

Anonymous said...

Christopher KUMEKUCHA.

Do you know the newest member of billionaire boys clubs in Kenya? He's also the the politicians with the fastest growing bank account. I'm sure despite having your ear on the ground, you don't have a clue! Despite being an insider who boasts of having sources in high offices you simply don't have a clue. You and your readers don't even have a clue on the project this billionaire (new money) has going on in upper hill area of Nairobi which in my rough estimate costs no less than 3BN Kenya shillings. This recently mega wealthy stinking rich you politician was almost bankrupt just 7 years ago. I know how he's made his billions in the last few years. I know all his investments worth billions spread all over the country. He's lying low making big bucks as other 'foolish' politicians mud-sling each other. I will give you a clue but you can dig/investigate further if you really care about Kenya. He's famous for saying..."I would rather die than......"

kenyaone said...

Anon 11.41 pm . I know. he used to be in saint marys. Chris. Im told, cannot be sure but one of the pilots on the cameroun flight was very drunk. And as a result he insisted that the plane should take off in weather that most pilotsbecause of their training would refuse to fly in. Secondly the military plane the flew MPs to marsabit and crashed on hil a few years ago. That pilot was supposedly drinking in choices until the wee hours lof morning and then flew at 7am. Yes and chris just as someone has suggested. Something in depth on Somalia and how it is an unknow factor in kenyas future especially considering the threat of terrorism. cheers.

Anonymous said...

Kenyans like Irene Koki Mutungi are really HATED by common/ordinary immigrants in the UK, America, Canada and Europe.

CIs ("common immigrants") or OMs ("ordinary immigrants") who are steeped in mediocrity don't like to hear or read about the successful careers of Kenyan women and men like Captain Irene Koki Mutungi.

Captain Irene Koki Mutungi has been an inspiration to most young Kenyans who aspire for careers in the aviation industry since she took to flying the skies.

People's negative and jealousy comments speak for themselves and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their mentality.

"Why women like Irene Koki Mutungi?" "Why not me?" "Why?"

Anonymous said...

When ODM said it out time to eat, they meant it!

No wonder the Bondo Bumpkin aka Raila Molasses is busy defending that witch from Ukambani who clearly been caught stealing from Kenyan Taxpayers through spooky (ghost) projects!

Anonymous said...

If we can have female Pilot, then why can't we have female president?

A woman president would make a fanastic leader for our country. Men are failures. Since independence we have seen nothing of a substance to our nation.

Btw, I am a man

Anonymous said...

...@anon 5.57... correction

I meant...

When ODM said it's our time to eat, they meant it!

No wonder the Bondo Bumpkin aka Raila Molasses is busy defending that witch from Ukambani who clearly been caught stealing from Kenyan Taxpayers through spooky (ghost) projects!

Anonymous said...

So if nothing of substance has been seen in our nation then it surely means both men and women were responsible! If the men and only the men were responsible where the eff were the women, why did they not stand up to be counted? Ngilu tried but look @ her now! We r all the same!

Anonymous said...

@ammon 5:57 am, great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people.

Anonymous said...

Sonko MUST blame all his tribulations on none other than Raila, LOL!

Gitts said...

Thought I would get some inside info on Kenyan pilots but wapi! Pilots' work is very critical an safety should never be compromised. Plus I prefer loss of situational awareness to pilot error as the cause of air disasters

Anonymous said...

Female President? Why not in 2012?

Should the blame be placed on the woman folk for the absence of a female president in State House?

Let's blame it on the failures of men since the day Kenya gained its independence.

Anhy how, the question should be 'if Liberia, Germany, Brazil etc can have women leaders at the helm, why not countries like Kenya, Bostwana, Ghana, Nigeria and Malawi?'

As matter of fact, men may have beeen failures to some extent but it's the African women, the Kenyan female voters that have been their own worst enemy since the continent started craving fro independence.

Rarely has the nation seen a woman of substance come along to lead it, let alone rise above the lucrative gender industry or ethnic political swamps to guide the nation toward its next phase of freedom and real independence.

Let's take a good look at the past and current female politicians and find out who among them had or has the credentials to be a leader of a nation like Kenya?

Do you see any of them as being presidential material for 2012 or 2017?

What about the country's women voters? What became of their votes when Ngilu tried to run for the presidency?

The sensors and gender stats reminds us that Kenyan women out their men counterparts, eight to one.

So, what's the real problem when women are at the polls? Whom do they vote for, how they vote and why do they vote the way they do?

BTW, should I declare my gender just in case it becomes any issue?

LOL! I am a Kenyan voter and I will leave it at that without trying to the gender card in.

Vdon said...

Hi anon av got a personal querry on this.0714602278.please txt n al call

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