Francis Rusenyanteko, an air transport expert in the Ministry of Infrastructure, is one of the longest serving Rwandans in the aviation field.
In an interview with The New Times, Rusenyanteko narrated his long career.
“First and foremost, mistakes are simply not acceptable in aviation because a mistake, no matter how small, could lead to a catastrophe. It is a very demanding job and needs extreme concentration when on duty. People’s lives depend on air traffic controllers,” he explained.
A former pilot instructor, he was born in 1950 in the current Rwamagana District. He is the eldest of his four siblings. He attended primary school in Rwamagana but later had to go into exile in Uganda with his family during the 1959 pogroms.
“I completed my junior secondary school in a refugee camp in Isingiro county, Mbarara district at Kanjawo Primary School. I went to Ibanda Senior Secondary before I joined Ntare where I completed my A’ Level,” Rusenyanteko narrated.
The soft-spoken Rusenyanteko said he had the opportunity to pursue a Bachelors degree in Science Education at Makerere University but due to his passion for engineering, he decided to take on the chance granted to him by the East African School of Aviation in Nairobi.
“Many people were interviewed but fortunately, I passed. I was delighted because that was a firm step in my career. During that time, it was hard for a foreigner in Uganda to pursue courses such as engineering,” he recalled.
At just 23, Rusenyanteko worked at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in the then East African Area Control Centre as an area controller. In 1976, he was transferred to Uganda, worked briefly at Entebbe Airport and was later sent to the Soroti Flying School. Formerly called the East African Flying Academy, the school trained pilots from the East African Community.
“I was sent to the school as an instructor for pilots, also known as the ground school instructor. I had a flying license known as the Private-Pilot license. In 1978, I went to Belgium to do a course in airline transportation and then came back to Soroti. As time passed, I was promoted from instructor to senior instructor, and in 1988, I was appointed the director of the academy until I came back to Rwanda in 1994,” he continued.
The soon to be retired Rusenyanteko described the first time he flew a small plane as one of his most memorable moments.
“The first time I was airborne, it wasn’t as a passenger. I flew with my instructor and the experience was wonderful. My instructor wanted to see if I was scared and as soon as we were off the ground, he turned the aircraft to the left, which is called a steep- turn and I was close to jumping out thinking we were going to crash! But you eventually get used and it becomes more and more exciting,” he said.
Regarding his impressive 39-year career, Rusenyanteko said, “the experience was exciting and that made for an interesting career. Whenever I meet my former students flying planes, I feel very proud because I have done something positive in the aviation industry. I actually feel safer when the pilot is a former student of mine. Career wise, it is not stagnant because technology grows and so do the challenges. There is always something new to learn.”
For his incredible work, Rusenyanteko was awarded by the East African community in recognition of his contribution to the development and growth of the aviation industry in the East African region.
Besides being an expert in the aviation field, Rusenyanteko is a family man. he married Apolly Mudamali in 1994 and they were blessed with six children, three sons and three daughters.
“I’m also mighty proud that my first child (Nelson Manzi) followed in my footsteps and is currently an area radar controller with the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority. It’s wonderful when he comes to me for advice every time he is faced with a challenge at work,” Rusenyanteko expressed.
“As I approach retirement, I’m happy with the growth and development of the aviation in the region and in Rwanda, in particular. There are several airlines operating in Rwanda compared to what was there before,” Rusenyanteko concluded.