Kenya’s national carrier Kenya Airways and Avianor have struck a deal that will see them repurpose KQ’s aircraft cabins into cargo transportation on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

KQ says it is the first ever cargo repurpose of this type to be performed on the Boeing 787, demonstrating the role of the national carrier’s and Avianor as trailblazers in the aero industry.

According to a statement issued by KQ, the repurposed cabin has been certified to carry up to 16 tonnes of cargo, enabling it to reach its maximum payload while in cargo operation of 46 tonnes.

The repurposing, the airline says, started in December last year and was completed last month, with KQ saying the move was informed by the growing demand for increased cargo capacity.

“We are excited to be part of the first ever certified cargo conversion of this type on the Boeing 787 aircraft. It demonstrates our agility, innovation and quick thinking as well as increases our cargo capability and capacity to keep essential goods moving across the globe,” said KQ MD and CEO Allan Kilavuka.

The carrier also said it is ready to meet demand for essential and medical goods and back future commercial opportunities and contribute to the stimulation of local and regional economies.

“Kenya Airways will keep playing its role as a catalyst for economic growth in the continent, by connecting the world to Africa, and Africa to the world for both our Cargo and Passenger customer segments,” Kilavuka added.

Avianor, an affiliate of DRAKKAR Aerospace & Ground Transportation, has been a leader in MRO, integration and interior finishing of commercial and military aircraft for over 25 years.

The company is located at Montreal-Mirabel International Airport.

KQ currently has nine Dreamliners in its fleet, which are primarily used for passenger flights.

In 2020, Kenya Airways used some of its Boeing 787 aircraft for cargo transportation but their seats remained and this limited the space needed for an increased freight capacity.

KQ received air worthiness approval from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCCA) and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and is set to start cargo flights on the first ever repurposed certified Dreamliner in the world.

“Avianor’s team has been pioneering the main deck temporary cargo repurposing process in response to the need for rapid increase in air freight cargo capacity at the onset of the pandemic. We are very excited to now be working with Kenya Airways to adapt this solution for their 787 aircraft,” said Matthieu Duhaime, President and CEO Avianor.

Duhaime added, “This represents a unique design and certification challenge, and we are thrilled to demonstrate, once again, our ability to find unprecedented solutions to customer needs.”

KCAA Director General Captain Gilbert Kibe lauded KQ for boldness in tackling the need for extra cargo space as the aviation industry recovers from turbulence occasioned by Covid-19.

“As passenger numbers are at an all-time low, airlines have had to look for alternative means of revenue to stay afloat. This project is economically significant as it will retain and create new jobs as well as support Kenya Airways in its recovery efforts to diversify revenues,” said Captain Kibe.

He added, “More importantly, with the upcoming vaccination distribution, Kenya Airways has readily positioned itself to transport the vaccines destined for Africa and other destinations, therefore creating a considerable advantage for the airline and its’ safe operations.”