Captain Daudi Kimuyu Kibati is set be laid to rest today in a ceremony to be attended by close family members and under strict government supervision, just 10 days after piloting the last flight from coronavirus-struck New York to bring Kenyans home.
The flight was one of salvation. One that sought to airlift Kenyans back home in a last-minute dash to escape the devastation caused by the virus in the US. Ultimately, though, it proved to be his last takeoff.
On Sunday, March 22, Captain Kibati, who is described by many as an easy-going, fun-loving pilot, left his home on Mbagathi Way in Nairobi for the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) where a Dreamliner Boeing 787 lay in wait.
The mission was simple. Get to New York, have a two-day layover and come back to Nairobi.
Captain Kibati had had more difficult missions before. In his long career that spanned more than 20 years, he had flown into new territories and through bad weather. The New York flight was a simple in-and-out job for the ex-military pilot who spent his formative years flying jet fighters.
The cockpit crew had three other people apart from him. The cabin crew for this roundtrip numbered 11.
In Kavisuni Village, where the pilot will be laid to rest, news of his death was met by unimaginable devastation by family, relatives and locals. Tributes poured in from leaders and residents from all corners of Kitui County.
“I am profoundly saddened by the demise of Captain Kibati. My deepest condolences to his wife Jane Kibati and the entire family. Losing a loved one is truly devastating,” posted Kitui Woman Representative Irene Kasalu.
Yesterday, the pilot’s mourning family requested privacy, stating that he had lived a private life.
“Major (Rtd) Captain Daudi Kibati lived and enjoyed his life quietly and away from the media and publicity. The family requests that we respect his wish as we sincerely mourn his untimely departure,” read the family’s statement posted in a WhatsApp group.