There can’t be too many people who would see an old airliner as a perfect place in which to live. But when Oregon man Bruce Campbell purchased a retired plane for $100,000, he had a vision. He had the imagination – and, added to this, the skill – to set about turning the passenger jet into a home. And the result of this flight of fancy is a piece of real estate that is really something else.
Campbell is a self-confessed “old nerd.” As a former electrical engineer, the 67-year-old retiree has spent much of his life pursuing technological achievements. He has never married and claims on his website to be “socially inept.”
Yet while Campbell may think of himself as a geek, this does not mean that he is averse to adventure. Which is probably why he purchased a ten-acre plot in the woods outside Hillsboro, near Portland, OR, when he was a young man in his 20s.
Campbell’s original plan was to build himself a home on his acreage using freight wagons. However, that was before he came across the self-explanatory Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association. And after he had aligned himself with this international non-profit group, there was only one possible structure that Campbell could use in his house build.
The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association believes in the preservation of retired airplanes. That said, these advocates of antiquated air transport do not simply want to restore aircrafts. Instead, the movement believes that the superannuated structures should be converted to fulfil other uses – for example, as homes.
On his website, Campbell expands on this green thinking about grounded aircraft. “Retired airliners are profoundly well designed,” he enthuses. “[They] can last for centuries (with effective corrosion control), are extremely fire resistant and provide superior security. They’re among the finest structures mankind has ever built.”
With this in mind, Campbell thinks it a crime that the vast majority of the world’s aircraft are scrapped after their service. As a result, the Portland man committed himself to saving at least one plane from the same fate. And he also hoped to inspire more people to do the same.
Campbell finally found the perfect craft for his project in 1999. It was a retired Boeing 727 passenger jet, and – as an added bonus – it came with a rich history. Before it was decommissioned, the plane had once transported the body of shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis home to his native Greece in 1975. And no less a personage than his world-famous wife, Jackie Onassis, sat in the cabin for the journey.
Campbell was sold, and after handing over $100,000, the plane was his. Not bad for a multi-million-dollar piece of high technology. And now the hard work could really begin. So it was that the engineer got into gear transforming the jet into somewhere that he could call home. The renovations would cost a further $120,000, mind you, taking Campbell’s total outlay to $220,000.
However, for the engineer, the sky was the limit as far as expenditure was concerned. Campbell was utterly dedicated in his task of transforming the plane into a comfortable, livable home. As a result, he wasted no time in installing a sleeping area, a bathroom, a laundry room and a kitchen. The airplane also has electricity, running water and a sewer connection.
Alongside the basics, Campbell’s awesome home boasts a modern design, bespoke lighting and climate control. The jet’s wings, meanwhile, provide the retiree with an outside deck. And the interior enjoys a wealth of storage opportunities. Small wonder, then, that Campbell describes his innovative dwelling as “1,066 square feet of exhilarating aerospace quality living area.”
And while the inside of the plane boasts various modern conveniences, the outer fuselage provides Campbell with sturdy protection from the elements. “[The structure is] incredibly strong, durable and long lived. And [it can] easily withstand any earthquake or storm,” he told online lifestyle magazine Atlas Obscura.
What’s more, living in a plane comes with other surprising benefits when it comes to homeownership. As Campbell went on to reveal, “[The] interior is easy to keep immaculately clean because [it is made up of] sealed-pressure canisters. So dust and insects can’t intrude from the outside. And [planes are] highly resistant to intruders.”
Since acquiring his unusual living quarters, Campbell has charted the progress that he’s made on his website, airplanehome.com. And it appears that the Oregon man hopes more people might consider making a home from a plane after learning about his lifestyle via the internet.
If anyone does want to follow suit, then, checking out Campbell’s painstakingly conducted research online will surely prove invaluable. For a start, the engineer has concluded that a Boeing 727 “seemed to offer the most attractive overall characteristics.”
Campbell’s online advice continues, “It’s a reasonable-size home for an individual or small family, but not so large that it can’t be transported over public roads.” And he adds, “Airliners, free of hundreds of passengers and the clutter of their seats, are a sheer thrill to live within.”
But although Campbell is as comfortable as can be in his old airliner, he in fact spends six months of the year in Japan. And indeed, in 2016 he revealed that he was searching for a retired Boeing 747-400. Why? Because of a plan to make a home outside the Japanese city of Miyazaki.
If Campbell secures such a jet, fitting out his second home will prove to be his biggest project to date – literally. Boeing 747-400s can carry up to 660 passengers – and that represents three times the number of seats and a much larger space than his comparatively humble 727 home back in Oregon.
In order to achieve his dream of a Japanese jet home, the retired engineer put out an appeal to airlines with 747-400s in a piece published by the San Antonio Express-News in 2016. Campbell said, “A superbly executed second project which very nearly fully preserves the original aircraft in all its sleek gleaming majesty will attract a great deal of world press interest for a very long time, and thus be of considerable promotional value to a partner airline.”
Even if Campbell’s dream of a second airliner home never comes true, though, there is little doubt that the “old nerd” will continue to promote his unique lifestyle. As he told Atlas Obscura, “Jetliners are masterful works of aerospace science. Their superlative engineering grace is unmatched by any other structures people can live within.”