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Shadrack Ole Sainepu: The Maasai Warrior who Became East Africa’s First Commercial Pilot 

Shadrack Ole Sainepu.
Shadrack Ole Sainepu in an undated photo, is regarded as a pioneer commercial pilot in Kenya. Photo/X.

Shadrack Ole Sainepu gained notoriety in the late sixties and became the only African in East Africa to have a commercial pilot license.

The successful cameraman wowed his people who often regaled him with questions like:

“When you leave the ground do you keep going to the middle of nowhere?”

This is his story according to WoK.

Pursuing Education 

Nicknamed Loilel by his clan, some sources claim he was born in Kajiado County.

He would later be sent to Tanzania to pursue education. He hated school and sneaked out several times only to get taken back by the elders.

In a past interview, he said at the time the headmaster hated them because of their lifestyle. He did not understand the Maasai way of life.

Despite not loving school, he excelled and impressed the British by passing his A levels.

They made him a trainee assistant information officer and sponsored him to undertake film production and electronics in Zimbabwe.

He then studied at Kenya Polytechnic and was sponsored for further studies in electronics and film in Rhodesia.

Voice of Kenya

Upon his return to Kenya, he secured a job at the Voice of Kenya where he rose through the ranks to become a cameraman.

Becoming a Pilot 

His interest in aviation was sparked when in 1965 he was sent on assignment to cover the launch of United Mission Air Training and Transport Support (UMATT).

This was a non-governmental organization that offered free services to remote parts of Kenya.

He befriended an American pilot named Mike who also served as the director of UMATT and convinced him to offer him lessons.

After getting his first license, he worked on getting his commercial license by persuading the government to hire an aircraft which he would use to deliver mail to the remote parts of the country.

It was also said that he ferried Miraa for Somali traders to log in the required hours needed for the license.

UMATT would later change to Wings over Africa and he would be put in charge.

The station ferried supplies and government specialists to remote villages. In 1971, he was featured in the US publication Ebony Magazine. He would later disappear from the limelight.