Retired planes turn into tourist attractions

Mary Cotterell, manager of the White Gum private air park in Malebelling – around 116 kilometers east of Perth – acquired two retired Boeing 737s from defunct airline OzJet in early 2017 with a view to turning them into two separate tourist attractions .

“We like to call it ‘the ultimate Airbnb,'” Ms. Cotterell, 58, told Traveler about her plans for one of the planes.

“The unit will be two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and hopefully we can manage a set of bunk beds for the kids.”

The second plane is to be stripped in sections to reveal its intricate underbelly and become a “visiting experience” for park visitors.

“So we’ll keep one half of the original plane, the other half we’ll gradually disassemble so people can see it in its normal state, then with most of the chairs missing, then most of the window frames. missing, and so on,” she said.

The project was a labor of love for aviation enthusiast Cotterell and her husband, who have spent the past four years painstakingly dismantling the plane at Perth Airport.

But she says the attractions aren’t just for aviation enthusiasts.

“It’s for anyone who’s ever sat on an airplane. Nowadays people say ‘I’ve never seen it in the cockpit of an airplane’, because it’s something you can’t do since 9/11,” she said.

“We can open the door and show where the pilot sits and what the seats behind the pilot are for. There are a lot of little bits hidden in an airplane that you can’t see. opens, what’s inside.”

Cotterell is not alone in giving scrapped aircraft a second life.

Couple WA Pleun and Hennie Hitzert have been renting their WWII Dutch DC-3 aircraft accommodation since 2014, located on their property The Lily, about 100 kilometers north of Albany in the Stirling Range National Park.

And last month a former Airbus engineer announced plans for a converted A380 hotel in Toulouse, France.

Around the same time, two former builders launched Irish startup Aeropod, bringing the concept of conversion into people’s backyards.

Through Aeropod, business partners Kevin Regan and Shane Thornton are offering airplane enthusiasts the opportunity to own a slice of aviation history and acquire a glamping pod or home office made from airframes. recycled.

“They were at the end of their life, and they were flown in, and then every piece was dismantled and sold around the world,” Regan told CNN Travel.

Older jets are, ultimately, ideally placed to transform into sustainable, self-contained living spaces.

“The main external structure is aluminum and the floor is steel for strength and galvanized so they outlast us all,” reads a product description on Aeropod’s website.

Aeropod is currently taking orders for home offices, garden rooms, glamping pods and student accommodation. Nacelles converted to fuselage cost between $30,000 and about $55,000 (about €20,000 to €37,000).

A client has already listed his converted Airbus 320 Aeropod on Airbnb for $133 a night. The space has air conditioning and two double beds (decor includes airplane-themed bedding and an antique cabin cart with tea and coffee).

But the aircraft repurposing trend extends far beyond themed accommodations, and it’s no coincidence that we’re seeing more of it in the wake of COVID-19.

A decline in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the retirement of many planes, resulting in a surplus of planes available for recycling.

MRO SmartHub, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) web-based platform for trading aircraft parts, has observed an increase in market demand for aircraft components since the start of the pandemic.

“Many airlines are radically restructuring their fleets and retiring aircraft due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting drop in demand,” MRO SmartHub product manager Garath Harries noted when the company launched its online auction feature in April 2021.

Currently, IATA estimates that the maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) market in this sector will exceed $78 billion in 2022, based on a study by consultancy Oliver Wyman.

Last year, Singapore Airlines announced a recycling project that would see parts and materials from old aircraft supplied to Singapore-based retail brands, to be turned into unique products and works of art.

In 2020, specialty retailers Aviationtag launched a range of limited edition luggage tags made with the outer skin of a decommissioned A380. After selling out in just 48 hours, they got to work on another line (tags are currently selling for $57/€38).

So, with the boom in the airline parts trade, will Australia see more converted airline hotels in the coming years?

Cotterell said she wouldn’t rule out adding a third jumbo jet to her 737 fleet, and hosting would be the most logical path.

“I think it’s just unique, you sit on that plane when you go on vacation and then you can sleep,” she said.

“It’s just this fascination with aviation – how can this piece of metal fly through the air?”