Kenya Airways, Avianor carry out first B787 ‘preighter’ conversion

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Kenya Airways (KQ) and Avianor, an aircraft MRO and cabin integration specialist reach an agreement to jointly repurpose two of the carrier’s B787 aircraft cabins for cargo carriage.

The joint effort is in response to the growing demand and need for increased cargo capacity with the grounding of much of the global passenger fleet. The cabin reconfiguration began in December 2020 and was completed in January 2021.

Kenya Airways has received air worthiness approval from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCCA) and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), and will soon begin cargo flights on the first ever repurposed certified Dreamliner in the world.

The two say this joint effort is a worldwide first in repurposing of the B787 cabin for cargo, “demonstrating Kenya Airways and Avianor’s role as trailblazers in the aero industry.” The repurposed cabin has been certified to carry up to 16 tonnes of cargo, potentially enabling the aircraft to reach its maximum payload while in cargo operation of 46 tonnes.

KQ 787
Kenya Airways notes it is prepared to respond to the ongoing demand for essential and medical goods and supporting future commercial opportunities thereby contributing to the stimulation of the local and regional economies.

“We are excited to be part of the first ever certified cargo conversion of this type on the Boeing 787 aircraft,” says Allan Kilavuka, group managing director & CEO, Kenya Airways. “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.

“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 adds. The carrier highlights this new collaboration demonstrates the airline’s confidence in Montreal-based Avianor, an affiliate of DRAKKAR Aerospace & Ground Transportation.

KQ currently has nine Dreamliners in its passenger fleet and in 2020, Kenya Airways used some of its B787 aircraft for cargo transportation, but the aircraft seats limited the space for freight. Kenya Airways notes that through Avianor’s expertise and engineering certifications, the company supervised Kenya Airways’ modifications of two of the two B787. Avianor is an affiliate of DRAKKAR Aerospace & Ground Transportation.

Allan Kilavuka
Allan Kilavuka

“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,” says Matthieu Duhaime, president and CEO Avianor.

“We are very excited to now be working with Kenya Airways to adapt this solution for their 787 aircraft. 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.”

For his part Captain Gilbert Kibe, director General Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), commended Kenya Airways for taking a innovative step to address the need for additional cargo capacity and facilitating trade even as the aviation industry goes through a difficult period.

“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.

“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” adds Captain Kibe.

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