Aketch: Aviation specialist with passion for the job

His benefactor inspired him to take up engineering instead of pursuing becoming a pilot. Simon Kupalia Geoffrey Aketch grew up in Likoni, Kwale County before relocating to Kiambu with his family after his father was transferred to Nairobi. He attended Kasarini Primary School in Kiambaa before transferring to Garden Estate Primary School. They later moved to Limuru, where he joined Nyoro Primary School before transferring again to Catholic Parochial School in Nairobi from where he completed his primary education in 1988. Aketch was then admitted to St Mary’s School by virtue of his great talent in playing musical instruments. It all started in his primary school years at the Catholic Parochial School when a sister urged him to try music. He started with the recorder. He mastered the instrument and ended up becoming one of the best recorder players, scooping the top prize at the Kenya Music Festival. He was then introduced to the violin – one of the most difficult instruments to play – when he was in Standard Six. He won multiple awards as well, and St Mary’s School picked him to join the school. At St Mary’s, he joined the mechanics club under Father Tom Hogan – “He made mechanics look very interesting,” he said of Father Hogan. He had a passion for mechanics from a young age. He repaired other people’s bicycles and motorbikes after under the tutelage of some mechanic friends who also taught him about the car engine. After high school, he worked at the British High Commission for about a year and then joined Trans-Eastern Airlines Aviation College to pursue a mechanics course. “When I finished high school, I applied for courses at Toyota Kenya, National Youth Service and Nissan Kenya and waited for a long time without feedback,” recalls Aketch. But finally, he was admitted to the Trans-Eastern Airlines Aviation College, setting him on the path to achieving his dream of working in the aviation industry. “I tried and within two weeks, I was called for an interview and I passed.” His decision to settle for an aviation maintenance course was inspired by his mother’s boss. Aketch’s mother worked as a house help, and the family she worked for offered to pay for the course. “I used to accompany the man of the house to the airport, and he would show me around. I told him that I wanted to be a pilot, but he said being a pilot was more like being a bus driver, and that becoming an engineer was better,” he uttered. After his training at the aviation school, he joined Boskis Flying Tours as an apprentice. “I met fantastic people at Boskis who mentored me as well. They showed me around and let me handle sensitive things on the planes,” said Aketch. He eventually got a permanent opportunity at Air Kenya, where he met Steve Harris whom he says helped him on the next chapter of his career journey. His experience at Air Kenya had its fair share of highs and lows, he says. “The best moment for me is when I get to solve a difficult defect in an aircraft, and the most challenging time is having to rely on an electrical specialist when solving an electrical issue.” Aketch’s philosophy is: do your best whenever you can, and love your job for you to achieve your career goals. He still works at Air Kenya Express Ltd as a hanger maintenance engineer, specialising in NDT inspection – to determine the serviceability of components and materials. He plays the violin at the Nairobi Orchestra and at the Kenya Conservatoire of Music in his spare time.