Tanzania’s President, John Pombe Magufuli, called on their citizens to emulate the pilot who tricked the JKIA officials and stole a plane belonging to the Kenyan government.
It is reported that Magufuli rewarded the pilot, Naziz Peter Mapunda, with a presidential golden handshake of TShs10 million (Kshs 450,000) cash.
Following the collapse of the East African Community (EAC) in January 1977, through which the East African Airways was managed, it is alleged that Mapunda tricked the aviation officials in Kenya and fled to Tanzania.
“He pretended to be landing the plane at the (Nairobi) airport but decided to take off with it without clearance by the authorities, risking his life for his country. That is patriotism, and we must all emulate him,” Magufuli lauded the brave pilot.
According to reports, Kenya and Tanzania had very poor relations at the time of the incident. Uganda had already exited the EAC.
Each country was to own the planes that were in its territory and as it happened, Mapunda was in Nairobi and was supposed to hand over his plane to the Kenyan authorities.
The plane later formed the original fleet for Air Tanzania which was launched three months after the dramatic fall of the East African Airways.
The Tanzanian president, who also termed Mapunda’s actions as the epitome of patriotism, further gifted the pilot with an offer to enjoy free, lifetime Air Tanzania flights to any destination across the country.
Nonetheless, reports also claim that a Kenyan pilot, Captain John Kiniti, made a similar sacrifice for Kenya after Tanzania grounded East African Airways at Dar es Salaam International Airport.
Kiniti had just fueled his plane when an order was made to stop East African Airways planes from refueling.
Sensing the company had collapsed, he shared his fuel with two other Kenyan pilots and they flew despite being warned by air control officials.
Kiniti then switched off his radio and flew over international waters to avoid being shot by Tanzanian fighter jets.