RwandAir gets first homegrown Chief pilot

RwanAir Director of Operations Patrick Gonzenbach (left) and new Chief pilot Captain Fred M Karagwe
In Summary

Nearly 22 years since its founding, flag carrier RwandAir has appointed its first a Rwandan Chief […]

Nearly 22 years since its founding, flag carrier RwandAir has appointed its first a Rwandan Chief Pilot.  Flight Captain Fred M Karagwe’s elevation to the position was announced by Director of Operations Patrick Gonzenbach in a recent post on social media.

“We are delighted to celebrate a significant milestone in the history of Rwandair Ltd and the aviation community in Rwanda.

“Effective 27 December, 2023, Captain Fred M Karagwe, has been appointed the first Rwandan Chief Pilot of RwandAir. As we enter a new year full of challenges and opportunities, I have full confidence that Fred’s leadership will contribute significantly to the growth and success of our airline,” Gozenbach said.

Little is known about Captain Karagwe, except that he is a veteran of the Rwanda Defence Forces airwing, where he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. It is normal the world over for former military airmen to join civil air transport and make good pilots. Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the hero of the famous “Miracle on the Hudson,” is an example.

As Gozenbach says, Karagwe’s elevation marks a significant step in RwandAir’s growth and the evolution of Rwandan aviation. When the carrier launched in April 2002, it started with a wet-leased Boeing 737-500. Subsequent years saw different types such as a McDonnel MD 80 and De Havilland Dash 8-100 leased.0

Even when Rwandair embarked on its aggressive development plan in 2010 that saw new generation B737- 700 and -800’s as well as CRJ’s join the fleet, there we no Rwandan pilots to fly them. That the airline has a big compliment of Rwandan pilots, one of whom has become Chief Pilot is testimony to its systematic growth that has made it one of the major carriers in Africa today.


Although it is likely to see radical change in the coming months or years RwandAir operates a fleet of 13 aircraft. Three of these are widebody Airbus A330s split between a pair of -200s and the larger 300. These serve routes to Europe, notably London, Brussels and Paris. The widebodies are also occasionally used on dense African routes to West Africa.

The carrier also operates four mid-range 737-800s, a single B737-700 and B737 freighter. The regional fleet is composed of a pair of each of Bombardier CRJ900ER and De Havilland Canada Dash 8-Q400s.

Speaking to African media on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Istanbul last June, chief executive Yvone Makolo revealed that plans were underway to phase out the CRJ’s and Dash 8s. The CRJ’s will be replaced by 737s, itself indicative of a maturing network. A decision on the Dash 8 is pending as a suitable replacement is sought.

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