Fiona Akoth: From Kisumu first female Kenyan pilot to fly US Air Force jets
1st Lt. Fiona Akoth made history by becoming the first female Kenyan to serve in the US Air Force, inspiring many young Kenyan women to reach for the skies, quite literally.
Akoth, who always wanted to be a pilot, is from a humble background in the lakeside city of Kisumu and beat all odds to realise her dream of becoming a pilot.
She moved from Kisumu on the edge of Lake Victoria, where she lived with her grandparents as her mother attended college in the US, to America at the tender age of 13 and full of dreams.
In the US she went to middle school in Texas and grew up in a home near an airport and she would watch the planes fly each day together with her friends, igniting her desire to fly one day.
But life in the US was not rosy for her.
“I was well engrained in the roots back in Kenya. I had to leave a familiar country with a familiar group of friends when I was just becoming a teenager looking for a solid foundation and that was challenging,” Akoth said.
On clearing high school, she started searching for colleges and this was yet another challenge.
“I knew there was no way my parents could afford college so I had to apply for a lot of scholarships,” she said.
She settled on the Air Force Academy, which she joined to pay back America for letting her prosper and for the challenge, in the process changing her family’s perception on her choice.
Akoth graduated from the Air Force Academy back in 2017 after training to be an Air Force pilot at the Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi.
“It has been my destiny to become a pilot. My grandfather always told me to never give up on my dream and now here I am,” she said after her graduation at the Academy.
Before training, she was selected to be part of the Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) since she was fluent in Swahili.
The Programme permits Airmen who can speak another language fluently to translate and help build community relations with local populations near military instillations.
Akoth tries to be a role model to all the young women in her Kisumu hometown and anyone who has a dream to show that if you put in the extra work and dedication you can live your dream.