Pilot of Doomed Ethiopian Airlines Plane Remembered as Loving Son

By Samuel Getachew
Samuel Getachew
Samuel Getachew
March 14, 2019 Updated: March 14, 2019

ADDIS ABABA/EJERE, Ethiopia—Yared Getachew, the pilot of the doomed Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed in Ejere on March 10, is being remembered as an experienced pilot, loving son, and inspiring friend.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear Yared,” the family said in a statement. “With his impeccable record as a pilot, he was one of the youngest in Ethiopian Airlines history to captain a Boeing 737.”

Yared Getachew
Yared Getachew, pilot of the Ethiopian Airlines plane that crashed on March 10, 2019. (Family handout)

Getachew (no relation to the reporter), a Kenyan citizen, was said to have alerted controllers of having difficulties and had asked permission to return to the Bole International Airport six minutes after departure when the now-banned Boeing 737-8 Max plane nosedived, instantly killing all 157 passengers.

According to Ethiopian Airlines, Getachew was the youngest person to reach the status of senior captain with the airline, at the age of 29. He had more than 8,000 hours of flight time to his credit.

Born into an affluent family of dentists, with an Ethiopian father and an Indian-Kenyan mother, Getachew was planning to get married this year to a woman working in the same airline.

At Oshwal high school in Kenya, he was described as an accomplished student and a competitive swimmer, nicknamed, “Mr. Fish.”

According to his family, he didn’t want to follow in his parent’s footsteps, and joined the airline industry at the age of 19 as a cadet pilot. By then, his father, Getachew Tessema (in Ethiopia, a father’s first name is his child’s last name), was contracted to work with Ethiopian Airlines and convinced him to join as a pilot in Ethiopia, while his mother, Rayan Shapi, remained in Spring Valley Estate, in Kenya.

“I pushed him to go to move to Ethiopia for education where there were plenty of options for him,” Getachew Tessema said. “I knew, within Ethiopia and such a reputable airline, he would have a meaningful life and would find fulfillment, than any other place.”

Friends at Oshwal high school, a private school founded by Kenyans of Indian descent, remember a model and sociable student.

“Yared truly had an outstanding personality, always positive, and ever filled with so much love,” reflected a former classmate from Oshwal in a social media post. “As much as we, Team Oshwal, are shocked and saddened by the horrific news, we will miss a profoundly good human being dearly and we draw strength and inspiration from him.”

His parents were delighted with the news of their elder son planning to get married this year. His father had recently returned to Ethiopia and had started construction of a hotel project in Adama.

Getachew was said to be close to his mother. Just before taking off for Nairobi, his mother said he told her, “I am coming to Nairobi. I have forgotten my phone, but we will talk once I get there.” Those would be his last words to her.

Getachew leaves behind parents, a younger brother, and family members around the world.

Samuel Getachew
Samuel Getachew