Bruce Campbell is a retired electrical engineer who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Like many retirees, he spends his time enjoying his golden years and working on hobbies. There’s something special about Bruce that sets him apart from the typical retiree, though. Instead of living in a condo in Florida like many elderly choose to do, Bruce prefers to walk to the beat of his own drum. We can say with confidence that you don’t know anybody with a home like Bruce’s.
A Big Investment
After retiring, Bruce decided to make a significant investment. For the whopping sum of $220,000, Bruce bought a retired Boeing 727. An odd purchase for an older man to make, but hey, to each their own. The strangest part about Bruce’s investment, however, is that he isn’t even a pilot. He’s never flown a plane in his life. So, if he’s not going to fly the plane, then what is he going to do with it? Read on to find out.
More information About Boeing 727s
The first Boeing 727 was produced in 1981 and quickly gained popularity. These planes can reach an impressive speed of 609 mph, although average cruising speed is generally 500 mph. Pilots often refer to the aircraft as “the Ferrari of commercial jets.” The 727 was the largest single-aisle airplane ever produced. Over the years, Boeing created several variants of the plane to accommodate the changing times and technology, but overall, the layout remained the same. Boeing stopped producing the model in 2004.
What Is A Retired Plane?
A retired plane is a plane that is no longer in commission. These planes are deemed by airlines to be no longer safe to fly. The average lifespan of an airplane is roughly 25 years, and since Boeing stopped producing its 727 model in 2004, the number of these still flying is slowly dwindling. When a plane is retired, it’s stored and scrapped out for parts until there’s little to nothing left. Most retired planes are stored in the desert, where there is ample room to store these machines.
What Did Bruce Do With His Plane?
Over 40 years ago, when Bruce was in his 20’s, he bought a piece of land in Hillsboro, Oregon. He purchased 10 acres of land for the measly price of $23,000. We know, we’re jealous too. Today, this piece of land would cost well over $100,000. Bruce cleared a space on his forested land and paid to have his plane towed and parked on his property. He then built a driveway leading from the road to his aircraft, but to what purpose?
Gutting It Out
Bruce stripped out the interior of the plane. All 200 seats were ripped out and threw away. He pulled up carpeting, gutted out the stewardess station, and ripped out the cockpit. As can be seen in the picture, an empty airplane is rather spacious. He essentially was left with a giant metallic cylindrical tube in his yard. What was the reasoning behind going through all the work of stripping the plane down? Surely that job took grueling labor that lasted for weeks on end.
A New Home
After much planning and renovation, Bruce turned the empty plane into his home! He hauled in furniture, appliances, decorations; everything needed to call a new space home. Bruce knows it sounds strange, but he urges people to look around next time they are on an aircraft, and picture the same aircraft without all the seats and amenities. Planes are incredibly spacious and apparently good enough to call home. Bruce is a testament to that.
Airplanes Don’t Have Showers Though
Boeing 727s are equipped with two bathrooms. Out of everything, Bruce stripped out of the airplane, he left these two bathrooms intact, and they are fully operational. In real estate terms, Bruce technically had only two “½-baths,” meaning that neither has a shower. He remedied this problem by creating one his own. Bruce is a simple man who doesn’t need a whirlpool jet to bathe in. He just needs a bucket and a shower head, apparently.
A Bird’s Eye View Of His Home
This aerial photo taken of Bruce’s home gives the reader perspective of truly how large this aircraft is. Even without the plane to act as a scale, it’s evident that the red barn in the neighboring yard is huge, and the aircraft is even larger. It’s hard to think of how spacious planes genuinely are when we spend our time in them cramped into rows of tiny chairs wishing that we had more room.
How Does He Get In The Plane
Most of us enter planes via the extendable hallway that connects the airport to the door of the aircraft. However, that door through which we enter is very high off the ground. Does that mean Bruce has to climb a ladder to get into his weird home? Not at all. Bruce’s home actually comes with a drop-down stairway that reaches the ground. Due to airplane regulations, the stairs also light up, giving Bruce the effect that he’s a star on a runway.
His Very Own Spaceship
Bruce admits that some of the allure of living in a hollowed-out plane is because he feels like a character from the show, Star Trek. Planes are full of hidden doors and secret compartments, most of which Bruce had no idea existed until he stumbled upon them. The titanium ducts and unique lighting, both interior and exterior, give the plane the feel of a spaceship straight from the popular series. All he needs now is the iconic yellow captain’s shirt that Kirk wore.
A Home With A View
Hillsboro, Oregon is a beautiful city. The entire state is known for its lush forests. People say Ireland is green, but it’s hard to imagine a place being greener than Oregon. Bruce’s property is surrounded by vibrant trees and is located in a quiet rural area. From Bruce’s many windows, he can enjoy the lovely scenery surrounding his plane. Technically the window he is looking out of in the picture is the emergency exit, but parked jets don’t need an emergency exit, so Bruce took that right out.
All The Amenities
Bruce made sure his new home had all the amenities he would ever need, including a washer and a dryer. Some apartments don’t even have the luxury of such items. Bruce made sure his home had everything a “normal” home would have. He included another sink so that he wouldn’t have to deal with the cramped quarters of the built-in bathrooms the plane came with, as they are notorious for being uncomfortable.
Does It Get Cold?
While Oregon might not get as cold as the northern states on the east coast, the winters can still be pretty brutal. Airplanes are well insulated and, in theory, could protect one against the harsh elements. Bruce, however, doesn’t know how cold the plane gets in the winter. He spends the chillier six months of the year on the other side of the globe in Japan. If you’re wondering if he has another airplane in Japan to live in, the answer is: not yet. Bruce is currently working on building another aircraft home.
Food and Snacks Galore
Bruce has converted the old flight attendant station into a pantry and even has his own microwave and toaster oven. The plane came with the original trolley that flight attendants would push up and down the aisles laden with snacks and drinks. That cart still contains snacks and drinks; however, now it remains stationary. Stacked behind it is all of his silverware, plates, and Tupperware. Although he lives alone, it appears Bruce has enough supplies to feed a large family.
Is It Hard To Clean?
Although the aircraft is large and has many surfaces that need to be cleaned, Bruce claims that keeping the place well-maintained is easy. Nearly all the surfaces are stainless steel, which is very easy to clean. A simple swipe will take care of any grime or residue. The only drawback is how loud vacuuming can be. With so many steel surfaces, the vacuum echoes to ear-splitting noise levels. A simple problem to fix, Bruce protects his hearing by wearing ear protectors while vacuuming.
One Other Drawback
Anybody that has ever been on an airplane before knows how ridiculously small plane bathrooms are. Here is a look at the open bathroom to see just how tight the space is. There is barely room to stand, let alone brush your teeth, fix your hair, and everything else people do in their restrooms at home. It is no wonder he had to install a separate sink outside the bathrooms. At least the walls are painted a pretty color.
Retired, But Still Going Strong
Although his days as an electrical engineer are over, Bruce still keeps busy with hobbies and other types of work. On the left of the photo, we can see Bruce’s expansive and well-lit desk. Stacked high on his desk is an array of electrical gadgets that Bruce enjoys tinkering on. Behind him are a printer and a copy machine, completing his “office.” Perhaps Bruce should have left the overhead storage bins as his office seems to be very clustered.
Bruce is a member of AFRA, short for Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association. This organization has members across the globe who believe in the same thing Bruce does, “When properly executed, the remarkable appeal of a retired jetliner as a home springs from the magnificent technology and beauty of the sculptured structure itself. Jetliners are masterful works of aerospace science, and their superlative engineering grace is unmatched by any other structures people can live within.” In short, aircrafts are a work of art that should be enjoyed, not destroyed.
Benefits Of Living On A Plane
There is a list of reasons that more people should use retired airplanes as homes. One of those reasons being is security. Planes, by design, are incredibly hard to break into. Unless someone had an RPG, nobody is going to break in through your windows. They are astonishingly thick, and you can’t accidentally leave them unlocked. The emergency exits can only be opened from the inside. Not to mention, most burglars don’t have much knowledge or experience in breaking into planes anyway.
Earthquake Damage Prevention
The sturdy wheels which the airplane home sits on make it perfect for preventing damage during an earthquake. Oregon is located on the Cascadian Fault, which makes is susceptible to earthquakes. Bruce’s stable home keeps him safe in case that should ever happen. More importantly, though, is the new home he is building in Japan. Japan lies directly on a fault line, which makes earthquakes a frequent occurrence. Bruce is trying to show the Japanese that owning an airplane home could be beneficial to them.
We already mentioned that the stainless steel interior is easy to clean, but due to the plane’s design, you should hardly ever have to clean it at all. For apparent reasons, planes are designed to be airtight. That means no germs, bacteria, insects, or pollen of any kind can get into the airplane if the doors are sealed. As long as you take your shoes off at the door, sweeping will be a thing of the past. This airtight seal will also make the plane’s environment ideal for allergy sufferers or anybody with a weak immune system.
Owning Your Own Airplane Home Can Be Inexpensive
In total, Bruce paid $220,000 for his plane home, but $120,000 of that was in towing fees. Bruce actually only paid $100,000 for his home, which is a lot more affordable than most suburban homes. If you’re interested in owning a plane home, you don’t have to go all out and buy an enormous 727 like Bruce. A smaller version of a retired aircraft can cost as little as $30,000. Also, a smaller plane will mean a smaller towing fee to bring the plane to your property. It is definitely something to think about.
Say Goodbye To Heating And Cooling Costs
Just like the winters are cold, the summers can be just as hot in Oregon. Electrical bills can skyrocket as people crank up A/C, and all the cold air gets let out through cracks in the walls or through forgotten windows left open. In a plane home, cold air escaping will never be a problem as long as you close the door behind you when entering. On the flip side, warm air will never escape during the wintertime.
Is Bruce The Only One?
Living in a converted airplane is such a farfetched idea that it may seem implausible that anybody other than Bruce lives in one. It may be a surprise to learn that it is actually a growing trend, albeit a slowly growing one. There are other people who have converted smaller planes into affordable homes. There is one person, in particular, that also turned a Boeing 727 into a home, and may have done so in a more extravagant way than Bruce.
Meet Joanne Ussery
Joanne Ussery suffered the misfortune of having her home burn down in Benoit, Mississippi. She lost everything, and like many who lose their home in a fire, Joanne was left with nothing but a sense of loss. Her first order of business was to find a new home. Her funds were limited, which led to few housing options for her to choose from. Joanne knew she didn’t want to live in a cramped trailer with neighbors on either side or a tiny little condo. Luckily for Joanne, her brother had an odd, but a beneficial suggestion.
Desperate Times Call For Desperate Measures
Bob Farrow is the brother-in-law of Joanne Ussery. He works as an air traffic controller, and in the efforts to help Joanne during her time of need, he came up with an ingenious idea. Bob suggested that she purchase an abandoned Boeing 727 he had heard about. Naturally, she was confused at first, but then he proposed that she turn the aircraft into a home. Joanne loved the idea and jumped at the chance.
Got It At A Steal
The abandoned aircraft only cost Joanne $2,000 to purchase and a further $4,000 to tow from Greenwood, Mississippi, to her lakeside property in Benoit. After moving the plane to her ideal location overlooking the lake, she spent $25,000 refurbishing the airplane to make it live-in ready. This included reconstructing the outside and reupholstering the inside of the aircraft. The investment was well worth it because Joanne ended up with a beautiful “house” that anybody would be proud to call home.
Why Was It So Cheap?
You may recall that Bruce’s airplane home cost him over $200,000 to purchase and tow, so why was Joanne’s so cheap in comparison? Bruce bought his plane before it ever went to a scrapyard, or at least before anyone had time to start scrapping it. Joanne, on the other hand, bought her plane when it was barely a shell. It was practically falling apart. Nearly everything had been stripped out of it, making it lightweight and cheaper to tow.
The Plane’s New Look
Joanne only spent $25,000 on refurbishing because she did most of the work herself. She remodeled the airplane to include 3 bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, a living room, bathrooms, and a laundry room. Unlike Bruce, Joanne had a flair for color and comfort, and her airplane looks more like a cozy home than a spaceship. Incredibly enough, she even included a full-size jacuzzi in the nose of the plane where the cockpit once was.
Joanne affectionately nicknamed her plane “Little Trump” in reference to Donald Trump’s personal, corporate jet at the time, which was also a 727. This was before Donald Trump was elected President and did not have to fly in the government-appointed plane for the President. He now flies in Trump Force One, a play on the term Air Force One. Joanne has gone on many talk shows throughout the years, including the Letterman Show, to talk about her Little Trump.
The Talk Of The Town
Joanne’s many grandkids absolutely love visiting their grandmother, and it’s not hard to imagine why. Although we’re sure they love seeing their grandma, how many other kids get to run around unattended in an airplane? Joanne loves the company of the little ones, and she also loves hosting parties for her friends. Her home is known to be the gathering spot for any social event. Joanne once joked that she wished she had a stewardess to help pass out drinks.
The California Wonder House
Both Bruce and Joanne took a retired airplane and converted it into a home, but Francie Rehwald did something totally different. Francie, who was a former Mercedes dealer, wanted to do something extraordinarily unusual with a plane. So, she talked to an architect, David Hertz, to see if her dream was even possible. This could be a feat of engineering, though Francie knew exactly what she wanted.
So, what did Francie want to do? She wanted to take a retired plane and turn it into a home. But, instead of keeping the plane in tact, she wanted to deconstruct it. If that wasn’t hard enough, she wanted to build the home in the Hollywood Hills. If you have ever taken a look at this area of the country, it would not be easy for any of this to happen. So, she talked to David, and he put himself on the case.
Francie Had to Find the Perfect Spot
In order for all of this to work out, Francie had to find the perfect spot. She knew that she wanted to build her home in the Hollywood Hills, but where? It amazingly took her 15 years to find the perfect spot, but once she did, she was ready to go. Now, all she had to do was find a plane, so once again, she reached out to David, her chosen architect.
David Finds a Plane
David put himself in “airplane finding mode,” and remarkably, he was able to find the perfect option. It was a retired 747 from Boeing, a former passenger jet, and it only cost $26,000. At this point, Francie knew that she had the perfect partner for this project. It had taken her a long time to find David, but she was so thankful that she did.
The Planning Begins
Now that Francie had a plane, it was time for David to make a plan. Since this was such an unusual project, however, there was a lot of red tape to deal with. In total, the pair ended up having to get permission from 17 different government agencies before they were allowed to start building the home. Why? The main reason is because from the sky, the home would look like a plane crash.
Francie ended up buying a plot of land that was 55 acres in size. This is almost an entire square mile, which is certainly a nice thing to have in a place like Hollywood. Privacy was all but guaranteed, and she would always have beautiful views, no matter what. As you can see, most homes in the Hollywood Hills are very close together, so Francie had made an excellent choice.
The Design of the Home
What was the main inspiration for this home? Francie told David from the start that she wanted a home with curves and femininity. She also wanted an amazing view, as she had spent so long finding the perfect location. The design of the home was easy for David after he got some information from Francie. The hard part would be getting the plane to the building site.
David and his team did not use the entire plane for the home. Instead, they only chose to use the wings and the two tail fins. Those parts were removed from the plane, and the rest of it was scrapped. Below, you can see the plane before the wings and tail fins were removed. How would they get the parts there, though?
They Had an Idea
Since the land that Francie had purchased was about 1000 feet up into the Hollywood Hills, the big issue they had was getting the different parts up to the building site. Luckily, they had a brilliant idea. They would use a Chinook helicopter, which was, remarkably, also made by Boeing. A Chinook helicopter can carry more than 10,000 pounds, so it was perfect to carry the parts.
The Building of the Home was a Spectacle
As you might imagine, the building of this home was quite the spectacle. Really, how many times do you think you could ever look up into the sky and see a Chinook helicopter carrying a large 757 wing? Probably never, right? The residents around Francie’s plot of land sure did get a show.
There was Danger Involved
The big issue for carrying the wings would be the wind. Though the Chinook helicopter could carry the wings, if the wind caught one of them, it could be a deadly situation. So, the helicopter pilots were given strict orders to drop the wings if they got caught up in a gust.
Closing the Freeway
To bring even more awareness to the safety of this transport, the city and state decided to close five freeways, all of which were in the path of the Chinook helicopters. As you can imagine, this was definitely an issue for commuters who were going back and forth from Los Angeles.
The Building Can Now Begin
With all of the parts now in place, David and his team could begin to build Francie’s home. At this point, she was just there to be an advisor, as she had approved David’s plan. From the sky, as you can see, it really did look like a crashed plane, but before long, the parts would begin to transform into a home…Francie’s dream home.
The Home is Beginning to Take Shape
Once the wings and tail fins were transported to the building site, David’s crew could begin to build. Francie loved the shape of the wings, and how David had designed the home, it was easy to see the curves that Francie wanted so badly.
Using Recycled Plane Parts
As construction on the home continued, Francie was delighted. She had seen David’s plan, and she could see the home taking shape. Her dreams were coming true, though the costs were mounting. We don’t know how much it ultimately cost for her to build the house, but she has implied that it was a few million dollars.
Francie Watching the Work
Francie often visited the building site, and she even inspected areas when she could. The workers gave her information about what they were doing, and they even explained things to her that she didn’t understand. The home was almost done, and she couldn’t wait to see the final outcome.
The Interior of the Home
Francie designed the interior with the help of David, too. She wanted to make sure that she had amazing views of the Hollywood Hills, but also make sure that she was using the parts of the plane in awesome ways. Her bedroom ceiling, for example, is actually part of the wing…and check out that view.
The Sitting Room
As you can see, the sitting room is also gorgeous, and it features a curving staircase into the upper floor. You would never know that the home was built by using recycled airplane parts, would you? The look here is both modern and rustic.
The Finished Product
Here is the outside of Francie’s home, and the finished product. You can very clearly see the wings, and you will note that they are perfectly placed. David certainly outdid himself, Francie is very happy with her home, and this house is one of the most unusual in the world.
Other Uses For Retired Airplanes
Retired airplanes have other destinies besides being scrapped or turned into houses. Toshikazu Tsukii of Arizona took the shells of four different Boeing aircrafts and fused them together to create a two-story building. What did he do with the building after putting so much time and money into this project? He turned it into a guest house. As if that wasn’t enough, he took a fifth airplane and used its body to house an indoor pool for his guests to enjoy.
Woodlyn Park in New Zealand is home to a motel built from a 1950 Bristol Freighter Plane. Compared to the Boeings, this plane is rather small but holds so much historical significance. This plane was used by the allies in the Vietnam War. This historic plane motel only has two rooms, with the unit in the cockpit being more expensive than the unit in the back of the plane. Staying one night in this motel will cost you less than $300 a night.
While there may not be much of a difference between one diner and the next, Coventry Airport in England has a very unique type of diner. Their little restaurant lives inside a renovated DC6 and goes by the apt name, DC6 Diner. This upscale eatery is a stark comparison to the food most airlines offer on their planes. The center aisle still remains, and the chairs have been moved around to add more comfort and room for the happy patrons.
The Stockholm Arlanda International Airport in Sweden is a stone’s throw away from a retired Boeing 747 jumbo jet, which never leaves its resting spot. What is its purpose? It’s a hostel. The jumbo jet, known as the Jumbo Hostel, has been transformed to accommodate 76 “passengers.” The staff of the hostel dress like flight attendants to match the theme. The hostel has its own bar and a free shuttle service that will bring you to and from the airport.
The Cosmic Muffin
The name of this one might have you scratching your head. What is a Cosmic Muffin? The answer isn’t much clearer. It’s a plane-boat. This ex-plane was once the prized possession of Howard Hughes, a successful American business mogul. When the aircraft was no longer deemed flyable, pilot Kenneth London rescued the plane from the scrapyard and turned it into a boat. This funny little plane-boat had its wings, and part of its body chopped up to give it its unique look. It can be found floating around Ft. Lauderdale.
Cookie Store Plane
A diner in a plane is one thing, but a cookie store? Cookie Time Cafe is New Zealand’s number one cookie manufacturer, with chocolate chip being their leading flavor. In order to stray (far) off the beaten path, this company decided to buy a Douglas DC-3 airplane and convert it into one of their famous cookie cafes. The Douglas DC-3 was a vital aircraft during WWII that could fly distances at high speeds far advanced for its time.
New Zealand Again?
It seems New Zealand is a hotspot for plane themed establishments. Even McDonalds has hopped on the growing trend of putting restaurants into airplanes. This Mcdonald’s resides in a retired DC-3 and has been painted to represent the restaurant’s classic colors. The restaurant boasts 20 seats and only has tables fit for two people. These tables line the walls of the restaurants with the traditional aisle running down the center of it. Guests can even sit in the cockpit of the plane.
A Restaurant Dedicated To Heineken
Air Lekkerbek Bar and Restaurant is located in Philipsburg, St. Maarten, and guess what? It’s in a plane. It was bought in 2002 by the Hernandez family. The entire airplane is painted green, and the Heineken logo is splattered across the side of it. For those that don’t speak Dutch, Lekkerbek translates to gourmet. The destination is loved by locals and tourists alike. Unfortunately, the restaurant was shut down by the government in 2010 and is no longer operating.
Another Restaurant Made from a Plane
Here in South Korea, you will find another restaurant and bar, also made out of a retired Boeing 747. The restaurant looks a bit disheveled, but that’s because it is now vacant. If someone could come in, give it a fresh coat of paint and spruce it up again, it might be a hit. As you can see, the plane is quite large and there are apartment buildings surrounding it. Would you like this view when looking out of your living room window? At the very least, it sure is a conversation piece.