Captain Peninah Karanja: Meet RwandAir’s First Female Captain Currently Flying The Boeing 737NG

Captain Peninah Karanja is an experienced professional working in the aviation industry. She is skilled in Aviation Security, Air Charter, Aircraft Maintenance, Airlines, and Flight Safety. She was the first woman in Rwanda’s national courier, RwandAir, to become a Captain.

The airline operates domestic and international services to East Africa, Central Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, from its main base at Kigali International Airport in Kigali.


Captain Karanja was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya.


She attended Loreto High School Limuru for her high school education. In 2004, she left the country for South Africa, where she obtained her Private Pilot and Commercial Pilot Licenses at the 43 Air School in Port Albert.


Captain Karanja joined RwandAir in September 2012 and served as a First Officer. In May 12th, 2013, she joined the Airline, becoming the first woman in Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir to achieve such a feat.

Poster of Captain Peninah Karanja. |Courtesy| RwandAir Facebook|

As a captain, she has the final authority and responsibility for the operation and safety of the flight. She is responsible for checking the aircraft’s operational system, verifies take-off procedures, briefs crew members and communicates with air traffic control to ensure a safe take-off and landing before any take-off.

Industry leader

In her position as Captain, Karanja continues to inspire women in the aviation industry. Through her hands, Rwanda got its first female Commercial Pilot, Esther Mbabazi, who trained with her as her First Officer.

She is also passionate about house design, especially historical architecture. She said in a past interview that her love for architecture gives her insights into different eras, cultures and traditions of people around the world.

“In my free time I watch modern residential design videos and tutorials as well and make my own sketches. One day, I hope I will get the chance to design my dream house from these sketches,” she said.

File image of Captain Peninah Karanja (l). |Courtesy| RwandAir Facebook|