Story of Mother & Daughter Dominating Aircraft Repairs in Kenya

  • A collage of Maureen Okomo (left) and her daughtr Vanessa Onyullo (2).jpg
    A collage of Maureen Okomo (left) and her daughter Vanessa Onyullo
  • The apple does not fall far from the tree. This is the case of Vanessa Onyullo, who took after her mother, Maureen Okomo, Kenya's first licensed female aeronautical engineer.

    Speaking during an interview with Her Standard, Okomo could not hide how proud she was of her first born daughter, who is also a registered aeronautical scientist in America.

    "It is very exciting and makes me feel good that I am have somebody who appreciated what I was doing all along. I was personally encouraged enough to get the courage to become an engineer," she narrated.

    A collage of Maureen Okomo (left) and her daughtr Vanessa Onyullo
    A collage of Maureen Okomo (left) and her daughtr Vanessa Onyullo

    Okomo narrated that her journey started with an internship opportunity which she almost turned down for being 'irrelevant'. The internship would later land her the job of her dreams. At the time of internship, she was a fourth-year Electronics and Electrical engineering student.

    During her four years at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agricultural Technology (JKUAT), it never occurred to her that she would work with an airline. It took extensive research for her to overcome her inner doubts and agree that she was in the right place and doing the right thing.

    "I ended up taking a three-month attachment with Kenya Airways. At the time, I was confused on why I was doing my internship at an airline with the training that I had. But my research showed me that what I had learnt was also applicable in the planes," Okomo recalled.

    While on attachment, the national courier was in need of engineers to meet the growth it was experiencing then. Her supervisor challenged her to apply for the job, expressing confidence that she would make the cut despite her still being a student.

    "I told him that I had neither finished my coursework nor did I have any certificates to carry with me for the interview. He insisted that I get my transcripts from the school, and in t-shirts and jeans, we walked into the interview rooms.

    "That is how my journey in aviation started, and I have enjoyed every step of it. I must say that even in my next life, I would still fix planes," she added.

    Okomo completed her studies and majored in avionics, a specialization that deals with aircraft systems. She is currently licenced by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) to handle radio communications and avionic systems.

    Her daughter Vanessa Onyullo, watching her mother at work, was inspired to join the aviation industry. She took a career in aeronautical engineering and holds an Airframe and Power Plant (A&P) license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in America.

    "I took a degree in Aviation Maintenance Science. Currently, I am practising as a reliability analyst. I work with the optimization and maintenance departments on the maintenance programme," Onyullo stated.

    The two are currently flying high in the industry and encourage other women to join them in the field.

    Planes landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)
    Planes landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA)