Kenmore Air Goes To Africa

de Havilland Beaver at Kenmore AirI am convinced Kenmore Air is the Ghostbusters of the seaplane industry. When your seaplane breaks, when you’re stranded in a far off lake, when you need to get where planes almost never fly, who you gonna call?


That’s what Desert Locust Control in Nairobi, Kenya did. In 2010, when two of their de Havilland Beavers crashed, they knew who to call. Flying in Jon Abuhl, one of Kenmore Air’s elite mechanics, they had their birds up and in the air within three weeks of his arrival.

Structural Repair Specialist
Specializing in structural repair is no small feet. It involves being able to take a broken, dented, and, at times, torn apart body, and create a functioning plane. With the landing gear bulkhead structure and surrounding metal skins severely damaged, Jon had his work cut out for him. “I had to fabricate some of the skins, back drill everything, and trim it all out. There was a lot of custom fabrication involved,” remembered Jon.

In non-mechanic terms, Jon rebuilt pieces of the plane’s body. For many of the mechanics in Nairobi, this was a whole new concept. They had never seen this type of work done before. Most of them were just responsible for putting air in the tires and washing the planes. And while, “There were a few airplane mechanics, they’d never seen someone fix wrecked or smashed metal,” Jon said.

Tools of the Trade
An airplane mechanic, just like a car mechanic, relies heavily on their toolbox. Over the years as their expertise grows, so does their collection of specialty hardware. In Jon’s case, he’s been bucking rivets since he was just a kid. (We’ll come back to this more in a second.)

Like his experience, his toolbox is extensive. To fix the two broken Beavers, he had to bring most of it with him. “I had to figure out everything I was going to need for the job,” Jon said, “and in this case it was a lot of tools. I basically had to send half my toolbox. And that was a month before I actually left.”

Luckily for Jon, Rick, one of his good friends and fellow mechanics, shared his toolbox for the month before Jon took off.


Beavers – Saving Crops and Saving Lives
In 2009, locusts threatened the food supply of Nairobi and Eastern Africa. These seemingly small and inconsequential bugs decimated entire crops. Once their eggs were laid, there was little a farmer could do.

Desert Locust Control offered hope. Their line of pesticide spraying Beavers saved as many of the crops as they could. The two Beavers Jon fixed were primarily used for this task. It was essential he get those birds air born again as quickly as possible.

And that’s just what Jon did. In just three and a half weeks he had those Beavers fixed and flying. He worked so hard the President of Desert Locust Control sent him a letter recognizing his efforts. (We have some pretty rad mechanics, if I do say so myself.)

Born to be an Expert
Jon was born in Wichita, Kansas as the son of an airplane mechanic. Jon made the move to the Seattle area in 1966. His father was transferred from the Midwest to work on Boeing’s then new 747.

Just a few years later, in 1972, his dad started his own airplane repair company in Arlington, Washington. Often when Jon wasn’t in school, he was helping his dad with the planes. “I’ve been bucking rivets on small Cessnas since I was six or seven,” Jon said.

Over the years, Jon has worked on planes at Boeing and done contract work on jets in Italy and England. Nine years ago, he joined the Kenmore Air family and has been a valued member ever since.



  • Jake Abuhl
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Wow! — Nice piece & a pretty awesome guy as well — Kenmore Air’s standard for quality service has set the bar for many, many years — Continuing to weather many challenges & changes, up & down their roster, they have an amazing group of people! — Keep it up! — We are watching you!

    • Dave Abuhl
      Posted January 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      And I am proud to be Jon’s uncle!! What a craftsman! You rock Jon!

  • Mikaela Cowles
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Jake!

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