Engineer Hazel Wachira: Kenyan woman who turned Dreamliner into a cargo plane
Engineer Hazel Wachira has been with the national carrier for the past five years, supporting the airline’s Engineering Department on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet.
In 2020, she was the lead and project manager in the plan to repurpose two Kenya Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliners. It is a passenger plane, but they repurposed it and turned it into a cargo plane.
It was the first ever repurpose of this type to be performed in the world on the Boeing 787 model.
Hazel, 30, led the project from the designing, modification, implementation and final delivery of the cargo plane.
While most planes were grounded due to the pandemic, maintenance and servicing continued, an expensive venture. About 50 per cent of KQ’s cargo is carried by passenger aircraft, but it did not make business sense to fly an empty cabin with cargo in the belly.
Unlike other modifications for aircraft where the engineers receive instructions, Hazel and her team designed designed the playbook. They were developing a standard that everyone else would follow.
After the painstakingly thorough process and inspection of the aircraft by the global regulator, it was approved, the certification was done and the project was completed in February 2021.
“I was proud of the accomplishment because it showed the only thing different between us and other people in the world is an opportunity,” says Hazel.