In 2020, most planes operated by Kenya Airways (KQ) were grounded due to the pandemic brought about by the COVID-19 disease.

For KQ, most planes carrying cargo also served as passenger planes, and flying with cargo and an empty cabin needed to make more sense.

KQ opted to repurpose some of its planes for this matter, and no one did it better than Engineer Hazel Wachira.

Engineer Hazel Wachira.

Engineer Hazel led a team of other engineers in the plan to repurpose two Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

“We had been working on different solutions, talking to vendors, and even internally, we were working on other solutions we needed to qualify from a business point".

Engineer Hazel Wachira.

“The conversion plans was one of them and by the time the management agreed that we could convert the aircraft, we had gone through weeks and months of iterations,” Hazel said.

It is important to note that this was the first ever repurpose of this type to be performed worldwide on the Boeing 787 model.

The 30-year-old engineer working with the airline Engineering Department on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet was responsible for designing, modifying, implementing and final delivery of the cargo plane.

“The repurposing of this aircraft, being the first such in the world, took a different route from what is normal. It was different because we did not have modification instructions and no one had. What you see here has never been done before,” she said.

Hazel and her team worked on the project and submitted it for inspection by the global aircraft regulator, after which it was approved.


The project was completed in January 2021 after its certification from the regulator.

“It meant a lot because it showcased our talent in Kenya. In this area and in Africa, we focus a lot on service and maintenance. Still, this time we were getting into engineering and design, especially in the trade as global as the aviation industry, which is heavily regulated and controlled. Safety standards are top-notch", and everything has to be exact.

“I was proud of the accomplishment because it showed the only thing different between us and other people is opportunity. When we got the opportunity, we jumped on it and did a good job. It means we can do this,” Hazel Wachira said.