Grounded over two decades ago, a World War II plane found a new purpose in Mombasa, just not in flight this time around. The DC3; ZK-BBJ was grounded at the Moi International Airport in Mombasa in 1994 until Swiss businessman Reto Casanova salvaged it from making it into a scrap yard.
Casanova bought the 77-year-old plane for Ksh38,000 in 2021 from the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and transformed it into a restaurant and chill spot.
“I was surfing the internet with a friend when we saw the plane. An idea came to my mind that this plane can be converted into something useful that can generate income,” he told Business Daily.
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When Casanova visited Moi International Airport he found the plane among several others that were destined for auction. Since no one was interested in it, it was quickly sold to him without bargain.
“We then towed it to Mombasa Go-Kart, where we started serious renovation work on it to make it attractive and breathe life into it,” he said.
The Swiss billionaire revealed that he spent Ksh3 million in renovating the plane and furnishing it with modern interior decor to transform it into a luxurious restaurant and cafe. During the renovation, Reto repaired the cockpit, the floor, the right aileron (little wing).
“The aluminium of the plane was completely eroded. Every important part of the plane had been removed. We reassembled it ourselves here after towing it from the airport,” says Reto.
Patrons of the restaurant get to enjoy the cool coastal breeze from the inside of the plane, or the area set up underneath the plane.
“Here, one can enjoy the food while sitting beneath the plane. The food from the restaurant is served here, there is also enough space for party lovers too,” he says.
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For guests who want to celebrate birthday parties and other events at the restaurant part with Ksh20,000.
“The beauty is that one is allowed to come with their on food and drinks. We then rent you the space to hold your party. You also have the option of buying food and drinks from us – we offer what customers want.”
Since its establishment, the restaurant has attracted numerous walk-in customers who come to enjoy themselves. For patrons seeking to relax and enjoy the breeze, they part with Ksh500.
The busiest time of the week at the restaurant begins on Fridays and ends on Sundays. The plane also has six beds for patrons seeking to spend the night at the establishment. It also has a music system which adds to the luxury.
“We also cater to the needs of children, who can play their favourite computer games or drive the karts while their parents enjoy good music,” says Reto.
“This plane is 77 years old, it was grounded in 1995. It was built in 1945 in Oklahoma,” he explains.
Casanova explains that the plane was operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force to help set up a transport network in the South Pacific. It was later used in the 90s to supply food in Cambodia during the civil war, and later in Somalia. After it damaged, it was parked at the Moi International Airport and was never flown again.