Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli has rewarded a pilot who tricked the JKIA officials and stole a plane belonging to the Kenyan government.
The incident took place in January 1977, following the collapse of the East African Community through which the East African Airways was managed.
Uganda had already exited the East African Airways, leaving it to be managed by Kenya and Tanzania which, at the time had very poor relations.
When the EAC finally collapsed in 1977, each country was to own the planes that were in its territory and as it happened, Mr Naziz Peter Mapunda was in Nairobi and was supposed to hand over his plane to the Kenyan authorities.
However, Mapunda tricked the aviation officials and fled to Tanzania, an action that was praised by President Magufuli as the epitome of patriotism.
“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 said.
The plane formed the original fleet for Air Tanzania which was launched three months after the dramatic fall of the East African Airways.
Mapunda was gifted with presidential golden handshake of TSh10 million (Ksh 450,000) cash and an offer to enjoy free, lifetime Air Tanzania flights to any destination across the country.
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 further East African Airways 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.